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21/10/2018 / Harry Browne

Hunter’s Moon O’er Airgialla by Rosemary Tumilty

So, All Hallows Evening. My very own Bloomsday 2019,
Near the Vault of The O’Neill’s Clan, on Creggan’s hallowed ground.
Curiosity my compass, inquisitiveness my yoke,
Foot jolts near frozen headstones: my neck – so dear – Near broke!

The Rectory walled garden, guess I’d better see it soon;
I’ve examined all the headstone slabs, but not yet seen The O’Neill’s tomb.
Darkness then descending, along with frost and freezing fog,
Returning from the Poet’s Trail, crossing river, streams and bog.

Each gravestone paying homage – to a life long gone,
The Eighteenth Century, still somehow hanging on;
A labyrinth of history, as lives unfold,
In death these men lie side by side; in life: adversaries exposed.

Irish Celts and Bards galore! Talk of moral codes, and Brehon Law;
Seventeen and forty-four (1744) – The Jacobite Rebellion, and The French at our door!
Fragile truce amongst Airgialla Clans, up and around Slievegullion lands;
But war, as ever, to erupt. People – so impoverished! The Courts – so corrupt!

My hand rests upon Mac Cumhaigh’s grave, a humble Celtic cross
Embossed with words transcending time: a message from The Gods.
Then opening gates to O’Neill’s vault, perhaps a tiny peek
For 70 skulls, a Clan so felled: truth and wisdom do I seek.

The slow drawn-out sigh, and wavering cry:
Hinge-joints as old – as the very dawning of time!
Mist rising – brain romanticizing – Residents of vault revitalizing!

“Fírinne agus eagna – Ha! – Is that ‘all’ you seek?
Céard faoi grá, agus onóir?
Go speak of foresight with Byzantine Greeks;
For the notion of prudence: it doth wander!”

Irish lives stolen, Irish lives spent: from the past, we search the truth
To understand that which has gone before: no fountain of eternal youth!
The here and now determined, a future to shape, to form, to mould,
These Bards have impact upon my life, my time: Teachings, as yet untold.

“To question us, in your hour of need,
Be gone, and bother us not!
You’re meddling with that which you do not understand!
As for us – we’re done with life’s melting pot!”

So, in the Vault descending, one step, then another,
Entering the depths of time, depths of Earth: our Mother.
Sludge ‘pon steps beneath my feet: I’m tumbling! Tossing! Turning!
Bone strikes stone, and to musty earth I fall!
Blood from my temple weeping! Burning!

“Indeed, to question Us, in your hour of need!
Which of us is it, that you shall heed?
For war will beckon the hearts of men,
Whilst you dabble and plunge with your world-weary pen!
Or should people’s hearts fly, on Love’s fickle wing;
Or feet rooted in ground, from where saplings shall spring?
Audacity now, to question us still!
Does this woman know no limits!

Fine! Fine! Let’s gather our robes!
To find answers, they send us ‘Her’, of all women!”

So to another world I wake, of fog, and freezing mist;
Shadowed figures gliding by: to the river, they will not desist.
They each hold out a ghostly hand, draped in cloth of muslin;
A Hunter’s Moon shines from above.
Why I take their hands I cannot fathom.

“Gealach sealgaire! Oh! Gealach sealgaire!
La Luna Del Cacciatore!”
Hunter’s Moon! Oh! Hunter’s Moon!
Oh – Dio Mio! Mi Amore!

“Walk with us! Walk with us! ‘Neath the gleam of The Hunter’s Moon!”
And so it happened, that it was down by the river, the gathering, ‘neath a silver gilded moon
Reflected on the waters. Creggan River through stone had hewn.
Ne’er earth, nor sod, nor tombstone slab, could hush a poet’s message,
For spectral voice, when you least expect; will dance in chorus, and in passage.

The whisper of their footfall, ‘pon leaves of hallowed ground,
For confines of a burial stone, could not presume to keep them down!
Shimmering Bards rooted, reflections ‘pon the water:
One big, one small, one barely there, and one reflected not at all!

For I fear that I am dreaming, and not really here at all,
I search, for, in their wisdom, I know in my heart ’twas me they did call!

“Come down from oft that leafy path; join us, for the time is soon!
Such lamb’s eyes! You’ll be bleating, ‘neath the gleam of the Hunter’s Moon!

Gealach sealgaire! Oh! Gealach sealgaire!
La Luna Del Cacciatore!”
Hunter’s Moon! Oh! Hunter’s Moon!
Oh – Dio Mio! Mi Amore!

“Sassenach og! Croi og! Intinn og!
Do you truly see,
The pillage and the murder; Plundering of our seed?
Can’t get us out? They’ll breed us out! Bloodlines weakened, torn asunder!
From O’Neill’s Vault 70 skulls – Rise Up! Ne’er made it o’er to Connaught.”

“Righteous Queen! Helen of Troy!” Mac Cumhaigh weeping; falls to his knees!
Despair grips the proceedings, facing Seamus Mor do I simply freeze!
For his hefty, foreboding presence, stills the air: I bow, I shake!
His words do chill and haunt me; standing eye to eye, in this glistening nook:

“We’ll Raise ‘you’ up high, we’ll Set ‘you’ down under; Carry ‘you’ to Carnally & lay ‘you’ in the barn below!
For that river is as our troubled lives: O’er ridge, and stone, and boulder.”

“Could she be my ‘Flower of Maidens, Le hUr Chnoc Chein Mhic Cainte?
Do you think she’ll carry our message? I’ll search her eyes, her soul, her face!”

Peadar’s hand reaches from the depths of time, brushes my cheek, lifts a tear;
But a calmness has come over me: there is nothing here to fear.
Exchange of words, and thoughts, and minds, within this mystic place;
‘Cross realms of time, and space, and mass: clear user interface.

“Gealach sealgaire! Oh! Gealach sealgaire!
La Luna Del Cacciatore!”
Hunter’s Moon! Oh – Hunter’s Moon!
Dio Mio! Mi Amore!

The bells rang out! For whom they toll?
For you? Or I? Or they?
But all were gone, and my bleary eyes,
across the landscape they did stray:

“Should I die in some far-off country; In our wanderings east and west,
In the fragrant clay of Creggan, Let my weary heart have rest”.

That crisp Autumnal morning
I stepped from the tombstone on which I’d lain;
Cold, confused, but conscious
Of the wonderous breaking of
This new day!


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