Gathering Stones

from Gathering Stones

   During the Famine years, the British Protestant churches created work for the Irish to earn bread or soup. Much of the work was difficult, like splitting stone, or even useless, like gathering stones from fields and building rock walls that began and ended randomly across the countryside.  Weak from hunger and malnourishment, many people died “on the job” as they tried to secure food for their families who were starving to death.

 

During the Famine years, the British Protestant churches created work for the Irish to earn bread or soup. Much of the work was difficult, like splitting stone, or even useless, like gathering stones from fields and building rock walls that began and ended randomly across the countryside.

Weak from hunger and malnourishment, many people died “on the job” as they tried to secure food for their families who were starving to death.

Searching by moonlight, scouring by day,
rough hands find rock, dirt, straw. Babes
wail awhile then remain silent

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
soup’s waiting when you’re through


Bloated bodies with grass-stained mouths
linger beside the road, none strong enough
to bury the dead.

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
bread’s waiting when you’re through


Leave hills, home, swap rocks for a sack
full of scraps, nothing left but the journey.

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
God’s waiting when you’re through

Holy Well

from Gathering Stones

   “Pagan” Ireland used certain springs as places to sacrifice jewelry, coins, pieces of clothing, even swords, in hopes that the spiritual beings or gods of that place would accept their offering and bless them.  Later, the Catholic Church took these “faerie springs” and, knowing the newly Christianized locals would continue to venerate the place, gave them the church’s blessing by naming them after saints and calling them holy wells.  People today still leave photographs, cloth, money and candles at these holy wells in order to be healed or to petition God for help.

 

“Pagan” Ireland used certain springs as places to sacrifice jewelry, coins, pieces of clothing, even swords, in hopes that the spiritual beings or gods of that place would accept their offering and bless them.

Later, the Catholic Church took these “faerie springs” and, knowing the newly Christianized locals would continue to venerate the place, gave them the church’s blessing by naming them after saints and calling them holy wells.

People today still leave photographs, cloth, money and candles at these holy wells in order to be healed or to petition God for help.

Once revered, even feared,
this ancient spring bubbles
with life, though centuries
have run away with all but
weathered stones and nettles.

circle once face the rising sun,
even through falling rain


Don’t try to understand
just accept by faith, trust
this pool of holy water.
Unseen fount, forever refreshing,
forever cleansing itself.

circle twice and cross your heart

Look around, miles of space
graced with butterwort, chamomile.
Don’t be afraid to walk this path,
take this course, your voice loud
in the silence.

third time around kneel on the ground,
an attitude of prayer


Offer your coin, your cloth, yourself.
Remember those who used to believe.