Tuan mac Cairill watches the arrival of the Nemedians. Image from T.W. Rolleston's 1910 book, "Myths and Legends: The Celtic Race."

Ogham poem: Idad/The Yew Tree

Crumple the paper and start again.
Every story has been told countless times.

There are words so ancient we no longer
know their meaning. Older than letters,
older than even the trees, red-berried
before there were berries in the world.

The pen: A sword. How can I tell this tale?
Crumple the paper and start again.

In the castle of the yew berry, bright
as dreams, the old are young again, running
with sap. Love is caught here, on that clear lake
with its gold-chained swans as fierce as eagles.

Is it a wonder that time fails? How not?
Every story has been told countless times.

Love is caught here, and the light in the sea
dazzling bright as a sword descending. Boughs
of a green forged of shadows and time,
the smoke of them saining that ancient heart.

Generations sprout, crawl through the mud, die.
The pen: A sword. How can I tell this tale?

This is not the story you imagined.
You weren’t the lord of dreams, love’s heart.
You weren’t a swan. You spent a thousand
years growing and shedding your antlers.

Wait. What were you first? Man or animal?
Crumple the paper and start again.

King of the deer: We’ve established that. Then
the fairest of ancients becomes a boar.
Civilizations blossom and perish.
The boar dies and takes wing as an eagle.

Wait: This progression doesn’t make sense!
Is it a wonder that time fails? How not?

The crookedest of trees comes from the straight
sapling deprived of light by the grove.
This is a thing stories do to us,
how they transform us into raw beasts.

We rewrite our history with the lore.
Every story has been told countless times.

We left off at the eagle, who of course
became the red-speckled fish that might
somehow be a mushroom, the oldest tree,
which a woman ate, of course: the story!

The words proceed in their usual way.
Generations sprout, crawl through the mud, die.

Of course a baby is born. Of course
he or she becomes a historian
and pieces a motley past together.
Eventually, time steals the sense of it.

We forget what those very words mean.
The pen: A sword. How can I tell this tale?

It is no coincidence the yew grows
always by the cemetery gate,
the castle of love in its branches
prized by the archer and the poisoner.

An eagle perches in the oldest tree.
Wait. What were you first? Man or animal?

What is more real, the story or the man?
The old woman or the baby? The swan
on the lake, the goddess she became
or the quivering voice that tells the tale?

Every story has been told countless times.
Crumple the paper and start again.

 

Myths_and_legends;_the_Celtic_race_(1910)_(14760452906)
Tuan mac Cairill watches the arrival of the Nemedians. Image from T.W. Rolleston’s 1910 book, “Myths and Legends: The Celtic Race.”
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s