Knocknashee is the mountain in south Sligo which appears in the image above. The poem was written as a result of this November climb.
(For Margaret and Bab)
We picked the perfect weather.
No sun-tanned tourist jaunt,
but wind-swept, rain-scoured,
mission for memory, pilgrimage
proving our resolve, our ancestry
and gifting us something else,
the feel of wet earth underfoot,
the mark of real clay on hands,
cheeks burning with achievement.
We picked the perfect date,
All Souls. Their misty shapes
crisscrossed the dim patchwork,
moved between landmarks,
their birth and resting places -
cottages, schools, spring wells –
as they made their silent ways
to dances, doctors, chapels,
left by cemetery or railway station.
We picked the perfect place,
Knocknashee’s proud stump
demands attention, stranded
like an upturned ark, pointing
to something better somewhere
else. Crowned with cairns
and the worn-down wreckage
of unknown ages, a becalmed
benediction on life’s complexities.
We stood silent on the summit
wished you were there beside us.
You were there beside us.