Fiche bliain ag fás,
Fiche bliain ag borradh ’sag at,
Fiche bliain ag titim,
Fiche bliain cuma tú ann nó as.
___________ —Traidisiúnta, Déisibh Mumhan
Dead leaves scrape across the paving of the derelict church.
A small crowd is gathered with candles.
A priest sits by a white-clothed table.
How long more can we hold away the dark?
We hang onto the inherited dream
Like ageing, disappointed lovers,
Left in the end
With nowhere else to go.
Have mercy on us, Lord,
Who have lived beyond our time of usefulness
And totter round the empty edifices of our glory,
Looking towards our end.
The rigid will inherit the earth;
And we, who knew you gentle,
Comprehending of failure, soft on offence,
Will fade, forgotten, from the world.
Yet we persist
Like that small bird of dawn
In the chorus of the forest.
Infants ail, mothers weep, fathers bury sons.
Those without hope look to us for hope, who have no hope;
But call from some willed, neglected corner of our selves,
To an unfelt God, for succour.
A door opens,
A door closes.
One by one, we enter the place of prayer,
Carrying our unfaith.
We sit through the Lauds,
Minds linking no longer with the words,
Feeling neither Presence nor Absence,
Mouthing the pleadings blankly.
We paw the dark windows of Otherness,
Hoping for a shaft of atactile light
To pass across us
In our lives now, no songbird sings, no mouse makes rustle.
We exist merely,
Trusting, against wisdom, in that footfall promised
That once in Galilee moved on water.
Photograph by Will Klingenmeier
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.