I remember the clouds yesterday—
cow-belly low and heavy,
pregnant with Irish rain—
the way they hugged Quinn Abbey.
clouds the colour of stones,
shale grey and lichen-shadowed.
———Masses lighter than the ones on that first
———chemo morning, heavy rain sliding
———down the pane, as my son knelt
———beside the shocking yellow puke and bile.
I stepped over soft marble graves
with weathered names
and rain-softened dates.
The church’s rock walls
stood tall despite crumble.
But the abbey had no roof,
so her vaults opened to the sky—
an open-air cathedral,
———Those mornings, I loved the one glass globe,
———its a peony floating in water.
———I would stare at it to steady my steroid head.
I glimpsed a little niche
of stones and candles, a tiny Mary statue
and star-hatted lady painted on a card.
Someone had placed a circle
of shells round the small stone font,
her holy water long since condensated
back up to the clouds.
———My prayers in those days went something like:
———O thanks for the tea and toast my son brought me
———that stayed down,
———thanks for the smell of sunlight soap
———in the juiced laundry my daughter washed, and for
———my other son’s steady arm
———when I crumpled like soggy cardboard.
I stepped on a stone pedestal, opened my arms
to all that’s on high:
O Ireland, I’m so pleased to be
here in ancient Quinn abbey,
with her cows through the grate;
here, having tied my sick-time scarf
to Tara’s wishing tree;
here, having spied through the light box
over spiral-etched stones at New Grange;
Spiralling rock, five whorls—
four in clockwise orbits,
one in the cycling spin of our planets—
strangely familiar stone
etched in rock before the pyramids
older than the Stonehenge,
of Neolithic age—
I’ve seen this pattern before—
———behind my eyes
———when the last chemo kicked in, that night
———my weird Druid dream
———deposited me onto a stone-pocked field
———via spinning vortex
———I somehow knew had been
spun in circles
———Priestesses chanted over a vat of ruby fluid,
———Abbey nuns sprinkling petals,
———medicinal herbs in beetroot juice.
O Ireland I do believe in fairies!
———and mushroom tinctures, and candle vigils’
———prayers that went up like morning mist
———through the radiation.
Red devil they call the doxorubicin. And so
I partook of the cup.