At Poulnabrone Dolmen Argyle poured
his soul’s ache into the hole of sorrows,
huddling under the ancient capstone
against the cold and crueler elements.
Stone portal, stone cairn, stone everywhere—
the rocky desert of the Burren bore
a semblance to his own hard-weathered heart
made barren by years of cast aspersions, pox,
maledictions, cursed loneliness and loss.
Only by retching over the earth’s bone box,
or pissing on the effigy at Corcomroe
or making for the graveyard at Fanore
to visit his late, great confessor’s tomb
(the druid holy man, O’Donahue’s)
could he purge himself of bile and rancor
so, this twice or thrice a yearly pilgrimage
up the West Clare coast and down again
lightened the load of comeuppance his grim
work among the newly dead occasioned.
Among old stones a calm came over him
as if the dead beneath them held their own
redemptions on their journeys heavenward,
like wildflowers gathered out of bones,
their sweet bouquets a comfort beyond words.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.