Skelligs Speak

January 17, 2023

Skelligs Speak

By Amba Gale

(Upon reading “The Woodcarver,” by Chuang Tzu, as we enter 2022)

Out there,
the green grass of Eire
and the unshorn sheep,
beyond the rock hewn wall
and the wild Atlantic,

they hover,
like Himalayan mountains
whose unattainable peaks
call to you
as if
you were a monk,
climbing those impossible stairs
ready to go to mass<
ready to say your prayers
ready for anything God has to give you.

Except now.

Now you find it is difficult,
if not impossible
to accept
the stairs, the chants, the prayers,
the weather of the stormy seas,
the monastic life.

While the ancient rocks still call you,
you have left yourself in doubt
about your strength, about
your willingness to shape a life
of pure simplicity.

You question if
you can weather that impossible climb
where the weather blows
and the winds come racing a hundred miles per hour across
the rolling,
bone cold sea.

You know what you have to do,
but you just won’t do it.

What is being asked for is just too hard.

Oh, I pray for you, humanity,
in your soft, excessive clothes,
where life has become too easy.
The oh so ruthless bareness
and focused intentionality
of the Skelligs
is the lesson to be learned now.

A woodcarver, who has become one with his wood.

Who wants to climb those God forsaken stairs
to a bee hive hut
where no tree grows?

Who wants to
eat frugally
to find their God in the ancient rock?

Who wants to
live a life
where peace prevails
if it means that
surface pleasures drown in the rising tides
and conversations at the periphery must be left behind?

“How does this poem end?” you might ask,
I ask.
I do not know.

that we must fast
during this outrageous storm
and embrace our enoughness.

that the love that is found
at the bottom of our own holy well
is there, available, and lives
at the center of our longing.

that we must climb
our narrow stairs
in search of Truth.

that we must leave behind
what lives at the edge.

Only, that this time
we had better make our peace,
and learn what there is to learn,
and soon.

For our lives are at risk.

And the life of argument that we wanted to indulge
takes flight in the wind like a ghost
as we willingly and gladly leave behind
those surface conversations,
those actions that do not matter,
be mindful of our manners and our practices,
borne of soul
borne of heart,
and borne of the well wishes of the ancestors and ancients.

I do not know the part of me that wrote this poem.

Whoever did,
let it be a lesson for us all.

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