A Garland of Rowan Berries
(After Bridget Anne McNeill)
On the day of the marriage on Rathlin Island
the sky sparked a voltage, a veneer of sunshine
as bland as iodine gouged its means by way of the mist
and solid a crown of fireside behind Turloughs head.
He stood tipped over the burden of his jewelled Rapier,
knighted by the solar, looking out the horizon for rites of passage.
King of Tyrone, Lord of Ulster, Chieftain of the O’Neills,
his beard plaited right down to his navel, his eyes methane blue.
As sails whitened the bay and seals bobbed to shore
he rolled out caskets of ale to his Gallowglasses.
Gaelic bards arched over lyres; druids swirled rune
stones and waved their staves of rowan branches,
as jugglers tossed flames and tamed falcons,
jesters pirouetted by way of crowds signalling bells,
applause and laughter the place the vagabond travellers
with wide-eyed locals lunged on the goblets of spiced wine,
clans-merged-merry and singing smelted collectively like metal,
crafted into an alliance by the artisan’s regular hand.
And within the foreground of all of it, Woman Agnes Campbell
along with her military of Redshank kilted males, thrust out
of fairy-tale from the day she was born in Inveraray Fortress
the place the ravens circled the turret with berries brim of their beaks,
and the solar singed a gap within the clouds fraying their haloed-edges.
Right here she stands now, in her matrimonial greatest,
her costume as purple as dried blood, a garland of rowan berries
braided in her hair, clotted collectively like grapes;
a relic to warn away evil, laurel of marble-bead holding again her veil.
When the maudlin pollination of night time blotted throughout waters
and the moon launched its mouth right into a gaping sigh
tossing out bats like scores of fervent music, the troops turned
to pitch up tents and Sorley Boy stood to recite tales.
The shadow of the lantern’s flame dripped over
arms of handed out males, some pale right into a reverie,
concussed by the darkish, others snored below tables
rattling the plates of bones left over from the beneficiant feast.
For fourteen days the solar rose every morning within the west,
the kestrels leaked out from the caves and company
clambered down from the scaffoldings of sleep to revel once more,
the collapsing chords of bagpipes resonated over Rathlin’s basalt cliffs.