Holy Island – Margaret Perry


On the map it was marked Killary harbour,

that tiny village at the sea lough’s side.

A church, a school, some simple cottages,

a closed hotel, the craft shop and a bar.

Remote and beautiful, the mountains plunged

close to the water’s edge, the road precarious

across hillsides. A haunt of fishermen and fish.

In Killary I met an artist and knew

at once that we would have been friends.

Her pictures hung around the craft shop walls,

her Art diplomas too, stoutly framed;

I recognised her bitterness.

People said that her paintings were good

but they bought Aran sweaters.

We talked for a while of deep momentous things

and when I left she handed me a pendant,

a polished amethyst on a silver chain.

We had only met that day and she gave me

an amethyst, the stone of serenity,

carved from mountain rocks where oceans

had washed from the beginning of time.

A gift for you she said, smiling:

and for a moment bright waves

of understanding danced between us,

lighting our faces.

Because we would have been friends

she gave me an amethyst, the stone of serenity.

And I wear it as a talisman against

the pain and disappointments of the world.

Talking to Myself

As I sit here in solitude

holding the piece of amethyst

and whisper the name of Achill Island

colours begin weaving in the air,

soft purple, blues, aquamarine

and deep sea green with silver.

The shades of cloud, sky, sands,

and ocean wild with surf.

And on my skin I feel

the roughened scab where this stone

was clawed from the old mountain.

When Akhmatova was exiled

by her enemies and not allowed to write

she stored words in her head:

and had only to murmur the word Apple

she said, for her room to flow instantly

with green-ness.

And this room too becomes a jewelled bay

as I sit here, talking to myself

in the dog days, before the onset of Winter.