|On the Feast of Brigid of Kildare
Hysterical cawing of crows in the morning dark.
Wind with the voice of ghosts.
I check through the blinds to see if it is
the same world I shut out in sleep last night.
A tourist to Ireland will see the Siamsa,
a family talent show with much step-dancing,
many squeeze boxes, fiddling colleens
and green ribbons in the stage lights.
Attendance once or twice a decade will suffice.
But at the end of the siamsa comes invariably a miracle
of Brigid of Kildare, who, next to Patrick, is
the great saint of the emerald isle; who, unlike Patrick,
was a goddess in her former life, green Venus,
sea-girt Mary, her cross an emblem of the coming light.
She, and not the groundhog, cometh forth in
inquisitive glory on this winter day, but let that be.
"The Miracle of Brigid," then, involves a crippled child
rowed from some remote island to the lady's sanctuary,
laid on the strand with his weeping father over him,
mothers and aunts keening as for one who is dead.
Brigid dances in her peasant dress and white apron.
The pipes make a music under her, that high flute
like birds in the morning. You think you know exactly
what's coming. Brigid--surprisingly young, a little girl,
a child like the twisted shape on the sand--holds her
cross, the one that does not mean suffering, before her,
dancing. And you lean in. And you hold breath. And
when the child stirs, and when the child walks,
you cry out from that bottomless well of unsophistication
held in reserve for just this hour, cry out with the women
whose keening turns to laughter, cry out with the
astonished boy, with the father who holds his arms
out as if he meant to cuddle the North Sea,
with the piper whom amazement
has made unmelodious, cry out with your face
hidden among the masses who cry out
from heart's struck heart, sobbing for a triumph
not your own. This is the miracle of Saint Brigid,
who was god. The crippled boy takes his bow,
understanding he was, if charming, incidental.
In cold, crowy morning, writing of Brigid,
I've wept as a child weeps, hard, scouring--
whether because I whirl forward crying glory
with the sun's disk in my fist, or because
I lift my bent bones from the sand, toss crutch
to the waves, or because I stand with my hands
in my pockets and watch, I cannot say. Just that,
outside, the voice of ghosts has turned to chickadees'.