Skellig Michael


This morning’s good morning
Came swift and bright over the hill.
It burst the dawn-grey twilight
On the wings of a jackdaw
Sudden and sure of itself.

I can see Skellig Michael
Floating out on the grey-blue sea.
Its rugged peak, silhouetted
Against a stormy sky,
Appears and disappears
As the rain laden clouds
Pass over it
Covering the holy rock
With a gauzy curtain of rain,
Then lift and set it afire
With brilliant morning light.

How I long to go out there,
To climb its steep stairs
Hand-hewn so long ago
By monks so desperate for union
With their mysterious God
That they left the world behind,
Stepped off the edge into nothingness,
And never looked back.

It is abandoned now,
Silent but for the birds nesting there
And the wind howling over
The raw ruins of beehive cells
And the tiny church where
The Great Silence was broken
Six times each day by the monks
Praying the Hours together,
Six of them on the north wall,
Six on the south,
The abbot, alone at the altar
Intoning the first words of each psalm,
His voice heavy with age
And a settled sense of time.

The Ireland of their birth
Could be seen off in the distance,
But they no longer belonged to it.
Their world had shrunk down to the
Narrow gardens, the cold cells,
And the small chapel there
On those windy heights.

They had turned away from
The world as they had known it
For this monastery on the head of a pin,
Floating on the vast and endless sea,
Dedicated to spending out their lives
On that wind-wracked promontory,
Praising the God they’d never seen,
But whose Presence was as sure
As the rock beneath their feet.

* Skellig Michael is the ancient monastic island off the coast of the Kerry Peninsula in Ireland.


Dan Doyle. "Skellig Michael." CERC.

Reprinted with permission of Dan Doyle.


Dan Doyle has taught for 30 years at the high school and university level. He is currently in his 20th year at Seattle University in Seattle, WA. He is an Assistant Professor in the Matteo Ricci College of Seattle University and teaches several Humanities based courses including: The Greek, Roman and Medieval periods, Character Development and a Capstone course called, Unforgettable Books. He has been writing and publishing poems for most of his career. Dan Doyle is on the Executive Board of CERC USA.

Copyright © 2010 Dan Doyle

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