I wrote this poem a few years ago but am taking out for a replay today, as part of my Sunday Inspirational Poetry: A Poem for St Brigid’s Day.
St Brigid was quite a woman, if the old tales are to be believed. Story has it that when Saint Patrick heard her final vows, he accidentally used the form for ordaining priests–who of course could only be men, even then.
When the error was brought to his attention, he simply replied, “So be it, my son, Brigid is destined for great things.”
Little is known about her life after she entered the Church, but she founded a monastery in Kildare, called the Church of the Oak. LIke many Catholic monasteries, it was built over an old pagan shrine, one to the Celtic goddess Brigid.
For me, Brigid’s story raises questions of gender, that I explore in this poem:
Queen of queens, they called her in the old books,
the Irish Mary. Never washed her hands
nor her head in sight of a man, the books said,
never looked into a man’s face. She was good
with the poor, multiplied food, gave ale to lepers.
Among birds, call her dove; among trees, a vine.
A sun among stars. Such was the sort of woman preferred
as the takeover was made: consecrated cask,
throne for His glory, intercessor. Brigid said
nothing to any of this, the reverence
or the upbraidings. Her realm is the lacuna, silence
her sceptre, her own way of life its own witness.
Out of desire, the lure of lust or the dust of great deeds,
she was distorted: to consort, mother-virgin,
to victim or whore. I am not as womanly a woman
as she. So I say: Let us see. Let us say how she is the one.
It is she who conceives and she who does bear. She who
knitted us in the womb and who will cradle our tomb
-fraying. Daily she offers her arms, clothes us
in compassion, smiles as we wriggle for baubles.
Yes, it is she who lifts you aloft
to whisper through your ears, to kiss
through your eyes, to touch
her cooling cheek to your cheek.
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