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james matthew wilsonI stood atop Slane Hill
Where Patrick’s fire burned
And chapel floors now fill
With cold rain.  Each cracked grave
About has risen with
The dead.  And tourists, turned
On knotted, brazen lists
Of all the “weak or brave,”
In any case, those lost
Beneath the winning miens
Of history.  The cost
Of burial is the means
To tell their tales unbroken.

A raised arm with its hand
Bearing a Triune token,
Juts from the stone of Patrick’s
Body still flowing but worn,
Which stands against the clouds,
The ranging cows in shorn
Fields far beyond.  The crowds
Approve the misty scene:

The crosses of white stone
The tower, scorched and silent;
Patrick’s pale bulk long grown
Weighted awaiting visitors,
Now that the tribes have gone,
And gone the converts, chasing
Easier prizes.  They yawn
At the mere mention of
The raging winter fire
With its burden of holiness.
He fills, now, a new desire
Such as is better served
In sentiment and silence.
But living, he gave life,
Its truth in love and violence.

Republished with gracious permission of Modern Age.

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Editor’s Note: This is the second poem in a collection of six called On the Shoals. The featured image shows the ruins of the friary church on the hill of Slane, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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