Sunday 4 June 2023

One Poem by Greg Patrick

 



Derry Nights

I Dream of Fire

by Greg Patrick

 

“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!” ― J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Two Towers

 

Immersed in the old songs and the depths of memory, I envision her smile, red lips like old

wounds reopening as fresh and red as the day I bled. In the cold where old wounds pulse and

sighs steam. In the dark where warriors are allowed to shed tears. Firelight and old songs cast

their spell in duet, distant haunted eyes cast over the red dreamscapes of memory...

I dream in the red of fire and pallor of snow and I speak to it in the elusive words of songs and

unsung. A dreamscape of snow hailing her like frozen tears melting midair amid the burning

debris. I reunite with her in that dreamscape, an intruder in the past….I stand in an uncoloured

silhouette, the outline on a Pre-Raphaelite canvas while she graces the scene in a vision of red of

hair and eyes of depth of Celtic Sea.

I stand aloof among the raucous merriment of the caravan fires. Immersing myself in the

sonorous embrace of old song. In recurring dreams and in moments when distant haunted eyes look

into the depths of caravan flames I revisit the moment as if I were the ghost and not her....I walk

among the flames of the bomb’s aftermath, unburnt and numb. Walking towards it

even as others stagger and reel bloodied and burnt away from it, choking through the

smoke or screaming, mouths soundless to my deafened ringing ears.

My last sight of her like, frail as a moth in an aerial dance with the light as I raced explosions to

get to her to be by her side.

I am thrown to the ground.

I see her then. She lies among smoking and burning debris. I kneel by her side...palm feeling her

heartbeat and pressing down again and again....tasting her shallow breath as I breathe into

her mouth....”Wake up! Wake up!”

It can't end...not like this...

“And why can't it?” the Dark Goddess mocks...”You are all mortals. It is not your place

to deny or defy the gods when we call for sacrifice.”

Her voice is like venomed honey spread by a sharp blade. I won't listen… I can't.

I look back to my muse...

I had thought her smile silence set to music and as soundlessly my lips formed a trinity of words.

Words I was forbidden to speak as we both drew breath steam in the air.

I still bore the burns as my dreams were haunted by the radiant ghost of her like a ghost’s waltz

in a castle’s ruins, her hair beggaring the red of the fire.

I hold her in the eye of the storm…

Standing like an island with poetry at its soul and an empty throne at its heart.

What was fire anyway?

I had touched her hair in the midst of the fire.

Only the dead and the damned can touch flame…

I remember when we first met…

She is unsure of me…

“I heard you people steal…” she says.

“You have me beat there. You stole my heart at a glance. How did you do it?”

She laughs...and I laugh...

“Come you shouldn't be seen with his kind...” her elders scold.

She lingers and I as well. Fingers entwined.

Pressed her palm to my heart in parting before we are pulled apart.

Then that night...

I pressed down again and again...

No...not like that...Breathe...

“Go away!” I demand as the Dark Goddess hovers....

“I am your shadow...your shadow....”

The darkness closes in...the wings enfold her....a pale face framed by raven hair leans in for her

lips...

I am pulled away...

“Come on Paddy. The soldiers are coming....Come on....She's gone....you have to let her

go...she's gone....”

The rains fell then cold, though I was oblivious to it, extinguishing the flames and banishing

them to haunt my soul and recurring dreams like red ghosts amid castle ruins.

I am disoriented for a moment....I recoil from the flames...why? Just the campfires amid the

caravans.

The reassuring presence of my cob ponies nuzzling me. I snuggle them fondly.

It is a remote site we have encamped on…far away enough from the city that the stars in their

myriads haunt the skies and eyes.

Far from the long walk back then behind the walls and wires...Who am I?

I was young when emaciated rebels drew their last breath in a Belfast gaol.

I am ancient now, older than the hills, when swords are relic and men slay with fire.

It is a haunted place we encamp in…There are so many ghosts here.

I feel their hunger…

It is a hunger that emaciates the soul...that drains in succession every oasis of the nomad's

passage...night of restless shadows that the musician conjures and weaves into songs...I know the

isolation of the gods...

I think of her then, a vision of beauty behind green eyes like tidepools of Celtic Sea and a

smile that was silence set to music or incantation casting its spell, silencing all the background

music. Outshining a succession of smiles like nomad fires in a painted desert, kindled over the

heart and extinguished with the dawn, all for the betrayal of a mirage.

I stand aloof among the raucous merriment of the caravan fires. Immersing myself in the

sonorous embrace of old song.

I am a brooding presence in their midst, a living shadow beyond their raucous merriment.

I tear the no pikeys and gypsies sign that confronts me on a rusted post and cast it to the flames.

It ignites and flares lighting my face and eyes in crimson.

I see their silhouettes weaving around throwing punches in bare knuckle fights, others shouting

encouragement. I stray from the shadows at last. I feel the sensations of the fire's warmth

as I appear to their eyes.

I raise my fists mechanically and answer a challenge. I am jeered.

“You can't win. You can't win.”

It becomes a chant that echoes in my soul.

Those are the only jabs I feel.

I clench my fists. Blood fills my eyes. I am blinded, bruised, and bloodied…everything is

surreal and abstract.

I am not myself anymore.

Who am I?

I am Cuchulainn wounded from their swords slumped against the rock…

I recognise voices around me.

I reel and sway....

“Come on....You can't win,” they urge...

Then another voice echoing them....the Dark Goddess....

I feel a flutter of dark wings.

Sharp talons clutch my shoulder.

“You can't win”, the dark goddess whispers.

The rock alone keeps me standing…

there is no rock…not really... what is it then?

“If your dead girl could see ye now”, one mocks.

The words stab as cold as blades.

The shadows closed in as if coiling around me constricting and hissing....

I clench my fist.

But she does...

I see her as well in the fire's radiance...

The strength isn't mine that I am wielding…that I am rallying on...

Men died here...so many...

They slew and were slain in turn.

I feel the thrill of young warriors eager for battle, the coldness of blades and of bodies strewn on

the red grass...Shadows are granted form and face men in golden armour with shining swords wrought

and forged with pride.

Their battle cries sweep my soul with the rush of wind, urging me to rise...I feel her

shadow...hear her mocking voice claw at my soul....

I clench my fists....

Eyes of the wounded warrior slumped against the standing stone open as he sees his enemies daring

each other forward to finish him...just one more blow and he falls....

One steps forward with fist raised. There is no reason for him not to think I will fall to that fist.

My eyes open suddenly. The crows harrying me digging in with claws and words fly in a dark

torrent from me hailing me with black feathers like tears of midnight...the shadow of my fist striking first...

The words of my battle cry...how are they mine? I do not know the tongue...words of a song lost

to bards…long passed with the legends they sang of.

The fist flies with the closing wave of darkness....

as if the poetry that haunted my soul was a force of nature kindled by dormant fire smoldering in my

soul at my touch...

“It is not for you to wield...no mortal can...”

I just did crone...behold...

The fist takes him...bones crack...

He falls as I stagger back, surprised at what I was able to strike with.

There is silence around the fires.... They see me but they don't...

There is no recognition anymore.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?”

I don't know...

“Where did you learn to sing those words?”

Who says there has to be an answer?

The crone melts into formless darkness, into my shadow cast by the fire...

The soloist song becomes a chorus as they join in slowly then steadily...

At last I open my eyes and the fires have burnt low. They have fallen asleep at last.

I cannot...

She is there...a tender hand on my wounds...on my bruises...on my regrets...

Who am I? The first or the last among exiles? The eternal nomad or the pilgrim?

I am shadow...I am darkness...I am memory....I dream of her....I dream of fire....







Greg Patrick - A dual citizen of Ireland and the states, Greg Patrick is an Irish/Armenian traveller poet and the son of a Navy enlisted man. He is also a former Humanitarian aid worker who worked with great horses for years and loves the wilds of Connemara and Galway in the rain where he's written many stories. Greg spent his youth in the South Pacific and Europe and currently resides in Galway, Ireland and sometimes the states.

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