St. Brendan made a big impression on me from afar. When I visited Ireland on pilgrimage, I was impressed in person.
We made many what-we-considered-brilliant navigation decisions to find his final resting place at Clonfert Cathedral. While it hadn’t been torn down to build condos, or anything, I still found it kind of a sad place: unkept, remote, unused, perhaps mostly unknown. My memory of the time of reflection we shared there, all alone with the past, aroused this poem. I share it with you as one of the ways I want to experience Memorial Day. Some people, like Brendan, have fought hard for the faith. I haven’t forgotten.
The fly’s sporadic monotone
Disturbs the still air of Clonfert Cathedral –
That remote island of memory
In a sea of sleepy farms
On a sleepy summer day.
The dusty, unused altarpiece
Cries out for the old man buried in the yard –
That distant vision of voyage
In a sea of sleepy faith
On a pilgrim’s well-worn way.
A dazzling, sunlit Celtic cross
Shines in the door and vainly warms the stones –
The pavement hiding the hearty
In an earth of rotting flesh
And a land’s forgetful day.
A faint persistent irritant
Infects the still air of silent reflection –
The startled pew-creak of contempt
In a tomb for caring men
Shrieks the end of Brendan’s way.