I write and publish my poetry first on Instagram. Then on Sundays, I post the poem that received the most likes or comments here on my blog. Below is my most popular Instagram poem this week, “Recalling Brigid”.
I wrote this poem for Imbolc, the traditional first day of spring and for Christians the feast day of St Brigid, Ireland’s matron saint.
Little is known about her, beyond that she was an Irish Christian abbess in the mid-500s who founded several monasteries, most famously the one in Kildare, where men and women served equally together (that ended a few centuries later, when the patriarchs took over).
Like many Christian monasteries, the Kildare Monastery was built over an old pagan shrine, one to the Celtic goddess Brigid. That Brigid is more documented, appearing in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha de Danann, daughter of Dagda and wife of Bres, with whom she had a son.
Brigid is associated with wisdom, poetry, healing, protection, blacksmithing and domesticated animals and Cormac’s Glossary, and according to one 9th century text “the goddess whom poets adored”
In my poem below, the adorable Celtic goddess and the Christian saint are fused in the feminal qualities they shared.
Recalling Brigid 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, 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 to 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 with your eyes, to touch her cooling cheek to your cheek.