Gougane Barra


The mist sucks in our car to a world

That’s pure except for the leaves that drop

Like bits of flame or scraps of gold.

We arrive just as the drizzle stops;

The lake deepens the unpeeling hills.

The pilgrim hostel has no guests.

The chapel’s closed; and at the well

We marvel at a sign’s request

To refrain from throwing in our pence –

As if officials could outlaw

Whistling or smiling, song or dance.

We walk beside the lake, and sure

Enough the shallows buff a mine

Of coins, like amber eyes of fish,

That keep lit, and hard, the faith behind

The spinning moment of each wish.

Reflections on a Baby Crow In the Light of the Venerable Bede’s Sparrow

I open up the stove to clear the grate

And flash! as if a coal has come to life

A crow flies out – I spring back with a shout

And watch it head towards the window glass,

Peck at the light in panic, try to leave

The wintry room. It flops beside a vase.

I scurry, open wide another window

Then run outside in time to witness

The nestling shoot out like a ragged arrow.

Later, I think of Bede’s implicit prayer:

“We fall from glory to this life of darkness,

Blunder around mistaking glass for air;

Lord, help us find the straining hole of light

And leave for dead our temporary night.”

James Harpur