Cathal Ó Searcaigh


Unlike the sea
in her softness constantly
easily agitated and fiery
of mind and disposition
endlessly roaming the earth
if not above, below

You are of more solid stuff
weighed down by thought.
Unbending in heart, unbending
in mind, you have never known
coming and going out of the blue.
Tough, staunch, no surrender you.

But a day will come,
mark my words
and the sea will find your soft spot:
raging she will come on land and bloat
and utterly engulf you –
dominatrix of the silvery throat!

The sea is a constant bubble of rumour,
her mouth ajar!

You are lofty in eternal silence
contemplating the next star.


If you talk at all you talk to yourself alone
a poetry of stone


When the sun lingers on you
ancient light that comes to us
from afar,
your dull grey
bearded hoariness begins to glow
and you are young once more
a million years ago.




no words
come near
your glory

are you not older
than our own tongue
than any tongue
and will you not outlive them all?


They believe in you
the rocks
along these sloping fields

You are the Holy One
Lord of All Time

Their only desire and destiny
is to be with you as once before
and to be whole


Formed in Fire you were
at Earth’s beginning.

A cinder from that fire
still glows in you,
embers in boulders
flagstones all aflame.

The spark is awaiting
judgement day
and will leap forth
from your loins
as a mighty blaze
as an inferno.

You were born in the fire
in which you will expire.


It is nothing!
You were here before us
you’ll be here when we’re gone.


You never knew
God’s arrogance.

You are older than He,
this human deity

out of fear and neurosis

fear of death

God’s arrogance
you never knew

what is man’s one-act play
to you?

Procreative fusion
formed you,
ice carved you,
wind and sun
sculpted you
snow and rain
polished you
heather gave you features
moss clothed you
bog-myrtle perfumed you
bog-cotton bearded you
lilting you took from the lark
nature gave you permanence
the naturalist, short-lived creature,
pays you homage.

I went askew
in the Mám
between yourself
and Cnoc Glas.
Out of my dimensions
and outside of time.
It appeared to me
that a garden of chrysanthemums
was blooming
in your shade,
and woods of
cherry trees
were branching out from your peaks,
the air of Japan
had wreathed you in smiles
and Mín na Craoibhe
was in the middle of Kyoto
a woman in a kimono
bowing to you politely.
Was I momentarily duped?
It matters not.
The sage Hokusai was visible to me
on his knees in adoration –


Your gaze is constantly
on the world’s cycle,
our lives do not horrify you
our deaths do not delight you.

You are not as we are –
fearful toads! –
measuring our life in days
you measure life in stones.


An autumn evening
from some giddy height
west of Ard na Seamair
I see you wrapping
a lavender cloak
of the loveliest
heathery silk of the mountain
around yourself, Oscar.

How delicious it would be
to live my life carelessly
in your heathery hermitage
by your windy slopes
on your sun-embraced peaks
and to climb you each day
with tender steps.

You are the stairway to the sky,
ladder to the sun.
I could find the Self
in your crowning light,
understanding would dawn
not from the pages of hoary sages
but from the wind that rushes
over snow

at night in withering March
and from the soft juice of bilberries
in the purple of autumn.
I would chant to the elements
and the young morning
adorning you
and lauding you
before my open eyes.

How delightful to escape
from the fetters of the world,
free of its wrestling
grip, to yell in defiance
on your moonstruck
slippery heights.

Like Han Shan
bold pilgrim
on Cold Mountain,
poet of fiery eye
feral in his long endurance
free and everlasting
among drifting cloud


On a a summer evening
as I tread your paths
you are there before me
in peaty pools,
diminutive, sportive,
I could almost
catch you in an embrace
compadre, full of grace.


Have you any memory
of the generations who in reverence
spent their lives
labouring here and propagating
in good times and bad
here in your shade?

Or have they disappeared
the men and women
who looked up to you
in homage throughout the year
have they gone forever
from the annals of your memory?

Are we anything to you?


A cup of tea
a poem or two
if the Muse grants it
alive and well
albeit frugally
and Death –
(who else!)
my only tenant.

And I can’t take
my eyes off you
day after day
you draw my gaze
and I contemplate
the way you rise
from the poverty
of bare-boned earth.


We ceaselessly seek
to create you
in our own image

Extend you
with metaphor
clarify you
with simile,
fortify you
with symbol.

Why can’t we
leave you there
as you are

mountain bare.


You are without offspring
as I am too, beloved,
except for the work
all around you, collections
of stones, poems adamantine
born in pain.

glitters freely
in poems of praise;
mighty granite
gives weight to laments
sharpens satire.

I envy them.
They will live on
when my poems
are mist.


Steadying me
when I was rudderless
you resemble Father

Showing kindness
as I rush off into a new life
you resemble Mother

In biting weather
your face obdurate
resembling me


Each and every inch of you I walked
each brow, each high point, each hollow and slope,
each rain-washed peak, each sun-licked ridge.
I studied everything that grew on you gloriously
your wild flowers and all your healing herbs.

In the pale cloak of March I saw you
in the heathery tweed of autumn.
Saw you sun-cloaked in May
and in the silky white of January
but the more I gaze the less,

dear heart, I can tell:
such is the fate of those who lie under your spell.


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