The Last Witch

No heat rose from the chimney pot tonight.
Apollonius hissed his contempt as we’d flown over roof tops and tree tops blazing with false light.

There’s no darkness anymore
for a fire’s glow to cast shadows in the corners, on the ceilings, on the floor.
Mystical creatures are conjured on the glowing screens held in hands in homes.
Children no longer seek comfort from the Pooka’s howls or the Banshee’s moans.

No one looks up, or out, anymore.
Hovering at the window, I wonder.
When Dullahan comes to carry this last believer home,
will the Death Coach carry me?
Not even the heather fibres of my broom can sweep away this change.

Getting cold (or is it old?)
My familiar urges flight.
Lamenting Sámhain,
I am alone this night.

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Eating an Ice Cream at Auschwitz

Repulsed and, with a desert dry mouth, I made my way along the rubble.
Death was mummified in those misshapen, gnarled pieces of mortar, brick, and cobble.
But the gates weren’t locked for me.
No one saw me leave.
No one said I couldn’t.
I wasn’t sold the lie:
Arbeit Mach Frei.

I was sold appeasement.
Apollo was relentless that day.
Evidenced by the sun-creamed portraits my hands left around the surface of three spent water bottles.
I had taken shelter beneath the shade of some tree I should have known from its leaves.
I was distracted by the drought (or maybe I was numb).

That first lick was luscious.
My taste buds slalomed the semi frozen foam of Mount Olympus.
Milk and honey Mytikas cooled my sorrow.
She quenched my pain.
So easily two or three coins had eased my torment.
Guilt followed.

The Secrets of the Vistula

When I was in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Block 27) last June, there was a new permanent exhibition of the Shoah. Part of that exhibition was an installation called “Traces of Life” which was designed by artist Michal Rovner. Rovner, however, did not draw the images on the walls. She replicated them from the drawings and paintings of some of the 1.5 million Jewish children that were murdered during the Holocaust. What affected me most profoundly was the fact that these children, many of whom had no specific language per se (23 different languages were spoken in the camp so they hobbled together a language of their own sometimes), clung on to their viewpoint and what was essential to them in a place where death was their future. The Nazis may have thought they were hiding their crimes efficiently dumping their ashes in the Vistula River but these children, with whatever materials they could find, left their presence on the walls or scraps of paper. I could almost feel their souls in the room as I looked at each drawing. Such a powerful testimony! My following words don’t do justice to the emotion I felt that day.

The Secrets of the Vistula

Her smallest and her youngest
kept you from your conquest.
You took their tongues but not their voices!
If you listen to the water’s song, you’ll hear them sing:
“hide us here if you must,
we’ve left our stories in the dust.”
– the ashes, the wood, the walls…

A menorah on the kitchen table?
This little one had a home, a family, a faith.
Was there nobody to kindle this light?
Twenty three languages spoken in the places between
waiting for death and death; twenty three and none.
A planter full of flowers “pour maman.”
Traces of life.
Her loveheart and his “happy birthday!”
Mother’s washing blew on the washing line as they played in the playground.
The naked breathing skeletons at the edge of the woods,
the limp and lifeless figures hanging motionless at the gallows.

Soldiers of death
– they saw you!

(inspired by the children of the Holocaust, and artist Michal Rovner, at the new Permanent Exhibition in Auschwitz-Birkenau)

Suffer Little Children

Suffer Little Children

Suffer little children.
Suffer punishment and pain.
Suffer poverty, starvation and thirst.
Suffer drought, disease and death.
Suffer famine.
Suffer war.

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Suffer little children.
Endure their existence.
Endure their snivelling, their whinging and their dirty little faces.
Suffer little children.
Tolerate them.
Tolerate their tears for food, for shelter and loving embraces.
Suffer little children.
Stomach them.
Stomach them when they appear on your tv screens from far flung forgotten places.

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

So the people were bringing their children to see Him.
Dirty, snivelling, whinging children.
Second class citizens!
(No wait. Not even second class citizens.
That’s far too great a compliment for these scrawny, not nearly human, extra mouths to feed.)
And His body guards rebuked them.
Too right! Who do these kids think they are?
But when He saw this He was indignant, outraged, furious!
And He said to them “let the children come to me.
Do not block their way to me.”

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

From One Wall to Another – A Pictorial Journey of the Holy Land (Part 2)

This is the second part of a post about my trip to the Holy Land.  Part 1 (From Galilee to Gethsemane) began around the shores of the sea of Galilee, through Qumran and on to Jerusalem arriving at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. This one begins at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, journeys to Ein Karem and Bethlehem and finishes at the Separation Wall at the West Bank.

Women at Western Wall

Women praying at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, this is the holiest site that remains for Jewish people. As a Christian woman, it was an emotional and profound moment being allowed to pray here although it was also a very unusual experience being separated from the men.

Western Wall

I literally held my camera over the fence that divides the men and women’s prayer sections at the Western Wall to take this photo. My son is in this photo wearing the white kippah. He was not allowed to stay with me and I was not allowed to go with him. I cannot begin to explain how that felt as a Western Christian mother (another blog post perhaps).

Schindler's Grave

This is Oskar Schindler’s Grave on Mount Zion. As you can see, the Jewish tradition of leaving a stone when visiting tells its own story here.

Zion Gate

Zion Gate entering the city of Jerusalem. This was a stark reminder of another Holy Land – one filled with bullet holes.

Again, as a Western Christian woman, this is something that was completely counter-cultural to me.

This is the view taken from the Church known as Peter in Gallicantu, where Peter denied knowing Jesus.

This is the view taken from the Church known as Peter in Gallicantu, where Peter denied knowing Jesus. Gallicantu means ‘cock crows.’

Servus Domini

This sculpture moved me to tears.  I had just come from the pit where Jesus was held after his arrest and, most likely, beaten and flogged before being brought before the high-priest.

Ein Karem Church of the Visitation

This is part of a painting inside the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem. What I loved about this is two-fold. The tenderness between mother and child is an immediate attraction for me but I love the sphere she is standing upon. Is it because she truly is the most powerful woman in the world? or does it depict the pearl of great price in the Gospel used to explain the value of the Kingdom of God?

Mary and Elizabeth

I love this sculpture in Ein Karem. It depicts Mary and Elizabeth, two pregnant cousins sharing some knowing looks and secret joy.

Manger Street

I’m certain this was not the name of the street the day Mary and Joseph pulled in on their donkey!

Milk Grotto

I love this painting. It is rare to come across an image of Our Lady breastfeeding. It is in the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem. Tradition has it that the Holy Family took refuge at this location during the Slaughter of the Innocents, before their flight into Egypt and that while Mary was nursing Jesus, a drop of milk fell to the ground, turning it white. Both Christians and Muslims believe that powder scrapings from the stones in the grotto can increase fertility and the chances of pregnancy.

Separation Wall on Road to Bethlehem

The “Separation Walls” in the Holy Land remind me of the other walls of shame throughout the world – Belfast, Berlin, Cyprus, the USA and Mexico.

From Galilee to Gethsemane – A Pictorial Journey of the Holy Land (Part 1)

It has been on my mind for some time now to do a blog post on my trip to the Holy Land, which I took last year with my son and a number of others from university.  I couldn’t make up my mind what to include in the post and my indecisiveness caused this lengthy delay.  Looking through other pilgrims’ posts, one thing I noticed was the recurring pattern of similar photos taken at the more famous locations so, in the end, I decided I would post some of the less common images.

Part 1 of this post includes pictures I took around the shores of the sea of Galilee, our journey through Qumran and on to Jerusalem arriving at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.

Part 2 (From One Wall to Another) begins at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, journeys to Ein Karem and Bethlehem and finishes at the Separation Wall at the West Bank.

Galilee

The sea of Galilee is known locally as Lake Kinneret. To my surprise, it wasn’t a sea at all!

Nazareth

Some children playing in the long grass on the outskirts of Nazareth, the home of Mary, Joseph and Jesus

Beatitudes

This is the view from where is traditionally believed to be the location of the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave his sermon on the mount. It is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee between the villages of Capernaum and Gennesaret.

Taghba

This is Tabgha. It is traditionally believed to be the place of one of the miracles of loaves and fishes and also the location of one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. It was from these rocks that Jesus asked his disciples to cast their nets once more back into the sea.

Primacy of Peter

This is perhaps my favourite statue in the Holy Land. It depicts Peter on his knees pleading with Jesus to believe him when Jesus asks him does he love him. A humble and broken Peter accepts the role of caring for Jesus’ followers, not the triumphant Peter that is depicted in most churches today. He had, after all, denied that he knew Jesus at all when they were in Jerusalem for fear of being crucified too.

Capernaum Temple

This is the temple ruins in Capernaum where Jesus lived during his ministry.

Jesus Boat

This is the Jesus Boat, as it is known locally. It is a first century fishing boat that was discovered in the Sea of Galilee during a time of drought in 1986. It is on display in the Yigal Alon museum in a Kibbutz named Ginosar.

Qumran

The caves at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946

Jerusalem

Looking over to the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives cemetery. The stones on the graves are left by those who have visited their loved ones during the year.

Gethsemane

This is the oldest olive tree in the garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane means “the olive press.”  This is where Jesus came to from the city of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, to pray before his arrest.

The Little Red Jalopy

I was jewellery shopping online the other night looking for a charm to add to my recently received bracelet.  My head was beginning to ache with that “staring at the screen too long” throb when I spotted it.  A little shining silver jalopy seized me and flung me some twenty years back into my past.  It’s tiny silver grille, rounded headlights, and quirky square-topped roof had reminded me of my first love.  In an instant I was sitting in the passenger seat of my father’s Mitsubishi.  I remember the anticipation building in me as we drove out of Newbridge across the Curragh Plains through the military camp, stopping at Brownstown Cross, to head onwards to Suncroft village.  We were heading to see a friend of my father who repaired and sold very particular second-hand cars: Renault 4s.  All the wheeling and dealing had obviously been done between Kevin and my father long before I had set eyes on the car that was about to become mine.  Nevertheless, my father introduced me to Kevin and, with the fleeting wipe of a rag across his oil-embedded hands and a hand-shake, the business of buying my very first car began.

With her bright red bodywork, silver grille and bumpers, and her two round eyes looking at me from the overgrown grass all around her, I fell in love with her immediately.  She was magnificent.  She was Renault’s “blue jeans” car; rural and urban at the same time.  She was the chic city car of choice for Parisians all through the 60s and 70s but she also had that “picnic baskets at the weekend” quality about her.  I trekked through the rusting rubble and remains of decaying car parts in this cemetery for automobiles in the hope that Kevin would tell me that she was road-worthy and promising as the car that was going to take me on the open roads of County Kildare.  I opened the driver’s door to a red and navy tartan on a grey upholstered background.  There was no sign whatsoever of a handbrake or gear stick and, worst of all, a gaping void existed where most of the floor should have been.  Perhaps, someone else would have walked away to look at the “Cadbury’s purple” Renault sitting just yards away from this little red jalopy but I was smitten.  I paid £300 for my red Reno and, with another hand-shake, Kevin promised that he would solve the floor problem, have her road-worthy, and ready for me within a week.

Image

Renault 4 image courtesy of flipacars.com

My father brought me out almost every evening to see how things were progressing.  I learned a lot about Renault 4s that week.  It turned out that rusting floors were a common feature (aka fault) but this was something that Kevin resolved through fibreglass.  A year later that fibreglassed floor would save my life.  The mystery of my missing gear stick and handbrake turned out to be no mystery at all.  The transmission had been newly developed at the time of the car’s creation and the gear stick was dash-mounted rather than being in the floor where I had expected it to be.  Seemingly, the gear stick was attached to a rod from the dashboard which ran over the engine into the gearbox, which was right at the front of the car. This meant that there was no gearbox paraphernalia in the floor between the driver and passenger seat.  The hand-brake lever also turned out to be in a surprising location.  It was under the steering wheel and it had to be pulled towards the driver in a horizontal position then twisted vertically into the locked position.  Both these features meant that there was flat open-spaced flooring all the way across the front of the car and between the driver’s and passenger’s seats.  My grandmother loved this feature.  Each time she climbed into the car she could store her walking stick between us and just reach down for it when she was leaving the car at our destination.  My Red Reno was a 1984 special edition “Legend” model.  It came with its own unique front grille which incorporated an extra set of lights, as well as “Legend” decals and stripes on the bodywork of the car.  I couldn’t find a picture online of the “Legend” with its extra spotlights and “go faster” stripes and after a laborious hunt through my old albums, I couldn’t find one there either.

The day finally arrived to get my Reno.  I suppose I should point out that by this stage I had forked out £1800 for “third-party fire and theft” car insurance (yes, you read that sum correctly) and had received 4 or 5 driving lessons in the interim period.  My father had wisely decided that this number of lessons was nowhere near sufficient to allow me to drive the car back home to Newbridge myself so he had arranged for Kevin to drive her to us.  I waited and waited for what seemed like an eternity and then I saw her coming down our road weaving in and out of the parked cars on the street until she finally turned into our driveway.  I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I was out through the front door like a bullet and sitting in the driver’s seat moments later.  I remember running my hands all over the soft leather steering wheel and my eyes over each and every button, lever and gadget.  It even had a tape deck!  Both Kevin and my father gave me a “crash course” on all the bits and pieces that I would need to know: how the handbrake worked, how, with practice, I would get used to the dash-mounted gear stick, how to change a wheel, how to use the manual choke, how to do the oil check, how to top-up the radiator and many other very useful tips that I would soon discover as essential when owning a 1984 Renault 4 Legend!  By this stage, the two lads from next door had jumped the wall and were checking out the engine, the oddly placed gear stick and handbrake, and the very narrow tyres.  Nowadays, when you buy a second-hand car it usually arrives spic and span after a full valet service.  Not my Reno.   She had previously been owned by our since retired community nurse who loved and travelled everywhere with her very hairy and moulting West Highland Terrier.  It took me hours with our old Nilfisk to remove those dog hairs that had become imbedded in the upholstery.  By late evening, my Reno was washed, waxed and polished within an inch of her life and I still hadn’t driven her a single yard.

It was about ten o’clock the next morning, a Saturday, when I took the key down off the rack and with a mixture of both fear and bravado announced to my younger brother and sister that I was going to take my car out for a drive.  Both my parents were at work and both siblings were more than willing to be my first passengers.  After all, I had received 4 driving lessons by then and even had a provisional driving licence!  The car was facing down the driveway so I thankfully didn’t have to negotiate reversing.  I pulled out the choke, clutched, put the gear in neutral, turned the key and put the slightest amount of pressure on the accelerator.  She started!  I clutched again, put her in first gear and, lifting one foot gently off the clutch pedal whilst applying the lightest amount of touch to the accelerator, she slowly began to move down the driveway.  With an eruptious and exhilarating “hooray” from my two compatriots, I turned down the street and began my love affair with a Renault 4 “Legend” and the open road.