POETRY

Inspired by my love of Celtic and Greek mythology, the following poems emerged when I was studying W. B. Yeats' works at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland in July 2005.

Synchronicity

 

This poem combines aspects of the Irish myth of the Children of Lir with the Greek story of Leda and the swan.

 

Serpentine mists over an inland sea,

Swirling and curling, like vapour aware,

Veil of white, embodiments of the Sidhe,

Heralds ethereal.


Majesty divine, argent wingèd forms,

In harmony, slip over silver;

Four swans approach,

The children of Lir,

Dispersing shadows of gossamer.


Fair Fionnula leads her brethren,

Raven-minded Fiachra,

Fiery-bodied Aodh,

And wolf-spirited Conn,

Towards the silken strand.


Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,

An alabaster maiden sleeps,

A bruise on her nape;

Encircled by her arms are,

Two eggs—one, of vermillion hue,

Speckled with silver, a dewy incandescence;

The other, cerulean, adorned with gilded swirls,

Testament to a god’s progeny.
 

Fiachra summons up a primordial tale,

Told at his father’s knee,

Of Olympæan Zeus, sovereign of sky,

In kindred form, casting feathered glory

Over Tyndareus’ bride, staggering Leda.


The outcome of stolen chastity,

Birthed alone, two jewelled encasements,

Heirs to grandeur and destruction,

A sky god’s legacy

And Fate’s playthings.


An Aeolian whisper through brazen branches,

A cascade of acorns falls, oaken percussion,

Fracturing satin shells.

But wait,

Emerging,

Peering,

Through cracks of ovate perfection,

Subtle fingers of newborn hands,

Kissed by Helios for the first time.


Cherubic faces yawn, an awakening,

Both of life and prophecy;

Infant voices gurgle, breaking Leda’s reverie;

She smiles.


A synchronicity—

Leda, aware of swans,

Clutches newborn life,

Fearing Zeus’ greed;

The children of Lir,

In exquisite awe stand,

Expecting cygnets divine,

But see human form.


Fair Fionnula, with reverent care,

Assures Leda of peace.


Once-silent Aodh, speaks of Eire,

Of Lough Derravaragh,

Of accursed Aoife,

A journey over time and time

And time again,

Of Sea of Moyle,

Of Inis Glora,

And a bell, harbinger of a new era—

Freedom, at last.


Soothed of strife, the new mother

Sheds compassionate tears,

Looking down upon her brood,

Upon Polydeuces and Helen,

Now of amaranthine innocence,

Upon Clytemnestra and Castor,

Now of mortal virtue.

New threads for a tapestry of tumult

Woven by the spindle of Fate.


An ephemeral vision,

Of a city destroyed,

Of brotherly love,

Divided by immortality.

A sacrifice, a redemption,

The fall of grandeur.


Four swans, born from a woman’s envy,

Four children, born from a god’s power,

Kindred pawns of destiny.


Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,

An alabaster maiden sleeps,

Encircled in her arms are,

Love and War—children of Zeus;

Nearby, along the strand,

Four feathered forms slumber,

Children of Lir,

Awaiting the daybreak of freedom.

 

Battle at Dun Dúchathair

 

A meeting of the Celtic hero Cuchulainn and his adversary, Aoife, along with the Greek hero Achilles and his adversary, Penthesilea. Heroes and Amazons.

 

A time-worn cashel—grey stones lay

As a testament to a war torn past

And an Iron Age;

Rising cliffs ravaged by tempestuous seas,

Provide apotheosis for rough walls,

Embraced by whirling zephyrs,

The only playthings of the Sidhe.

 

Rocks, unaided by mortar, hold fast

Over time-wrought years,

Ever-vigilant, protecting an age forlorn.

 

A druid in white, mystical attendant of

A lost faith, makes a ring of weathered rock,

To begin the Samhain fires;

Upon the lowering of Scáthach’s shield,

Death knows life, the veil is down.

 

A cairn beside the burgeoning flames,

For a spirit of yore to embody,

A warrior called from Tech Duinn,

The land of the dead.

 

Breath of the Sidhe teases the flame,

Coaxing it into madness,

Until the moment arrives—Order sees chaos,

Chaos sees order,

Waking spirits walk.

 

In an ancient tongue,

Within a trance,

A druid’s summons:

Cuchulainn, Ulster’s hound,

Come forth, Gae Bulga and

Cruaiden Cadatchenn in hand!

 

Cuchulainn, Ulster’s hound,

Come forth, Gae Bulga and

Cruaiden Cadatchenn in hand!

Through portal of fire

Coalesces warrior soul with cairn of stone,

Iron fists gripping notched spear and blade.

Spirit touches ground;

Air becomes flesh;

A Celtic hero breathes again.

 

Before druidic charms can halt

The ebb and flow of sprightly soul,

Three more ghostly clouds

Pass from the coil of death, through fire,

Into nature’s sovereignty,

And no Cerberus to thwart passage.

 

Beyond Dúchathair’s walls,

Apparitions of antiquity

Seek stone for flesh.

 

Cuchulainn grips tighter his faithful sword

As gravel crunches beneath sandals,

Closer and closer

And nearer still,

Until dancing fire illuminates

Kindred face and armor forged

By Hephestæan fire.

 

Pelean sword in lethal hand,

The slayer of Hector

Confronts his reflection in Fate’s mirror.

Stalwart soldiers share a gaze,

Weighing threat against power—

Stalemate—

Swords lowered, yet eyes remain.

 

Feminine swagger approaches;

Leather-bound, eyes darting to and fro,

Armed with passion of heart and blade,

Scáthach’s apprentice stands ready—

Aoife, Celtic Amazon, surveys the milieu,

Muscles tighten as her eyes land on one

Who bested her in battle.

 

Amid the displaced shadows, Penthesilea,

Crescent shield in hand, encounters

Three scions of War.

Scythian queen, of Amazon blood, sizes up

Both the smithy’s hound and

Her Styx-dipped nemesis and lover.

 

Tribal deference,

A gentle nod of the head

From sister to sister.

 

Weapons aloft, tempered by blood,

Reflect holy fire and moonlight;

Majesty of cultures, mirrored through souls

Dance the steps of hunter and prey

While druidic eyes wonder.

 

Steel against steel—

Ringing into the night, echoing

Among Dúchathair’s bones;

Achilles and Penthesilea,

Whose blades sing a duet,

Harmony against cacophony—

Parry

Thrust

Thunder of metal clashing—

The din of War;

Mathematical maneuvers fused with

Crafted instinct.

 

Aoife, echoing the dance,

Engages Cuchulainn—single combat

Of heart, mind, and soul,

Cruiaden Cadatchenn and Amazon broadsword.

Desire equates to victory, desire to regain

What once was hers—Gae Bulga!

Moon and sun, sun and moon,

Cloud-enshrouded constellations

Observing the melee,

A captured audience, but mute.

Orchestral chords emanate from battle,

Entertaining Ursa Major and Orion.

 

Hand to hand, core to core,

Celtic queen smells the deadlock approach;

With hawk-like elegance, Achilles becomes

Her prey, shifting the scales and

Playing with Fate.

 

Thirsting for the dance, fervor overwhelming,

Penthesilea courts Cuchulainn—

Ulster’s mongrel snarls his approval

As wind-blown spirits, zephyr and sidhe,

Incite the dancers to fury.

 

Whirling frenzy rises, like a slow tide,

Ease of combat with unfettered hearts;

Chimes in a gale, cast steel echoes,

Samhain fires yearn to echo motion,

Twisting, spinning, turning, leaping—

 

Sudden spark! Each sees in the other,

Mind and spirit, potential for an ancient,

Ephemeral love, adoration remembered.

A shard of familiarity awakens them from

Drunken reverie, the intoxication

Of Ares and the Morrigan;

To fight the unknown

Would seem to fuel the dance,

But, unfamiliar body yields to familiar soul

Through War’s choreography,

Dousing the blaze,

Stopping the mocking wind.

 

Stalwart warriors stand at ease,

Unable to battle.

 

A truce drawn, the flames beckon,

Until shades of antiquity

Reach futility and surrender,

Each tossing arms to the ground.

 

A reckoning is at hand—

Each cannot fight the other:

They are one and the same.

No shame nor pride, but realization:

Threads spun from Fate’s loom, once dyed with

The blood of battle, can no longer entwine into

War’s tapestry.

 

Spirits seeking return, from flesh to cairn,

Monuments to a legacy long past and

The druid left to wonder.

 

A time-worn cashel—grey stones lay

As a testament to a war torn past

And an Iron Age;

Rising cliffs ravaged by tempestuous seas,

Provide apotheosis for rough walls,

Embraced by whirling zephyrs,

The only playthings of the Sidhe.

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© 2014 by DAVID BERGER