Virgil’s Spark

Virgil’s Spark

The birds don’t come here anymore,
Now silence fills their space,
A sharp reminder to us all,
That God can be replaced.
The signs where Hell had visited,
Are scattered all around,
Although the Devil took the last train out;
When the fires were dampened down.
A sign inscribed above the gate –
Gave false hope – of freedom soon,
Ironic in its disillusionment –
Instead of Dante’s words of doom.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Virgil is the guide who takes the reader through the author’s examination of the afterlife, which travels through the Inferno (Hell), (Purgatory), and the (Heaven). The words inscribed over the Gates of Hell : ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’
Photo.The inscription above the main gate of Auschwitz concentration camp and others camps read: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work makes you free).

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The mooring lines were hauled on board
The Uxbridge hatches battened down,
The lights of Cobh were shining,
As we passed that harbour town,
Then Roche’s Point and open sea;
Our course was set ‘Due South’
Towards the hot lands of North Africa,
Sixteen years old – and my first voyage out.

Along the North West coast of France,
Towards the storm off Biscay Bay,
Where we spend two days going ‘fore and aft’
Before we finally got under way.
The sardine boats off of Portugal,
I stood my night watch on the bow;
And rang the bell so the steering men,
Could reduce knots or change her prow.

We anchored off Casablanca Port,
While waiting for a berth,
The water carried voices,
The first Arab words I ever heard.
They came laughing, shouting, singing,
Across the warm night air,
It was there I heard a muezzin call,
The people for their prayers.

The next day we went alongside,
The First Mate called, ‘All engines cease!’
Before the gangplank was fully lowered,
Came the traders, beggars, thieves,
One would sell you anything,
Another could steal the words out of your mouth,
But it is something I still remember –
Sixteen years old – and my first voyage out.

We sailed on an air filled phosphate night,
The old blind man – they said he had once been a millionaire,
His voice filtered across the dusty water,
‘Tell Queen Victoria, I’m still here!’

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

Image: Loading phosphate on the Casablanca Docks

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A Silent Man

A Silent Man

I can remember when he was big and strong.
More than any other man I knew,
The weather could not stop his work –
But found far more easier things to do.

The harvest was no match for him,
Sometimes despite the pouring rain.
His strong arms shelved the hay bales,
Broad shoulders – sacks of grain.

Then one winter, the invasion came,
By an enemy of the mind.
Yet the changes came on slowly,
Like a shadow creeping from behind.

Not caring, if the day was bright,
Or the horses left running wild;
Broken fences went unrepaired,
The light slowly dimming in his eyes.

Then one day he just stopped talking,
As if words were some affliction to his means.
I still believe that the silence did not kill him –
But the total lack of dreams.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

Painting by Martin Driscoll. Permission to use this image granted.
For more details on Martin’s work contact – Felix Kleig

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Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears

Fortune did not restore their dreams
But forced them all to wander,
To the cold lands of the East,
To take the South West and North asunder.
Find the paths, that were not theirs,
When destiny was cruel;
Or was this plan to delete their race?
Knowing they were confused and could be fooled.

This time they stepped a little slower,
Their lack of caution overgrown,
Their old eyes saw things differently,
But had no decision but to roam.

Once they lived beside the cactus plant,
The thorn bush, and the rose;
A wilderness like Eden,
Where true peace had no repose.
Some days were filled with trivial things,
Some nights they would call Nanapesa from afar,
Seek Hushtahli when He shone in the sky,
Call lost souls and falling stars.

Some thought that they were already dead;
Other’s wished that it was true,
But on the Trail of Tears –
Where some of their spirits today still rest –
They are remembered by the few.

©John Anthony Fingleton (2017) (Löst Viking)
Image ‘Trail of Tears’

Notes: At the height of Ireland’s Great Famine (The Irish Genocide). The Choctaws Nation in southern states of the USA sent a donation of $170 (about $ 7000 today).
A sculpture’ Kindred Spirits’ stands in a park in the small town of Midleton, in County Cork. It was officially unveiled and dedicated in June 2017 by Chief Gary Batton, Chief of the Choctaw Nation,

The Choctaw Trail of Tears was the attempted ethnic cleansing and relocation of the Choctaw Nation from their country referred to now as the Deep South (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana) to lands west of the Mississippi River in Indian Territory in the 1830s by the United States government. Nearly 15,000 Choctaws made the move to what would be called Indian Territory and then later Oklahoma. The population transfer occurred in three migrations during the 1831–33 period including the devastating winter blizzard of 1830–31 and the cholera epidemic of 1832. About 2,500 died along the way. Approximately 5,000–6,000 Choctaws remained in Mississippi in 1831 after the initial removal efforts. For the next ten years they were objects of increasing legal conflict, harassment, and intimidation. The Choctaws describe their situation in 1849, “we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died’’. It should also be pointed out that many Irishmen served in the US Army at this time and took part in these operations.

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The Field

The Field

As I arrived and was about to pass, the breeze began to stir,
Awaking the wheat field from its sleep,
Still green in its fresh freekeh form – un-harvested by hand –
With the texture of its colours running deep.

Undulating like a sea-wave just before a storm, it took on a casual drunken sway,
The blue sky trying hard to peep, between spinning clouds of green and white,
The field road seemed as surprised as me –
But held its contours to the right.

Then all began to coexist, as the wind picked up its pace,
As if a waltz had just begun – and partners choose-
Swirling nature, like some unseen hand,
I imagined the sound of silken waves, as the dancers took their pose.

Then in an intoxicated sea of green, in unison each step –
Not one movement out of line, they danced around that Auvers field –
To the music of the wind –
I could only stand and watch them mesmerised.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

Painting.Green Wheat Fields, Auvers BY Vincent van Gogh

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Revisiting the old home

Revisiting the old home

There are still traces of broken walls,
Now overgrown with moss,
The opening where the door once stood –
And an overpowering sense of loss.

But most of all, there’s silence,
Not even blackbirds sing,
What happened to the laughter?
In my head, I hear it ring.

My footsteps on this wild grass place,
Seem to disturb the settled gloom,
As if it was a sacrilege –
And I had trodden on a tomb.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

Photo. Deserted house on Achill Island Co Mayo

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The Rag Tree

The Rag Tree

It stands there
By the holy well,
Bedecked with rags
And pilgrim spells.
Each fibre bud,
A plea –
Some prayer;
To fairy folk
That still live there.

The holy water
Needs no priest,
To bless the faith,
In old beliefs;
Clandestine, with
Some new saints name,
This pagan place –
Remains the same.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

Image. Rag Tree at Killary Harbour in Connemara

Rag trees (in Ireland / clootie wells in Scotland) where pieces of cloth are generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well – in modern times usually a saint. But in pre-Christian times a goddess or local nature spirit. This is most often done by those seeking healing, though some may do it simply to honour the spirit of the well. In either case, many see this as a probable continuation of the ancient Celtic practice of leaving votive offerings in wells or pits.

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Ashes of Mali (Operation Serval 2014)

Ashes of Mali
(Operation Serval 2014)

We had followed them for a full three days,
When we finally found their fire,
The ashes underneath were warm;
A sure sign that they were near.
Some vultures circled overhead,
Just north of the nearby hills,
We knew that one was wounded,
Perhaps by now the bullet wound, had killed?

They had left behind the chaos,
Women and children, savaged by their bomb,
For some twisted point of a religion,
They believed they could enforce by the gun.
In time I knew we’d catch them,
But others soon would take their place;
And this circle would go on and on,
Until we found those that preached them hate.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

No photo description available.

In Memory of John

In Memory of John

Shattered broken pieces,
Like a jigsaw of the dead,
Lay scattered on the very spot,
Where you were finally lead.

Were you old or young, when you passed on?
What was your second name?
Did you suffer, or pass peacefully?
Did you have some claim to fame?

Did someone stand on this very spot?
And weep, as they watched your coffin lowered?
Or was it left to a lone gravedigger?
To say a final word?

Is there somewhere a stained photo frame?
With a picture of yourself?
Or is this broken stone that all remains,
To say you were here on this earth?

So I’ll say a silent prayer for you,
Before I move along,
And will light a candle in the little church –
In memory of you John.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

The poem was inspired after I had read a post in the group ‘Vanishing Ireland’ with the same photograph and following message:
‘In Memory of John’
I came across these broken up pieces of headstone in a very old graveyard in West Clare some time ago. I was struck by the beauty of the lettering compared to today’s headstones.
I found myself wondering who John was, I can only assume he was loved or held in high regard during his lifetime so I said a little prayer for him before moving on.

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The old bog road, is deserted now,
With the hedgerows overgrown;
The fields each side are still carefully spaced
By ancient drywall stones.
The Fairy Mound, is not disturbed –
Old suspicions linger here,
But the cattle and the crops are gone,
And the old folks have disappeared.

Between the gaps of invading grass,
Old cart tracks, I can see,
From when farmers drove on market day,
Down to the town of Skibbereen.
And where on rainy mornings,
I splashed reluctantly to school;
The first road I ever travelled –
Of the many later I would choose.

Two clamhán swoop down from the trees,
Unused to being disturbed;
Their dark eyes watch my progress –
Recording every move.
Then they rise and fly off easterly,
To report what they have seen,
Perhaps to ghosts, which once walked here?
Or a far more higher Being?

I turn – retrace my footsteps –
Reluctant to go on;
There is a special grief in all returning’s,
When the loved ones have all gone.

©John Anthony Fingleton (Löst Viking)

*Clamhán (gaelic) Buzzards

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