Cycle of seventeen poems by Don Byrne, inspired by the photograph below Christopher Harrington: Jumping the Drombeg stone circle, Co. Cork, 2004 , black-and-white photograph; courtesy the artist; click here to see a larger version of the image

BLACK AND WHITE

Called black and white,
it’s gray and grays:
bright shades of night
underneath day’s

colors. The name
for grays is gray,
as if the same
bleak underlay

were everywhere.
But lovely grays –
the palette spare –
etch dusk’s display.

21 January 2005

DROMBEG CIRCLE

Seventeen stones
mark once sacred
space, sun-circled.
What first rays shone

between to prove
gods are? Grave priests
stood facing east
for the sun’s move –

which was only
earth, turning. Teeth,
the stones; the heath
maw, still stony.

11 February 2005

THE PHOTOGRAPHER

A photograph of a
photographer
photographing from the
photographer’s

left a man in mid-leap
from one stone to
another. One lens keeps
closed, open – who

would know? The other shoots
itself, motion
and stones illusion. Who’s
behind, hidden?

12 February 2005

EARTH WAVE

Like a debris-laced
tsunami, the background
looms over the space
of the foreground.

The huge wave carries
tiny cows grazing, dark
hedgerows, a farm, trees,
a sedan parked

in a field. Only
the photograph captures
that earth will bury
sacred circles.

18 February 2005

ON THE ROAD

Two human figures,
their moment in time
fixed by the shutter –
a stalled paradigm

of ON THE ROAD. Dean
makes an unending
leap – for luck – between
stones, Sal observing

him always. Dean flies,
about to jump round
forever. Paradise
waits, still, on the ground.

23 February 2005

THE CAR

You have to look closely
to see the car,
more closely still to see
the faint figure

walking from it toward
a house. If you
step back, he’s gone, absorbed
in the field. Who

is he? His ancestors
left behind stones.
He leaves a white Escort,
the boot open.

3 January 2005

JUMPING THE CIRCLE

One of the stones
is a rhomboid,
one a rough cone.
I would avoid

jumping to these.
Three look broken,
like decayed teeth –
jagged, open.

I would not jump
them. My ankle
might break, jumping
Drombeg Circle.

3 March 2005

ILLUSION OF PERMANENCE

Frame, glass, mat,
emulsion shocked by quick light,
transfixed at
that instant, stares with burned sight

out at eyes
used to seeing through windows
countrysides
stream. The unblinking photo

holds my glance,
though there is nothing behind
its slow dance
of chemicals I can find.

4 March 2005

REFLECTION

Fourth of forty, this print
is. The same negative
spawned each same scene, same tint,
same print, same objective

correlative. Minute
differences there must
be. Only an acute
eye and patient focus

could see. But remember:
four keeps changing. Now I
see a pine tree shimmer
there – light to glass to eye.

7 March 2005

PICNIC

In County Cork,
was there a picnic
near Glandore ,
some songs in Gaelic,

Harp or Guinness –
or Power’s nipped neat –
the shoot finished?
Perhaps a slow peat

fire for soul-warmth,
when dark brought Druid
ghosts up, a-swarm
for vital fluid?

11 March 2005

IN THE CENTER

In the center of the circle –
so a side perspective suggests –
what looks like a rough stone nipple
protrudes, one teat with a flat breast’s

aureole, lighter, around it.
A hard suck it would be to draw
milk out from Mother Earth’s gray teat
without fire and warm blood to thaw

her. Ashes and infant bones, stone
knive s, thong garrotes r ise in the dirt.
No place for campfire girls or grown
men grilling steak and hamburger.

13 March 2005

THE CLOUD

A powderpuff
stratocumulus cloud
in the third of
the photo that’s sky could

have been airbrushed
in to mark dead center,
even though just
above it. It’s clever

work, either way.
Wind seems to blow left
to right, and may-
be even some stones drift.

14 March 2005

THE GIFT

The gift brings with it
a gift of seeing
what I wouldn’t look at
without it – a scene

from Ireland’s pagan past.
Who made it never
imagined it would last
two thousand years or

migrate across oceans
to my eyes to ask
me: if not the seasons,
do you wear God’s mask?

20 March 2005

MODERN DRUIDS

Modern Druids still
wear vestments, still cow
masses of faithful
anxious any how

to think life returns.
The priests prophesy
rebirth. Their sun turns
imperceptibly

higher. Take and eat.
Spring comes. Eat the sun,
drink your fill. Repeat:
the resurrection.

25 March 2005

MOTHER EARTH SLEEPING

The shades in the foreground grass
could be seen – as a child’s eyes
shape clouds to what they can grasp –
as a woman’s torso, thighs

to breasts. Her mons – pubic hair
darker grass – bulges over
an eddy – weed dimpling where
the little man in the boat

sets sail. Prone, her breasts flatten;
between her thighs, dark shadows.
It’s easy to imagine
Gaia sleeps where the grass grows.

26 March 2005

LITANY OF THE STONES

Someone to plan,
someone to find them;
someone to measure,
someone to cut.

Someone to hone them,
someone with ropes;
someone to haul them,
someone to dig.

Someone to lift,
someone to be crushed;
someone to bless them,
someone to watch.

29 March 2005

MODERN IRELAND

The tiny houses
and barns are modern.
In the fields, cows bow
to their task: to turn

grass into milk, beef,
and euros. No thatched,
whitewashed huts, or heap
of a tour castle

in the picture. Only
Drombeg Circle speaks
the past: one stony
shrine on a worn peak.

1 April 2005

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