Friday, October 15, 1999

BRIGHID OF NAMES— A TRIPARTITE LIFE




1.  Bridge- id: Bridge- it: The eedjit Sassenach 
never could wrap their alien Bearla around our sweet teanga
Once I was Bree-id, Bride of Christ, but I bridled at Bridie: undignified.
I was synonymous with God-ness far beyond the Scythian Sea.
In the Isle of the Blesséd, the tuatha called me Brigantia
and gladly I gave name to them, for were they not my children?
Once I was the triune Bríd, but men from the east stripped me 
of my sisters: Brighid of healing, whom midwives and mothers beseeched,
and bright Brighid of the Goibniu, who fanned the forge with her sweet breath.
But I, Brighid, the anvil of poetry, wrote the ranna into the numbering of years,
and was christened Naomh Brighid for my valorous deeds.
It was the coming of Padraig, or was it Palladius that separated us from ourselves.

The Daghda, the Good God of Plenitudes, was mo áthair, 
who was my mathair? Bóand of the Cows? Or Danú? I never knew.
I was a fussy child, drinking only bainne from the red-eared cow.
I was born at the ford between worlds, betwixt night and dawn, 
neither within nor without the house, ní an tigh,
wed a while to Bres, a half-Fomorii from beyond the sea...
My three strong sons fell, blessed by the song of the sword. 
It was I who keened the first sorrow ever to face Éiru.
I wanted them beside me, not in the land of the ever-young. 
Tír na n-Óg: did they not know Cill Dara was mine own?

2. In the year of the Plague, Cogitius and other monks scribed: to a slave 
I was born, swathed in a druid’s ráth near Foughart, Meath, in the year 445,
to the sweet land of of Queen Medbh, woman of honeyed thighs.
My dark father, Dubthach, sold me to another king who thought me 
too worthy a wife when I gave away sword, chariot, horses, treasury...
With my swirling cloak I claimed all his land to grass the cattle of the poor. 
Milk overflowed in my fields. I bettered the sheep, I satisfied the birds. 
It’s true, in the mortal coil, I refused marriage, even to the filidh 
who couldn’t take a joke and fled when my eye burst like a meteor.
Before battling with angels, remember the Lord is better than any poem.
The lepers and the blind loved me, for my holy wells healed their maladies.
My little speckled fish wagged his tail, cured disease, restored sight and prophecy.

Brennaín of Tra Lí, in his blue martyrdom, for seven long years went to sea.
No one to cure my headaches, or tell tales of cities of glass or leviathan islands.
Forever Navigator, he never managed to hang his wet cloak upon the sunbeams.
My jealous brother, born of two worlds between the salt water and the sea strand,
claimed the beasts of the sea loved me better than Padraig or he. By pondering
solely on God, I gentled mad horses, and soothed the voices of the waves.

With seven sisters, I founded twin monasteries beneath the oaks, 
three-quarters of a century later, the earth took me back into her womb
until the dubhgaill pirates came in longships to our clement shores. 
I was smuggled to Dún Padraig with Colum Cille and Padraig, 
500 years we slept, blissfully forgotten. How the Uí Neill fought over him
but we never rose up against them. No separation of marrow from bone.
We had but one heart and one mind between us. 
On the eve of the Conquest, it was Maolachi who found us. 

3.  At Bath, Caesar called me his wise Minerva: patron of arts and crafts,
but he never knew I was also Sulis, and her sister of the lost names.
Bélsima (most brilliant I was then), then, from across the sea, they came
renamed my Féis Dé, Candlemas, but I was still a woman of sudden flame.
Ah, Imbolc, the sweet milking for the lambs on the first day of Earrach.
It was I who divided the year into two lovers: Samhain and Gemredh.
In the first paragraph of paradise, I was shaper of the land, consort of kings.

Dear Cormac in his Glossary wrote: I usurped “ a goddess 
whom the bards worshipped, for great and noble was her perfection.”
He was right, you know, my name was synonymous with Goddess.
19 of my cailleacha kept my fires lit with their breath until the 1200th year.
That Welsh monk Gerald said there was a matter of a hedge no man could cross.
Plenty came to visit. The only thing that drove them mad was their fear of desire.
That’s why I sent the kestrel to the spires of Kildare when her breeding was done.
And that bit about the nuns: As if I needed reminding to mind my own fire!
He never recognized me as his St. Ffraid of Wales, Angle-land, and beyond.

It wasn’t Ibor who conferred me to the veil, 
it was Mel, so intoxicated by my presence so near, 
that he read the ritual for ordaining a bishop over me.
I was second only to Ticfa Padraig; I kept my monks in food and beer.
Silly things drank my bath water from Maundy Thursday to Low Sunday
before they realized it wasn’t ale. They who called me Mary of the Gael!
Once I fed the dog the bishop’s dinner; meat was back on the bone by supper.
The multitudes I fed from that same haunch! Go leor. Emough and plenty.
But a sleighty fox stole the bone. I sent him packing to a king’s court 
to beg for tricks like a hound a year and a day. To every dog its bone...
Everything I put my hand to received a threefold increase. 
As a child, I gleaned three yields of milk from my cows, 
and the butter! I filled the dairy with it to impress a stranger.
But to the vain woman bearing me gifts of pride-apples, 
I gave her fruitless trees as a token of my gratitude.

How I miss my bishop, Conleth, the metal-smith, falsely accused 
of fathering a child, but it was Brón, (sorrow’s patronage parenthetically abused.)
I bade the newborn speak the name of his father, Brón, he mewed. 
Did I not reside over His birth, did my sisters not nurse the Holy Child,
he who was to come, God, Son and the Father, all in one, 
who was three in one, and one in three, like my sisters Bríd and me? 
I am the smile that smiles upon you from the plain...

Know you that in Ireland I have been resurrected in this third age of Man.
Born again in the perpetual fires of the last paragraph of the millennium.
Whole soldiers defend the faith on street corners, armed with plasric bullets 
and flame throwers imported from the third stanza of hell.


The Ides of Samhain, 1999
Berkeley, CA

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