Monday, November 15, 1999

BRIGHID OF NAMES: A TRIPARTITE LIFE, ii


BRIGHID OF NAMES: A TRIPARTITE LIFE

1.  Bridge- id: Bridge- it: Those eedjit Sassenach
never could wrap their thick, 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?
I was the triune Bríd, but men from the east stripped me of my sisters:
Brighid of the healing, whom midwives and mothers beseeched,
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.

The Daghda, the Good God of Plenitudes, was my áthair,
who was my máthair? 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 atha between worlds, betwixt night and dawn,
neither within nor without the house, ní an theach, ní an rígh,
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?

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, 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.

2. In the year of the plagues, Cogitius and other monks scribed:
to a slave I was born, swathed in a druid’s ráth, Foughart, Meath, 445,
to the sweet land of Medbh, regal 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 to tell me tales of breathing leviathan islands,
how he anchored on cities of glass beneath the foam, or of ships in adrift in the sky.
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 Pádraig or he. By pondering
solely on God, I gentled mad horses, and soothed the voices of the waves.
With seven sisters, I built two 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 from the north
I was smuggled to Dún Pádraig with himself and Colum Cille,
500 years we slept, blissfully forgotten. No separation of marrow from bone.
We had but one heart and one mind.
On the eve of Conquest, it was Maolachi who found us.

3.  Dear Cormac in his Glossary penned: 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 scryed 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.
Hairy-psalmed men moved by soft Latin. Three sons: and they claimed me a virgin!
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, Angli-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.
Second only to Ticfa Pádraig; 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!
Everything I put my hand to received a threefold increase.
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: plenty and emough.
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...
As a child, my hands charmed 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 abused.)
I bade the newborn speak the name of his father .Brón Trogain, he mewed.
Did I not reside over His birth, did my sisters not nurse the Holy Child,
he who was to come, God, the Son and the Father, all in one,
who was three in one, and one in three, like my sisters Bríd and me?

Know you that at the red hand of Ireland
I have been resurrected for the third age, a nameless woman,
reborn in the fire of the last phrase of the millennium,
while soldiers slouching on street corners, defend blood faith,
and the alien Bearla is now our sweet foreign tongue.
In it, the Nobel poet said to me: Read the hand, read the hand...


The Ides of Samhain, 1999
Berkeley, CA

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