Poems from ‘The Wren is Near’- ‘An Dreoilín in ár Measc’ by Ashley O’Neal

The Tale of the Vulnerable

The line at the beginning
Of the old tale comes from the lips
Of the beggar king as he waits
In the doorway of old myth,
His crown beside him is all rusted and worn.

The day breathes a sadness and
A wonder that only children of old know.
The rhythm of footsteps holds the march
Of men who trampled on the wildflowers
Of spring but, among the sounds, a bell rings so quietly.
She is there;
She is there with eyes of love that humility tempers.

Prayers are made with each footstep.
Mantras are chanted by the smile that leaves the lips.
Surrender is a storm that never comes
And the cracks in the sidewalk are the tunes
For the ballads that keep getting sung in glens
Where the desolate houses still breathe.

Off and away the farmer is walking
His dog to oblivion
As the rosary of existence
Is said by the hands of the last fires.

What will the tale be when the old man
Of the mountains passes silently into the mist?
Who will hold the soft hands of the ancient knowledge
When the alarm of emptiness rings above the city’s sorrow?

Tragic days without rain
I want to tell you the new tale but my heart
Does not know the way to the pass where innocence resides.
Tell me how to whisper to the king so I might
Show him where to drink from the well that renews.

Show me how to meet
The soft doe of the woods so that I might
Run with the warrior and stand with the woman
Who rules the city where the crystal guards the threshold.

Tell me how to live with the ancient son whose tribe
Knew how to preserve the gentle star at the end of the world
For only now do I know what the beggar king tells with his eyes.


The House of Eden

I wish to go home,
She said.
I wish to light my fire in the hearth and

You marched me out long ago,
And, though two thousand years have passed,
I have not forgotten the road.
I am finding my way back.

I know my home was abandoned long ago,
But I will know it by the wild roses
And the shed with the rusted bridles.
I will never forget the smell of my life.

I leave a trail, a scent
Wherever I go,
And the animals know it too.
They have watched over my home.
My home in Eden.

They have called me back
to light that fire, one last time,
Because they too know it will be the last.

I return.
I return by the road unpaved
Created by hands of starving men.
I return in the air you breathe,
One last time.


The Measure of a Dream

She’s saying her last words as the rain comes down,
As the ghosts weep in the corner, the dog has sinned
And the cat has taken to purring.
The calm of a day goes unnoticed as the winds
Pass to a cold too early for the leaves.
As the child waits, the oak bows and the yew reveals its age

A forest begins to speak.
A river sings its song.
A lake gives away its secrets.

Dawn waits in the arms of the moon
and the great land that flooded
reveals its bridges in the titles of the great bards
Who will tell this tale of the passing of giants?
Who will tell the myth to the child that believes in
the flocks language?

The fair call.
The justice of a feather.
The last beat of a truthful heart.
These are the dreams surmounted on a scale without a goddess.

Tethered worlds in boats that cannot be seen
Remain to be the will of a people.
The harbor is full of ghosts wishing to speak the true history
but the wanderers have all gone away.
And the old sage has tears in his eyes
His hands are cracked with the sandpaper of existence
While the prowl of a cat reveals how language’s sister
Has to cloak herself.

The time is not ready for the light to emerge
from the stone where the five rivers dwell.
The land quiets itself as the darkness descends
And the flame of the woman, in her sad eyes,
Is an aisling without a king.


The Fabric of Stillness

They say a golden lady will appear
She will walk into crowds and smile at everyone,
While children will sing from the bridges,
The boys all hidden away will appear with swords and arrows,
Ready to cut the ropes for the boats ready to leave the great shores.

A voice is heard in the rhythm of the murmuring
And the river is singing songs for the elder to return home.
There is a breeze in the air and the words
On the lips of existence are too slow for the ears.

Will this time be made by the rhythm of a song?
Will the girl who knows the way of the white stag find a way to
open the forest
The door has been pushed open and the light is streaming in
And there are those beckoning for a song kept

Awake from the dream.
Awake from the answer.
Eat the question.
Love the myth.

For the story of an island unnamed is
A province unknown and a return of a song
From a woman’s voice just awakened.


Truth’s Passage

The grasses have quieted and the cat’s prowl has lost its dance.
The foreign accent has all but disappeared and the fade
Of colonization’s stroke has placed its last arrow
Before the altar of the shining blue-eyed men
Eyes looking down for centuries look deep within
And humility’s face is beside the widow with her new found tears.

How does sweetness come to these shores?
When the ancient dog does not wait for its call.
The forests fall is set upon soils of old kings and the chalice
Of the queen has been cracked for the lips of princes.

Sorrow leaves the heavens and the poets house
Remains unvisited while the crow waits,
Waits …

Mountains of lapis straighten stillness,
And the broken currach sings the tides that will not return.
Beyond the nest of the magpie’s treasure,
A silver dove lies from an island uninhabited.

Within a mouth of far distant lands,
A branch sings what was lost,
And a man cries for the mother he betrayed.

So the clock ticks and the table is left undone,
But the candle remains and the lullaby of the future,
Whispers softly to the newborn truth.


Within the Heron’s Arms

The river longs for the song of the innocent
And the purpose of a tide waits in days unfound.
The sun’s sorrow opens the heart’s strings,
As the boy wanders too far among the ashes of old empires.

Dirty signs hide the language of nobility,
And fearful eyes look down to a pavement gray
How will the grief burst the banks
When the trees are cut?
When the windows are broken?
When the door creaks?

What is the clasp that opens the necklace of the captured swans,
When the island of loneliness has disappeared,
When footsteps without imprints walk amongst us,
And the gulls cry to a séance without ritual?

Clouds move the heaven’s story and once again
A king leaves these realms in a ceremony of the dark.
The flowers bloom in the pause before dawn
As the trapped door of existence opens wide.
Will the sweetness of truth open the mouth of the wanderers?
Will enough be the gate that sings?

It’s the days of great sunlight that reveal the heart’s road to peace.
The swallow flies from the continent to the bare cliffs of ancient song.
While the last fisherman stands alone calling the sea’s son home.


Poems from ‘The Wren is Near’- ‘An Dreoilín in ár Measc’ © Ashley O’Neal


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