by John Liddy

Outdoors: A Glenstal Abbey Cycle
for Fr Brian

From a clearing in the woods with a view
across the fields, my swallow’s eye
delineated the road to Murroe

And came to rest in Ryan’s kitchen
among family and friends in the full
flow of an impromptu session

With Thea smiling between tunes
as Dan the Banjo Man, Jim
the Fiddler and Tommy Spoons

Rattled the china cups in the dresser;
the flag stones sparking from the flighty
steps of the halfset dancer.

On my way down to the Abbey gate
I saw them at their evening games,
cavorting with my reminiscences
above the earthly estate.


All morning I roamed around
noting the storm’s devastation
in uprooted trees and bushes
lying mangled on the ground.

Under the arch of a bridge
I saw where students dumped
their pizza boxes and beyond,
a raincovered hermitage.
In this chamber I sat for an age,
transfixed by silence and inter
mittent birdsong as storms
elsewhere continued to rage.

Stepping indoors, I heard
the monks give voice
to life’s renewal at the ending
of the mass and recalled

The splendor of Christmas
Eve when a boy took flight
with Gregorian chant and one
female singer. She was

The lone songbird nature
gifted after the storm,
the one I had given thanks to
in the outdoor chamber.


Beyond the fields the boathouse
from where we rowed out
under a moon so bright its light
pierced the depths beneath us

With the pleadings of one
who could not swim,
the boat rocking like a cradle,
water pouring in.

Had there been no guardian
I would not be recalling the thrill
of the chain slip its mooring,
the relief as it found home again.


Motionless beneath die canopy,
birds hopped around the floor,
indifferent to human presence,
imparting lessons in humility.

Then the clap of pigeons’ wings
sent them scurrying for safety.
Unable to follow, I immersed
myself in the understory.