A Tale From Old Iona

The priest found her
on the rain-beaten beach.
His cloak flopped austerely
in the wind, his lengthy address
took its starting point from Columba’s
copybook, bleeding Boethius,
ah, sweet heaven.
And she snapped—
I don’t know what—
some colloquial utterance,
ran away in a polyphonic
movement of wind and sea.
She’d missed Mass and he’d
ransacked the morning for her,
saw evil in her spine
so scrupulously disguised
by the unlinear and soft.
Left, he stood excessively
disposing of his mood,
fighting unwritten stones,
weighted down by the cross.
Later she told her mother
she would die soon
and in two months
she disappeared.
By day the mother saw
nothing but black cowled
priests trailing on the beach
upwards to the abbey.
By night, space and sea,
the moon on the water
like footlights.
Perhaps she’d called her own death,
hung like a scarecrow
in a shady place, or buried,
injuring the silence
of a crumbling, ruinous cairn.
Or perhaps she lived
on the other side of the island,
rain-kissed, then weather-beaten,
her epos outliving her.
She grew frumpy and ran to fat, took
to too much drink, toppled into the sea.