Terra Obscura: Saint Cuthbert Alone in the North

by Holly Cooley

Far above the irreverent world
in gray-wasted Northumbria
crash-hungry seas and hurly-burly winds
roughed out the Farne Isles

where one wind-ridden raw monk
himself craggy as lava stone
tough-tattered by rip-roar winds
withstood the waves

alone in his faith-encrusted soul
against the bluster-storm
rolling in from impious imaginings
on foam-wild sea edges.

Does Cuthbert the holy
pilgrim-lord of the ducks
still shepherd his feather-torn flock
on those lonely world-edges?

Do clacking colonies of eider ducks
in moss-bedded stoney-breaks
worship him still in the cluck, coo
and clatter of bird-lore legend?

Do flightless puffins
masquerade and joy-mate
to the screech-crackling of the gulls
oblivious as bulbous Atlantic seals
to the ethereal play of fire-flight
swirling above?

Do sea birds spin-circle rising ever
high-uppermost spiraling
into the sun-bled sky
soaring over rock-blast outcroppings
overreaching ash-dust earthly boundaries
toward saintly heights?

Ah, sheer awe-
stir wonder
to break free
from this heart-
empty life
to fly!

Do the wild-pious saint's
heart-spun prayers
yet straight-wing toward heaven
through clouds softer than eiderdown
through feathery cirrus moisture
to heights only the soul can fly to?

Does Cuthbert's lord still
serene-watch and silent-wait
to catch the prayers on high
as Cuthbert flings them?

Holly Cooley lives with her husband, two dogs and a cat on Paradise Island in Florida’s panhandle. Given half a chance, she will talk endlessly about William Morris & the Pre-Raphaelites, the focus of her PhD dissertation. Her poems have been published by Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, and Dragons, Knights & Angels. Her favorite fruit? Black raspberries.

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