When you moved the masses to my island, I never made you any promises. I never told you that I could protect them. You never asked for my permission. You only placed them there inside the castle walls with hardly enough food to make it through. You aren’t a cruel man. You were doing what you thought was best. But you never asked.
No one saw you but I know that you prayed. You prayed to me, the keeper of the island, the Callieach. But what could I do? They were already there. I am the mover and shaper of lands. I am the shapeshifter. I am the wild force of the ocean. I am the brightness of
the moon at midnight. I am the healing power layered into the cells of the common weeds. Dursey Island is where I go to rest. It is where I restore myself. It is my home.
I was bathing in the waters, as a seal, when I saw you bring them over. I had never seen you so downtrodden. As the wind, I had been whistling through your lands and listening. I heard that you had an impossible choice. That after your defeat at Kinsale, you brought those who remained back to my peninsula, the place we both have called home. You kept your faith in me even after watching your warriors and foot soldiers fall. You knew they needed to come back to receive the blessings of this land. So you led them, mile upon mile, from Kinsale to my homeland. They would be restored, you believed, and your people would rise up again and reclaim what was stolen. In a time when my name has been replaced with a male god, you said my name, if only in your heart.
But I have known all things. I have seen the land stolen from you. I have seen your exile. I have seen your defeat. All of this I couldn’t tell you in a form you would understand. Love for me does not protect you from the vulnerability of your human plight. Love for me does not save you from the ruthless plunder of those who believe only in a male god and silence my name. You do not love me for what it brings to you, do you? You do not love me for my power, for if you did, you would be mistaken. I may be a deity, but I too depend upon the kindness of the people who live, breathe and dance on this hallowed ground. I cannot prevent the spread of hatred that blots out the fertility of my land and my name. I, too, depend upon you to nurture me, to come close and receive my blessings.
All of this you knew, until after the fight at Kinsale. The violence shook you and you could not see it. You too were blinded by the terms of violence and power. Your belief in me which had once been of reciprocity and relationship turned to one of taking and oversimplification.
The Spanish promised you gold which you thought would solve your problems and would save your people. You thought if only you could get that gold, you could fire back at your enemies, unify your scattered and defeated people and reclaim the land. To get the gold, you had to leave your people behind, unprotected while you trekked upland to the place the Spanish told you to go (always on their terms).
That’s when you turned to me as your great protector, which I am not. That’s when you marched the people who remained, the faithful who had followed you back from Kinsale, those who believed in and loved you — the women, children, farmers, exhausted soldiers. You left them in the shelter of a castle wall on my island. Your single prayer at the shore of my waters was all you left me. I want to protect them, but it is beyond my power. You have misunderstood who I am in your desire for a simple answer. You didn’t listen to my response to your short prayer, where I wailed upon the shore, slapping the beach with the force of a cannon. You were already gone. Bringing them to my land, without asking permission, to my most sacred place — I am disappointed in you, my dear one.
When the English arrived, they started on the mainland, but soon came to my island. I tried to topple their boats with waves. I rained a thunderstorm down on them, and clouded their view of my shores. The rain was so strong, some of the sea cliffs collapsed in a mudslide. But soon they landed. There was nothing more I could do.
By Paul DeLong
On August 24, 2022
“No one saw you but I know that you prayed. You prayed to me…” Powerful combination of phrases.
“You didn’t listen to my response to your short prayer, where I wailed upon the shore, slapping the beach with the force of a cannon.” Also robust in effect!
“There was nothing more I could do.” Summarizes the limits of power to even those who have vast power, and also brings to the hapless end the abrogation of moral agency by the leader. A piece which haunts with truth from beyond.