Slievemore: The Abandoned Village

Deserted Village Slievemore, Achill Island 2001 Kanchelskis,_Achill_Island.jpg

You park your car on a low slope

under the graveyard wall. Always

there is a mound of fresh-turned earth, flowers

in pottery vases. There is light, from the sea and the wide


western sky, the Atlantic’s

soft-shoe nonchalance, whistle

of kestrels from the lifting mists, furze-scents, ferns, shiverings –

till suddenly you are aware


you have come from an inland drift of dailiness to this shock

of island, the hugeness of its beauty

dismaying you again to consciousness. Here

is the wind-swept, ravenous


mountainside of grief; this is the long tilted valley where famine

came like an old and infamous flood

from the afflicting hand of God. Beyond all

understanding. Inarticulate. And pleading.


Deserted. Of all but the wall-stones and grasses,

humped field-rocks and lazy-beds; what was commerce and family

become passive and inert, space

for the study of the metaphysics of humanness. You climb


grudgingly, aware of the gnawing hungers,

how the light leans affably, the way an urchin once might have watched

from a doorway;

you are no more than a dust-mote on the mountainside,


allowing God his spaces; you are

watercress and sorrel, one with the praying of villagers,

one with their silence, your hands

clenched in overcoat pockets, standing between one world


and another. It has been easier to kneel

among the artefacts in the island graveyard, this harnessing of craft

to contain our griefs;

here, among these wind-swept, ravenous acres


where we abandon our acceptably deceased to the mountain earth.

In grace. In trustfulness.

This, too, the afflicting hand of God. Beyond all

understanding. Inarticulate. Though in praise.


John F. Deane

from “A Little Book of Hours”  Carcanet 2008

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