new zealand electronic poetry centre

Fiona Farrell


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Gobnait

She stands upon her beehive,
her cherubim at her feet
in their striped bodices.

Patron of bees. A jar of
honey by her well and a
baby’s bib, necklaces and
ear rings, car keys and
rosaries, a Darth Vader
doll in its black mask. A
striped cup hung from the
tree to sip her blessing.
Her church has no roof but
the sky. And by the open
window, the stone woman,
legs spread wide and her
crack rubbed smooth as
Peter’s toe. Cows sing
their canticles from the
muddy yard beyond the
wall. Their udders sway
swollen with spring milk.

And bees fly among the
gravestones, bearing their
gospel of

busy and sweet

 

Gobnait is the name of a revered saint. Girls are given her name, and her holy well at Ballyvourney is much visited. Children are brought there in their white dresses and tiaras at the time of their first communion. I visited it just after her feast day which is on 11 February, a few days after Brigit’s on 1 February. Both saints are thought to be descendants of the one goddess Brigit, who long before Christianity took her under its wing, was a major Celtic divinity worshipped throughout Europe as patron of fire, metal working and writing, among other things.

Gobnait’s well is up a side road among trees covered in thick green moss. It is surrounded by little offerings: bunches of daffodils in early spring, rosaries hung from the branches of trees just beginning to bud, dozens of little votive figurines and personal things like hair ties and children’s toys and necklaces and baby’s bibs. Her church and statue are round the corner next to a muddy cowyard. Her statue stands in an enclosure, and across the road is her church – not the towered building, which is Protestant and was built in the eighteenth century, but the roofless ruin beside – and the mound that is her grave, which pilgrims have circled for hundreds of years, sometimes barefoot, sometimes on their knees, repeating an exact sequence of prayer and invocation.

From The Pop-Up Book of Invasions (AUP, 2007)


Fiona Farrell
 



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Last updated 26 July, 2007