The MIDGE (2)
by Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh
Gàidhlig AN SEO
I was not. I am. I shall not be.
I am a voice between two eternal silences.
This is what we all are –
mute creatures with but one word to utter
and that but once.
Everyman a word.
A word of light or a word of darkness.
Do you think perhaps
we would be happier like the animals,
lacking speech and myths,
oblivious of the stars,
of the past and of the future?
Eternity does not trouble the mind of an animal.
It has no repentance for what it has done
or fear concerning judgment to come.
It exists today, always today.
Like God in a way.
And when death does come to an animal
it comes now
without too much suffering;
not at all like the suffering of a human
who views death from afar
like a pool of darkness
at the end of a tunnel of light.
Drawing towards it
like a space-traveller towards a black hole,
closely scrutinizing and cursing it
but inevitably entering its cold embrace.
There is no vulnerability
like the vulnerability of a person,
the spasm-twitch of life
like a match in a cinema,
like a scream in church.
Did it ever enter an animal's head
to wonder why it was
or why death was?
Darkness. Light. Darkness.
Life like a train coming out of a tunnel
and pounding its way into another tunnel.
Life like two rails.
Iron conjoined by wood.
Life like a bridge over an abyss,
between two tunnels.
'Look at the hills, so gorgeous they are,
so majestic, golden in the sunshine!
Look at that high silvery waterfall in the distance"
and a lovely rainbow at its foot!
But look! Another tunnel coming . . .'
Life like two inter-woven briers.
Bramble and thorn.
Happiness and pain.
Do you think we can really appreciate sweetness
without having tasted bitterness?
After all, the knowledge of good and of evil
were mingled in the fruit of one tree.
Will not the most delicate sensibility
and the deepest suffering always reside in the same person?
Was there not a crown of thorns on the head of Christ?
He who is not vulnerable will be callous.
Alive without spark of life.
Stiff upper lip.
Human but inhumane.
Without agony, without ecstacy.
Stoic. Et tu Brute?
Skin of stone shielding from the world's flames;
shielding also from love's soft caress.
Like a great Easter Island head,
peering at the skies;
Near home there is an ancient standing stone
with a boar carved on it by some talented Pict or other.
The boar is almost invisible now.
Do you think the boar is on the back of the stone
or is the stone on the back of the boar?
The authorities erected a secure high cage
around the stone.
Do you think the cage is to protect the boar from us
or to protect us from the boar?
Scotland, it seems to me this beast is a symbol of you.
You chose captivity in the English zoo
in order to avoid vulnerability.
But you proved yourself so faithful
that you were allowed to roam like a sheepdog
(or was it rather like a doberman?)
You rushed around the globe
barking and baring your teeth
- but always listening for your keeper's whistle.
Many a beast you drove back to the Great Zoo,
just like sheep to a fank for shearing.
But weren't you the brutal one.
I don't imagine there's an animal on the earth
without the scars of your sharp teeth on its rump.
Aye, you were a “bonny fechter” right enough.
It so happens the Zoo-keeper is growing old now,
and the cages are falling apart through rust.
Practically every exhibit has escaped but yourself.
You were always so loyal.
Though maybe you are a tad timid about freedom;
about a world with no imperial whistle.
Yes indeed, the Zoo has deteriorated a lot now,
and the numbing cold of winter
is caressing you through your cage.
Frost is beginning to appear on your back,
the ice of death enveloping you like a stone skin.
THE MAN WHO REFUSES VULNERABILITY
WILL BECOME A STONE!
The only choice is between fire and ice.
Our own planet is delicately poised between fire and ice.
Scotland, there is nothing for you but fire or ice.
Freedom is fire. Bondage is ice.
and I saw a white unicorn
loping over Europe.
She was like Enbarr of the De Danann.
Lightning was her eye,
thunder her foot;
but she dragged a chain.
and I saw her astray in a great wood
and her chain snared in an oak root.
Her wailing ate at my heart like acid,
and her eye was to my eye
as mirror to mirror.
and I saw a white unicorn
struggling to rise on Sauchiehall Street.
The world is a garden,
Scotland a flower.
I am a petal,
The world is a wood,
Scotland a tree.
I am a leaf,
The world is a storm,
Scotland a sparrow.
I am a feather,
Do you think we'll see a new spring
or will the winter endure for ever?
And how will I recognize
whether my country is alive or dead?
Did she die perhaps a thousand years ago?
Or is she like a body on a hospital bed
kept scarcely alive by tube and wire;
blood in her veins,
oxygen in her lungs,
but a brain that is dead?
Maybe she is in a permanent coma,
like a Leviathan foundering in a Stygian ocean,
and the Scot like Jonah in her gut!
Scotland like the carcase of an ichthyosaur
rotting on the sea-bed
till her putrid black blood is sucked dry
by the great iron mosquitoes.