A Prose Poem About The Cailleach
Big powerful women have always had a lot of bad press. They make folk uneasy. They're a bit scary. The butt of jokes. Not many women are willing to take the role on, and most of them who do didn't choose it. Sharpness is unattractive. Shrillness can get you into trouble. Confidence on the level of creating a new world, of owning your true age, of rejecting the trappings and mannerisms of girlishness. It won't get you a lot of friends.
But she's in us all. All of us angry mothers. All of us who are angry on behalf of our mothers. All of us who chose to be mothers only to that which we create by spilling our guts, by throwing a tantrum, or by dropping everything society told us to carry.
The Cailleach says that she remembers the time when the sea was a forest and the land was water. Sometimes she goes to the Well of Youth and washes her face, but the beauty treatment never seems to last. Sometimes she's downright mean to the young lassie who is so fond of flowers - making her do the washing 'til her hands are red raw. Pulling tricks with the weather to keep that nice young man at bay.
She has a ball of string, that she can throw into her prisoner's boat if he tries to escape. She can reel him back in like a salmon. Again and again, until one day he finds the hatchet and takes it with him, and chops the string, and chops it every time she throws it. And then the pain of rejection and her anger know no bounds at all, and she hurls herself down the scree slope of a mountain, but even this ends up being just another act of creation, as the mark of her fall becomes indelible on the mountain, like a scar on a breast.
What does it feel like when life turns out not to be a journey, after all, but an immense permanence? When you can remember the time when the sea was a forest and the land was water? And you think back to that time which might have been your girlhood - but even then, you were already old. Riding the saddle ridges of the mountain ranges, like the back of a great boar. Herding the deer, your only darlings. What does it feel like to come back into our power as female creators? No longer caring for convention.
What does it mean when your belly becomes a cauldron whose contents is speckled with the whirling wreckage of insignificant boats? To have a heart like the sea, breath like a gale wind. When your thoughts can only be an eagle soaring in a blizzard. What does it mean to come back into our power as female creators? To say, "I am wild, and I am done with this patriarchy."
There is a force in all of us which has been too long denied. A primal force of creation that isn't particularly gentle, which must be allowed to work on the landscape of our psyche and of our society. Sometimes it's a matter of scale. Scale gives us perspective. What does the problem look like when we view it from a landscape too old to be familiar? What do our relationships look like when we stop trying to be pretty? What does it mean to come back into our power as female creators? Not as servants of the hearth, but as protectors of the wild.
What does the world look like from the top of a mountain? From the Paps of Jura, from the Paps of Anu, from the Paps of Glencoe? What is significant when viewed from that perspective? When the rocks you break to build the landscape turn out to be hewn from your own bleeding teeth. What does it feel like to come back into our power as female creators? Not as mothers, but as giants.
Imbolc always inspires me, and over the years I've written a number of poems about Brigid and the Cailleach at this time of year. This little volume features four of my favourites.
Size 8.5" x 5.5"