Elizabeth Power was born in East Cork but calls Galway home. She completed an M.A in Writing in NUIG 2007 and was awarded a writing scholarship to Banff Literary Art Centre Canada in 2009. She was a featured reader at the Over the Edge Library Series and shortlisted for Cuirt Showcase. She took first prize at the Swift Satire International Writing competition 2011 and third prize in Domineer Literary Festival 2011. She is currently writing a novel about a time-traveling witch.
This poem is dedicated to Dame Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny, accused of being a witch in 1324 and the burning of her servant Petronella de Meath. This was the first actual witch burning in the known world.
I Listen to Bog Story
Where stones pulsate and time is measured
by the slow growth of fur on rocks.
Bog women with feet damp
guard the old, untouched.
It is here the Madam Moragan walks.
There is no ground to break in bog.
No woman then went to well
to touch the water measured Christian.
Those who begged a pagan help,
knew more mystery in clear water
than told by any holy bell,
or that decanted in any holy well.
The holy cross marked women
once owned proud space
amid the trumpet shout of growth
when growing was women’s work
and man’s was breaking ground
There was a time when men
knew what to do with women.
I swallow tears at the memory of reverence.
There were blood rites and
crimson tapestry on cave walls
We reigned in our womb world.
And only women knew its mystery.
It’s a long time since we laughed and sang
and water rushed over bleeding, birthing women.
Before they came to spill our blood,
They robbed us of the Rite of Life
They scoured our depths – tore down
the iron rich curtain of our wombs
shamed and damned our flow to eternity.
T’were well we met and wet the times,
Before the pogrom started
T’were circle light that eased our plight
And made our futures certain.
T’were often got at moon’s bite
The well was filled with water.
When heaven gained our noonday plight
They sent a boat from the ‘Cove of Light’
Too late – there was no escape for any.
At High Cross Cong, when they weren’t burning witches,
the priests prayed with voices sweet and polished,
they pledged allegiance to the great protector of men
– the God who hated women.
They held us in chains in dank churches – underground.
I was cold – freezing. Outlight – the bells proclaimed
their hideous peals of power about my head.
They took away a world I loved, the gentle worship of the divine
Her trees, her bird song,
The Green, richer and more powerful than they knew what to do with –
They made god male so we could worship man.
I watched some women turn and run,
Give in, give up, accede to supremacy.
It pained my head to hear their lies
It pains me now to think of it.
Picture this – the best, the ripest of knowledge
It hailed the day they came to kill.
Holocaust, the cost of holy too high to pay.
My legs dissolved, tar charred my lungs,
flames crept about my head
I had a thirst and the horror of my final moment –
They stood and blessed me with their water
Even as I burnt.
Up the road, there is a graveyard where women fell.
And ruined in a riot of badness, they crashed in the darkness.
Stones replaced them.
Marked they once stood guard,
and guarding fire, they took the heat and flame,
And unprotected, they melted.