County Antrim Archeology

Two pounds approximately is what you’ll be reduced to
after seventeen hundred years, others’ atoms layered over
bones and bits of tooth, nail, and less and less you.
Two, four thousand years, twenty centuries of grief
have sanctified these grave stones. Land levels rise here,
as the sphagnum moss darkens, tightens, pressed to peat,
as tissue, tendons, heart meat blacken into a tangle
of root that will someday climb to cover sixteen feet
of round tower in its keep, claim the granite base
of a chapel, rosary beads, a bishop’s gold crosier,
the soldier’s gun, whatever weighs on this receptive
earth. Like a slow black hand, the centuries’ tidal wave
crests to clear the coast of all rival claims to sovereignty,
until your own molecular mark sinks with the rest,
a small moist stain on the lip of the whirling god.

Featured in Kathleen’s chapbook Practice, 2005
First published in Poetry (1982)

Other Poems

Twilight, Ardgroom

County Antrim Archeology


Their voices

Vespers, Hunting Creek


O’Toole’s visionary poems explore the boundaries between light and dark, past and present, life and death.”

—Michael Simms

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