Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 31: Castlebay, Isle of Barra

Star Of The Sea

“Refuge in grief, star of the sea”
“Pray for the wanderer, pray for me”

Tides and gusts that have crashed and howled for all our existence,
through lifetimes before ours, and before any life existed.
Against the wind everlasting and waves eternal,
stubbornly standing Kishmael's castle,
staunch and firm in steady fortitude,
against the ocean's incessant surges,
stony and stoic in the haven of the bay,

And above them all, on high, anchored on a hill,
is The Star Of The Sea.
Sanctuary,
in the truest sense of,
the word.

This tourist standing alone, solemn in its shadows,
safe and sound, in silent solitude, seeking shelter from the storm,
but there is no storm outside, or inside,
all is calm, still and serene,

even these wild westerlies seem mindful of the sanctity of this place,
as now their perpetual whistling, is just a confessional whisper,
outside stained glass windows, in hushed respectful reverence
this is as placid and perfect a peace, as any peace that I have ever known.

Uneasiness ebbs, tranquility flows, spirits they are raised,
harboured doubts are dashed, troubled waters oiled, worries washed away,
and I am immersed in it's past, it's glorious history and sorrowful mystery.
“Assuaged my sorrows and calmed my fears”.

recognised signs and familiar symbols, universal and iconic,
stronger and surer than any words in, English, Latin or The Gaelic,
statues and stations of the cross, give security, succour and solace,
so that on this windswept, isolated, distant place I am, for now, at home.
“guide of the wanderer, here below”

This is a place where faith has to be real. True.
Where fathers and sons set sail to cast their nets for days and nights,
seeking out the herring shoals through the dark Atlantic swells,
following a course, that was set for them.
“Eyes to the heavens, the ocean stars”

Here families of fishermen prayed together that they would stay together,
resolutely believing, in a miraculous reconciliation.
“and soothe with hope, our misery”

Here mothers gave thanks for the safe returns of stranded sons,
“Pray for thy children, Star of the sea.”
Here grieving widows prayed for the peaceful repose,
of their loved and lost souls.
“Pray for the mourner, Star of the sea”

And I pray too.
Hearing the same wind, the same waves
that they heard, as they prayed,
the same wind. and the same waves,
that they cursed, as they heard,
that their men,
would not be
coming home.

Shaun Moore

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