Odhran Becomes a Saint

You Irishman, you,
you monk,
you went down heavy-hearted and alive
to your burial
thinking death would be a slow dark drain,
and then a swim through stone
to a judgment of all your small sins.

But the ferryman stilled the boat gently
and you rested, at last you, you rested,
you Irishman, you,
face up,
passing below an invisible bridge
watching clouds, stars, seabirds,
and all your moons
pass over.

And the monster slipped back into the sea,
and the chapel walls went up,
and the faithful settled in
at the strange and ragged shore of Scotland.

When they needed you again, you
came back, talking, always talking,
you Irishman, you,
about how things are not as they suppose,
heaven and hell, not as they suppose.
Columba stuffed your mouth with mud
as if earth could stop the truth of you,
before they put you below again.

Now the Scottish kings are buried
with you, you Irishman you,
you heretic saint.

The ferryman
is paid and waiting for us.
We circle our dim paths here,
waiting for the immortal delight
of new worlds.

Copyright Kay Winter

This poem is based on the story of St. Odhran, my name saint, an abbot who traveled with Columba to establish Christianity in Scotland in the 6th C AD. Something destroyed the chapel walls every night, until a voice told Columba to bury someone alive. Odhran offered and was buried. Columba opened his burial site after a time to see his face, and Odhran, supposed dead, opened his eyes and said, “There is no Hell as you suppose, nor Heaven that people talk about.” At this point, the pious Columba exclaimed: “Uir, Uir, air suil Odhrain! mun labhair e tuille comhraidh” (Earth, earth on Oran’s eyes, lest he further blab.)

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4 thoughts on “Odhran Becomes a Saint

  1. Thanks for providing the back story of your Saint. This poem flows so wonderfully. I love it. It moves me into an elevated level of thinking. You rock!

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