Wednesday, January 21, 2015



Damnat, little fawn, Lily of the Fire,
First refugee of Monaghan,
Fled her father,
Went to Gheel
And worked miracles. 

She was only little still
When her father killed her,
But her spirit caught flame, and its bright shadow sheltered 
Those of us in search of healing. They
Are Monaghan's refugees too, they
Follow her journey and rest under her.

The old kings of Oriel fought each other, 
And then they fought the English,
And then they died,
And then they left. 

Now there are new kings,
And they fight each other,
And they fight the English,
And they die.
And they leave.

It's not their fault. 
Their graves are too shallow. They
Never touch the dark bones of karst, even in death, they
See the stones but not the grass, they
Watch the rain and it hurts them, makes them hard.

I want them to find their way to shelter.
A little fawn awaits them in a magical green clearing.
She believes them, all the bad things they don't talk about, she believes them.
Her milky purity is all she needs to heal them. 
She awaited their ancestors, but they never came either. 

Go on then,do it hard, like they've done for centuries. 
Leave Monaghan, find it all out for yourself.
It's there is Belgium, Brooklyn, Christchurch - 
It's there in the clearing too.

So, the references. Damnat is an older name of St Dymphna, who was the child of a pagan father and a Christian mother. Her Christianity is emphasized of course, but I see her as a more complex figure who straddles two cultures and two beliefs. Her father either wanted to commit incest with her or did so, and she fled with her retainers to Gheel in Belgium, where she worked miracles.Her father found her and killed her, and she was only 15 when she died. She founded a hospital for the mentally ill, and she is the saint for the mentally ill, victims of incest, runaways, and psychiatrists and psychologists (and probably social workers!) Damnat and Dymphna mean little fawn. She was also known as the Lily of the Fire, for her sexual purity. 

Oriel is the old name for a more or less legendary kingdom which took in most of Ulster. The McMahons were its main clan and they were a great thorn in the side of the English, as they lived close to the Pale. 

County Monaghan has suffered great losses through wars, the famine and the resulting diaspora, and now the Troubles of course. I saw Damnat as a refugee who made good, and thought about the whole Irish tradition of leaving and making good elsewhere, after terrible loss and suffering. And yet there is healing in the land, if only they could see it.