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Hope Hope
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2023-05-13 07:53:46
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A thousand years ago: bound by belief
That they were in the hands of God,
Celtic monks, bearing relics and saintly trinkets,
Loaves of bread, perhaps fish, perhaps an offered coverlet,
Boarded dedicated curraghs,
To send off into the fogbound sea,
Where the grey of the waters and the grey of the sky
Meet and mix.

The monks were oarless, rudderless,
Out in an open without contour —
Surrounded by lonely horizons, blue and white,
Or by black water under black skies, numberless wheeling stars.

On the road to nowhere, fatalist, whimsical,
For them every direction was forward.
Cast about like driftwood, following down the setting suns,
They were invisible, specks — less than specks — out on infinite seas.

Inside, wrapped in cocoons of expectation,
Their eager ears listened above the lulling laps of wavelets,
Humbly hearing the thunderous voice of the Lord their God,
Or, in the seagulls' calls,
Attended the Annunciation of the Holy Dove.
In billowing fogs they saw joyous visions,
And in storms they sorrowed not, nor did they despair,
But prayed intensely in cadenced tremolos,
And sang praises to the glory of the One Most High.

Drawn by hope of palpable transfigurations,
Desiring to be implements of God's most mysterious Mind,
They stood up on the tips of their souls, like otters,
Curious to catch a scent of what never appears to mortals' eyes.
Elected by need to be holy fools,
With all the beauty innocent courage can lend to men,
They rested in hopeful helplessness.

What their dooms were:
Whether they starved slowly in glass-eyed waters,
Racked with painful writhings at the end —
Punishment condign though unfathomable —
Or drowned in the froth of giant white waves
That pushed the Good News back down in their throats …
Whether they foundered at the sight of fabulous creatures,
Or encountered Enchanted Isles,
Or were eaten by fierce heathen folk, beheaded by barbarous kings
Or won a swelling kingdom for Holy Faith
We can never know.

They will float forever on the edges of the world
As a drifting dream of human imaginings …
Drawing themselves to the edge of the world,
Their faces show bliss as they near the uncanny line
Where ocean meets the sky. … There,
You could (may be) reach out and touch
The very cloud that contains the great delivering Hand,
And be taken up, in Perfection, to the Real Presence,
Away, with no desire for return.

On the empty shore of an unknown land,
Where the only sounds are the muted whoosh
Of winds sculpting hollows in the dunes
And the occasional caws of unnamed gulls
Lie wasting hulks of broken driftwood,
Windswept, waterworn, bearded with seaweeds,
Scattered among broken shells and shellfish husks.

Upon the cream-colored beach
Fronting the slate water and slate sky
Twisting forms of blackened rotted wreckages
Spiral upward towards passing patches of blue
As though in tense expectation,
Resisting oblivion.

"Hope" by George Frederic Watts

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