! A Spiral Scratched Into An Ancient Irish Gravestone Poem by Michael Shepherd

! A Spiral Scratched Into An Ancient Irish Gravestone

Rating: 2.8

A centre and an expansion
a life centred expanding
the force of the centre whirls
a life without limit but it says
a centred life what gods the centre
does not tell but a centre
and from there a spiral
which has a beginning but no end
the life shaping the death the death
shaping the life it seems this life
that life could not be told
need not be told
every life drawn here
drawn because it could not be spoken
even in a lilting Irish voice
speaking a spiral sentence for
Irish sentences are like spirals
the centre expands without limit

the life was lived in the circle of the year
that comes round again sowing harvest
yet never back to the same place
as the mind the vision the experience expands whirls out
like a wild dance celebrating birth marriage death
yet passes the familiar place each season
and love love for the world
expands into a holy love
spiralling without limit yet never forgetting the centre
like a child on a gate swinging
knowing it’s safe because of the hinge
it knows but does not know
for others made the hinge

and now we read the spiral on a gravestone
tracing back from infinity to the source
everything that has an outward
everything that has an inward
and so there is no need for words
the spiral like a poem about life
read it forwards read it backwards
read it with thanks see it as grace
the thick green grass curls over it
the lichen yellow orange green
placed like a lizard
blesses this the most eloquent
gravestone in all the world
in a green field the clouds white
the sky blue this is the centre
of the spiral here now and
there is no ending to the spiral
the gravestone says
but a starting yes


I'd love to know the inspiration behind this piece... the highest observation produces in the reader the furthest contemplation. And it flowed so well I hardly noticed that it is indeed completely without the obstruction to the spiral of a fullstop. (Or should that be a 'fool stop'? Cos as you rightly suggest, these Irish people, they do sometimes go on a bit! Tee hee) . Wonderful, M. t x

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Declan McHenry 03 February 2007

An exquisite and thought provoking piece Michael (when do you not provoke thought) . The wisdom of age and it is, indeed, an ancient symbol and ancient gravestone. Some link the spiral to the wheel of the sun, the ancient chariot of the gods, and the cycle of life.

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Not a member No 4 08 February 2007

On parallel spiral tracks! Was recently declaiming about this as opposed to the idea of the cycle (of seasons etc and almost everything else) and it's no surprise that you should be the one to be first to give it the treatment it merits - and better you too, for I would have made a hash (npi) of it.. A terrifically potent explanatory symbol. Marvellous choice for a headstone! And only the sharpest of minds (that would be yours Mr Shepherd) would have picked it up. Brilliant poem on a brilliant subject. Thank you for this. jim

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Adeline Foster 10 January 2014

At first glance I imagined the subject to yield something about Mexicana petroglyphs. It wasn’t, but no sweat, it came near enough to entertain. Read mine - I Cannot Return - Adeline

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John Oconnell 17 February 2010

the mystique. food for the soul, for this humble soul today. thanks friend, john

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The mysterious spiral is found in many cultures and symbolises the search within-journey to connect the soul.If I could rate your poem I would give a ten with many stars.Lovely very direct piece.Thank you.

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Zubyre Parvez 13 December 2007

Over 1,000 poems...that's awesome in itself. Poetry rules lol..

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Ivor Hogg 17 March 2007

You have captured the spirit of the ancient irish You words took me there I see you have had a varied career like myself a jack of all trades what I call being educated in the university of life

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