Patrick O’Sullivan

I Dreamt a Poem

I still remember the day I fell asleep

In the old church by the sea,

And the seabirds streamed in through the sunlit door,

Gannets and guillemots, puffins and more.

Then took their places in the gallery,

And sang, sang beautifully.

And the saints came down from the stained-glass windows,

Patrick and Brigid, Moling, Maodhog;

Even Brendan gave up his boat for a while,

And they gathered and hugged in their jeweled robes.

They said it wasn’t always easy being held in high esteem.

I said I wouldn’t know: old people are invisible.

The odd time someone sees them, they think there’s nothing to see.

And the angels that flanked the altar left their places,

One in azure blue, one in dusty pink,

Weaving the sunbeams into words like love, peace, and harmony.

The church isn’t always love, the saints said,

But that’s how it’s meant to be,

And so they couldn’t blame the angels for trying.

And when the Nativity window came to life behind the altar,

I felt the snow beneath my feet,

And the angels left their games to soar above Joseph, the Virgin and Child,

And I saw dancing dolphins from the corner of my eye,

And old sailing ships, gloriously proud;

Sailors with heads uncovered, bowed,

And the shells in my hand, bright, iridescent, a gift from the sea,

I put down beside the sweet frankincense,

And the ceiling drew back to reveal the blue night all glittered with stars,

And nobody asked how old I was.

Oh, I wish I could go back to the old church again,

When a poem like a fish swam into my head,

And the saints knelt in robes richer than Kells;

And the bells, oh the bells ringing sweetly and far:

The lighthouse, the waves, the radiant stars.

Then light was a story wondrously told,

And hope lay at anchor deep in my soul.

Patrick O’Sullivan lives in County Kerry, Ireland, and has published a memoir and children’s books with Anvil Books and Wolfhound Press, and has placed poetry in various journals and anthologies, including Stony Thursday Book and the Creative Ireland Anthology.