On Skeleg Michael
what is this white martyrdom you've called me to?
One would never know the Skeleg Michael that I live on
unless they paid close attention.
At least the ancient Irish monks
gained fondness in distance
as people of the day were eventually drawn
to their beautiful crucible of rock, grass and wind.
There, the ancient monks had aloneness but not, in the end, anonymity.
Here, in this city of Los Angeles,
I experience an even purer and harsher form of aloneness.
Like an ocean full of water I can't drink,
this city of Los Angeles
is full of people whose company I can't enjoy,
whose bosom isn't home or anything close to it.
It is a city
of disjointed, competing buildings and fractious cultures,
and yet, it is a city, more than any other,
that still has enough liminal space in its margins
for me to walk with God
on an isle of my own identity.
And so my thoughts return to Skeleg Michael,
where I could wake every morning
and see God's unvarnished reflection
in the mist of waves atomized against the rocks.
Here, in this city,
I must squint to see God's reflection in a 7-11 strip mall.
On Skeleg Michael,
I could live in my uninterupted thoughts--
interupted only by the churning of physical survival
and a vague void within me for companionship.
Here, this city is always trying to intrude on my thoughts
with its unchangeable channel of advertisements
and glances that invite me
to join the fleeting, empty approval
of a vast, ephemeral community of people
who confront their aloneness
with disposable products and disposable thrills.
So I must count pleasant moments
that are afforded me by way of
fleeting moments of connection
with motley, unexpected people.
In a laugh with a co-worker,
in a polite interchange with a stranger,
in an occasional, wholesome glance exhanged with another,
in a pleasant conversation with a neighbor
whose name I won't long remember,
sparse moments of connection occur
with fellow city-dwellers
who hail from the other sides of vast cultural seas.
even these fleeting moments of connection
are part of my white martyrdom.
On Skeleg Michael,
I would confront my void of human companionship
as a strong but vague urge
that hoisted itself into my consciousness
as an ever-blurring imagination
of being with people who were blurring in my memories.
In this city, however,
these fleeting moments of connection
intrude on my aloneness
with a tang and sharpness of unimagined realness,
as each moment of connection
reaches beyond the defenses
I have had to construct against the siren calls
and makes me confront
my unsatiated longing
for a genuine, lasting communion with others.
It is these fleeting moments of connection
that put the long moments of aloneness
into the sharpest relief.
Before I get too enamored of them,
immediately after allowing me
these fleeting moments of connection,
God, in my spirit,
reels me back to the Skeleg Michael
of my heart and mind,
I cannot hold onto these moments of connection
as being anything more than moments,
and, in the many long moments in between,
I must gather my bearings
and find peace walking the rocks alone with God.