Early Music: Three Poems
May 11, 2023

4 minute read


My name is Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, I am a poet, singer, teacher and guide from Ireland. These three poems are from my collection ‘Early Music’. Each are a reflection on change, presence and inspiration in our lives. May they help you find the still point in your life today as we search for the Daily Good. Love from Ireland.

Chinook Sanctuary

Having descended into silence,

I face a wooden structure.

The Sanctuary breathes before me,

so I enter with rain on my skin.

Completely empty

it welcomes the emptiness

in me, called to prayer

the easy prayer

of simple breathing.

This is how a church should be,

the joining of warm wood together

making walls invisible, calling us

to join in, not leave behind

the life outside the door.

A church vulnerable

to fire and water,

a prayer vessel

floating in the forest.

Mesmerized by amber

tree lines ringing around me,

I knew courageous prayers

are said in places like this

with wood, not stone listening.

I knew utter joy sweeps

through places like these,

a shelter, not an escape.

Unfettered by damp rock and

twisted metal hidden behind

stained glass, lead lined

but a living, breathing

wild church, for

wild prayers.

And though the air is still,

a silent gale rows through

this singing space.

This silent cathedral

among the moss.

My skin thirsts again

for rain, my soul

a falling acorn, a

hazelnut floating.

Grant yourself refuge here,

grasp these sacred seconds,

and call your soul

your own.

This poem, Chinook Sanctuary, is inspired by a small interfaith chapel on the grounds of The Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest of America. I was struck by the fact that the vast majority of human prayer has historically been in wooden churches, long before the amazing stone monuments we have today.

First White Hair

The thought of your eyes

heather brown,

make my pale blue

eyes glisten, and

I wonder how God

chose which strand

to grant your first white hair.

You make an artform

of disappearance,

and teach me that life

is second nature.

I reach out at your request,

finding the strand between

my thumb and finger.

Stillness while you wait

for the pinch of the pluck.

Your eyes widen

as I rip the strand

from its root and realise

you are determined

to live, be free and

love what you love

unabashed, like a baby

in the shade,


Oh, most alive thing changing

before my eyes, let me change

with you, let your scalp be

the loom of my life, and
let your white hairs weave

a seam of double stitching

 to bind us.

This silver strand

I hold is momentous,

for it is the last thread

I shall ever pluck from your head.

And letting go of this white hair

in the warm and shining sun,

I watch it float upon the air

and turn with time,

and times begun.

This poem, First White Hair, is an ode to aging. The moment in which we cease trying to stem the tide of change in the ones we love and loving them even more in their changing. This acceptance of change in others allows us to embrace change in ourselves.

Lough Gur / Plunged Through

Two lads cutting rushes

plunged their sickle through it.

The hollow thud of bronze unearthed

ceremonial shield and sun sign, offering

to the Goddess Áine, who lives beneath Lough Gur,

watching the surface.

My grandmother conceived by this shore

and my mother was born.

But before that, Paddy and Nora skated

on the frozen lough only for Nora to plunge through,

pulled up by the hair by my grandfather

after she had already given up.

Nora maintained she felt the Goddess Áine,

dragging her down to her depths.

An enticing urge.

I can feel my grandmother sinking in this lake,

letting go of her young love and her future family,

and feeling that it could be

good to leave this world.

Confident in her savedness.

This prehistoric space,

where each undulation is a hoard,

and treasure lies among the rushes

once a holy offering.

Lough Gur beneath Knockaney,

Lough Gur beneath Knockadoon

that birthed my mother,

and spared hers.

This poem, Lough Gur/Plunged Through, entwines ancient Irish mythology and the legend of my own family history. My grandmother, Nora, was the only grandparent I ever met. Though she was a school teacher and not a superstitious woman, I was always struck at her reference to this near death experience in relation to the myth of Áine, one of the main goddesses of my home region of the Golden Vale in Ireland.


The above poems have been excerpted from ‘Early Music’ (Many Rivers Press) by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin is a poet, musician and teacher from Limerick, Ireland. His first book of poetry, 'Early Music' was published by David Whyte's Many Rivers Press. He offers online courses and creativity coaching at https://www.turasdanam.com/micheal. Mícheál works with his brother, Owen, and his mother, Rev. Nóirín Ní Riain offering online courses and 7 day experiences in Ireland. More at http://www.Turasdanam.com.

8 Past Reflections