…when the animals and trees gave their spirits to the breeze.

Rummaging through our collection of children’s books I rediscovered a book of 100 poems for children written by Irish poets, published in Ireland almost ten years ago. A remarkable collection. The illustrations are delightful, the language as enchanting and playful as one might expect. Perhaps less expected, the poetry takes on some extraordinary, if not provocative, subject matter including the exploitation of child labor, head lice, moving an elder to a nursing home…and among the many more uplifting pieces this engaging reflection of Ireland’s shamanic heritage. Enjoy!

Shane the Shaman
Máighréad Medbh

Who’s a rabbit, who’s a bear?
Who’s a fox and who’s a hare?
Who’s a tree and who’s an eagle on the wing?
Who’s a human, who’s a cow?
Who’s a snake and who’s an owl?
Who’s a crow and who’s an orca that can sing?

Shane the Shaman takes the beating of the earth
to be inside him and his heart begins a drumming
to the rhythm of its humming,
and its whirring and its buzzing
and its chewing and its mooing
and the turning and the churning
and the colours cool and burning,
and the infinite returning
of the sun at every morning …
and the night with all its crooning
and its moody deep blue mooning
and the stars that blaze and shatter
in the infinite dark matter.

He’s gone flying, he’s gone scrying,
like a seagull wild and crying,
on the waves for silver fishes,
who have eyes that grant you wishes.
If you saw him now you’d wonder
why his body’s in a stupor
and he doesn’t feel you touch him,
know you’re near or hear you talking.

He’s gone walking in his mind
to where the spirits and their kind
are in a flurry, and they scurry
when they see his soul is coming.

He will wander in the dark until
a sign appears so stark
that he can’t miss it: it’s a letter
with a charm to make us better.
He’s a postman from the darkness,
where we all have second cousins.
For every one we see here,
there’s another, doppelganger,
maybe angels, maybe spirits,
maybe particles of matter.

That’s what Shane believes he knows,
like the holy men of old,
when the animals and trees
gave their spirits to the breeze.

Back he’s coming to the drumming
and the quiet sound of humming,
to his fingers and his toes,
legs and shoulders, mouth and nose:
to his body’s wonder-vessel,
where his mind is in control.
Eyes are opened, here’s the message –
maybe healing for your soul.

You can’t talk to Shane the Shaman
like you would to other children.
He’s been places you can’t dream of,
wild and lonely, dark and cold.
He’s been off to see great wonders –
moving mountains, talking clouds;
he’s met monsters, walked on rivers,
jumped a chasm, led a crowd.
But he’s just as good a friend,
plays a game and kicks a ball,
and you might just need his healing
in the summer when you fall.

Who’s a rabbit, who’s a bear?
Who’s a fox and who’s a hare?
Who’s a tree and who’s an eagle on the wing?
Who’s a human, who’s a cow?
Who’s a snake and who’s an owl?
Who’s a crow and who’s an orca that can sing?

Something Beginning with P; New Poems From Irish Poets
Published in 2004 by The O’Brien Press Ltd.