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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, June 07, 2008
    Ohhh ... the rocks the rocks the rocks
    The poem physically moved me. That is to mean, the poem actually impacted on my body. Not just an emotional thing, this poem literally moved through me as I sat, thrumming up through my rump, my guts, my spinal cord and jangling my nerve ends from the inside-out.

    In Iona's Marble Quarry last week shamanic teacher Alastair McIntosh clambered onto the stone on which I was sitting, to address one hundred pilgrims gathered beneath the high, rough-sculpted walls hemmed in by the sea. His subject: the sacredness of the living rocks, three billion years old, beneath our feet. His mission: to call on them, to awaken their latent life to us, to awaken us to them. His poem: Invocation (as published in the collection Love and Revolution).

    At his feet, my head down investigating a red stone in my hands, I could not see the teacher inhale. But I felt it... A long silence in which he seemed to be drawing all the air from the vessel of that quarry, into his lungs, into his frame, into his soul. Two hundred eyes on his mouth, one hundred hearts drawn towards his coming utterance.

    And then the release, through Alastair's mouth, of a long, loud, low moan: OHHHHH... (the printed word does no justice to it). OHHHHH... in the quarry one hundred jaws dropped and hearts skipped. OHHHHH... A moan of such intensity that the shaman shook, the rock on which he stood vibrated, and on from there into my quaking body, up through my nerve-ends, came the poem...

    Ohhh ... friends we call across the seas to you from echo chamber of the soul
    we call now stirred by rhythm that you drum
    We call upon the triple billion year old songlines of world’s oldest rock
    “I lift a stone; it is the meaning of life I clasp” - says the bard MacDiarmid
    So let us honour stone. Let us call afresh the foundational litany:
    The Lewisian Gneiss ...
    The Cairngorm pegmatites and sparkling Aberdeenshire granite
    The Old Red Sandstone
    The Durness limestone sequences and Bathgate’s forest Carboniferous
    The Tertiary radiating basalt dykes from great volcanoes Mull and Raasay
    The Sgurr of Eigg and Ailsa Craig
    The idle pebbles...
    tossed to and fro, round and round, inwards outwards
    dark moon full moon vortexing on today’s high tide at noon
    Ohhh ... the rocks the rocks the rocks
    we call on you ...
    Rise up from sleep sunk strata beds!
    Giant women, wizened men, totemic creatures once laid down to be our hills
    Wake up! Wake up! Wake up and waulk this Earth in us!
    ... bring back the land within the people’s care
    ... bring back the care to touch from hand to land

    Marble Quarry, Iona: Graham Proud (Wiki Image, Creative Commons licence)
    A fuller version of Invocation features as part of Alastair's extended poem, The GalGael Peoples of Scotland, online here