Writing on the Wild Edges: Participant Poems (Anne MacDermaid)

This past October we led one of our Writing on the Wild Edges retreats on the beautiful island of Inismor off the coast of Galway. We will be sharing some of the writing which participants gave us permission to share here in the next few weeks. Up next are poems by Anne McDermaid.

Dry Stone Walls

Sea walls of boulders
look invincible
barricades constructed
against the tides and
forces of nature
yet here and there
I see breaks where
fresh air and storm surges
wash into sparse fields and
change the patterns of
survival once again.
Stone can fence you in or
protect you,
crush you or
give you a vantage point
become a fortress or
a chapel or
a vault.
I must choose
what to build.

An Intention

What ancestral memories
call me home to a land of
rugged rocks and roiling sea?
Not much comfort evident here
yet there is a bright peat fire
at the hearth
warming both heart and soul
if I should choose to
look both inward and beyond.

St. Kieran’s Church

I saved the smoothest roundest stone
til last
warmed in the palm of my hand
most precious like memory
because it is small yet
heavy with imaginings and
echoes of pilgrims
whose hands have bequeathed
this stone and this time
to me.

Grey Day

A benediction of blackberries
reaches over the dry stone wall
and offers a rich dense gift to savor
against the grey stone and
the grey sea
flat with a long surge
that washes all colour and hue away
except for the splash of red
on my fingers.

 Before Words
“These were perhaps the original poetry” —Moya Cannon

Hands moving across a table
towards each other or
stretching in unison to the
words of a song
swaying in rhythm guided by
the metre of breathing or
hearts beating as one
like a repetitive chorus that
grows and swells to a
sustained  chord
echoing and ringing and then
finally finding words.

Seven Churches

Rings and roads of rocks
lead to the sea with
salt air tangy in the nostrils
lead to the pier where the
boat pushes off and the
invitation is there to
come aboard
head to new waters and
find a new country
rising out of the mist
unexpected to the eye but
foreshadowed by the ears’
quick attention to surf pounding
on the shore and the
scent of sweet mown hay
drifting seaward on the breeze.

The Beehive Hut

I sit in the silence
feel sun warming every bone
feet on pilgrims’ ground
winding path before and beyond
scattered with blackberries and birds
ripple of breeze and
breath of the Spirit.
In the long low light
sparseness and simplicity
turn into a holy feast.


Rev. Anne MacDermaid is a retired United Church of Canada minister, who was called to ordained ministry after a previous career as University Archivist at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada. Of Irish and United Empire Loyalist heritage, Anne served in several pastoral charges, chaired the Board of Queen’s Theological College, and has had a lifelong passion for creative writing, proclaimed in sermons and in poetry.  Quilting, hiking, gourmet cooking, photography, travelling the world with friends old and new, and spending time with her son and his family and her own far-flung siblings add richness to the joys of living.   Her lifelong journey of faith has been “before the Lord” as a comfort and a companion.

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4 Responses

  1. So beautiful, Anne – thank you. I too must remember to ‘choose what to build’ with the raw materials I’ve been given. Thank you for this soulful reminder. Blessings on your path. Eva x

  2. Thank you Anne- these poems bring up so many lovely and sacred memories of our time on Inishmore. Blessings to you as you seek out your Irish ancestors- especially during this time of year.

  3. Wonderful poems and warm memories of our time together on Inishmor! Thanks for sharing the beauty you created.

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