Eoghan Walls

Martin Healy’s War on God and Ireland

When I think of how windfarms form scything crucifixes on the horizon, with Jesus and his thieves cutting their arms through the air, with a deeply pervasive thwum-thwum-thwum that could be the swishing heartbeat of air,


and how Martin Healy was aware of them always as a curse on the land, as he carried his photos from house to bleak house along the cut of the coast, saying this is the country we once had, here from the beach, and here from the mountains, waving a brinedamp petition on windfarms,


and how the air blown from hymns came half-hissed from his lips every Sunday, except for the Christmas he stayed up with us and after a fair few hot whiskeys, air sung from his lungs like the spirit in spiritus, the breath of his body now left him,


and of the air’s sudden change of direction tossing the leaves round the yard of his house, or in the lungs of the man on the moor who finds that the hills of his youth are now steeper, and wheezes the climb up the hills, cursing his God and his land and the change in himself,


or in the change of the breeze that took Martin’s ashes, tossing them round us before Malin Beach where he’d asked they be spread, and we stood there grey-faced, looking ashen, some knowing we might want to cry each Ash Wednesday from now, and each time we saw the burnt wisps of a newspaper torn from a late autumn bonfire, wiping our faces in the walk to our cars by the ditches,


and how the ashes not caught in our hair or the grass of those fields, what survived the broad slice of revenge meted out by the white metal windmills he’d hated so long, was caught in the gulf stream, swept off the Atlantic, up towards Iona,


long after Columb Cille sailed a small wooden curragh up there, fleeing the barbarous practice the heathens still kept of burning their dead, but leaving behind new stone crosses in fresh-planted graveyards, with limbs that were joined by a circle, as if limestone could capture a motion,


and perhaps air could whistle through the gaps in the rock, only heard when a monk wandered touchnear at night, unable to sleep on his rough haycloth bed; and what the words of the gaps might sound like to a monk late at night, covered or uncovered by small dustmotes and ash as the tribes burnt their dead in the dark;


when I think of all this, it occurs to me that Martin has gone with all the dead sparrows from the base of each windmill to challenge the saint in Iona; but Columb will place these small corpsetwists of birds rounds the roots of his letters, as a gloss to the T in the Trinity, or interweaving the crux of the K in the Kingdom of God on the island,


and Martin must come to his mountains where the three arms of Christ keep him walking all night with no peace but the thwum of the windfarms and crosses that Columb escaped, lone in a land cursed by Christ and the saints and the deep Godly throttle of air.




"Martin Healy’s War on God and Ireland" is from The Salt Harvest (Seren Books, 2011).