The Iona Chicken


A Poem by Sorrel Wood


 Jacob woke up and said, “The Lord is here! He is in this place, and I didn’t know it!”

Genesis 28:16


The wind swirled and pummelled the thick morning rain

And the pale sheaves of corn swayed to its music.

The sea was a charcoal chasm

Rippling out towards purple islands:

Islands beyond islands, blurring into mist.

Iona Abbey crouched, squat, on the hillside-

Old stone booming with the loudest silence.

I fretted. Where was my holy moment

In this monastic place? Beside the road,

A fat, brown chicken pecked amongst the stones

Scratching around round dark puddles in the grey dirt.

It strutted, puffed up with feathery importance.

Beyond it- the abbey, beside it- the bins:

Black for ordinary, green for recycling,

Exactly the same as at home. I worried:

Was I the chicken, bothering at worms,

Oblivious to majesty and depth?

But no, that wasn’t it, it wasn’t that.

It was that dirt, chicken, abbey, worm

Recycling- all were holy in this place.

I was as holy as the island, alive as the wind,

Significant as Saint Columba’s bones

Imagining the light beyond the blurred mist.

Surely, God was in this place and I did not know it.


I scrambled to capture the poem

Before the wind cast it out to the waves.

The island was alive with whispered song

And I reached out to catch it like butterflies,

But it was like grasping at rainbow light

streaming through glass. And all I knew

As a clear stream babbled past the abbey

down to the sea, was that the spaces between

words are as important, as weighted with meaning,

as the inky scratches from the biro;

as much as the water stretching between islands

as much as the breaths between words,

and that my holy moment

was silence.