The Crows of Bective Abbey

The climate crisis, as witnessed by the crows of 11th-century monastery. Inspired by a walk with an oblivious toddler. Originally published in Boyne Berries Issue 26, Autumn 2019.IMG_20190820_163453_489.jpg

The Abbess looks at me askance

and nibbles the Kit Kat tinfoil.

She has waited eight hundred long years,

turned into a bird.

She watches and she waits.

She admires the tourist crowds, and the change of tempo,

but still misses her body, misses the feel of the wet cloistered grass under her soft pink human feet.

The abbess is not alone,

There is a murder of crows about this old ruin,

monks and millers, trout-anglers and rat-catchers,

all gathered here at the Abbey.

Beyond the Boyne, I see Crockett’s bar,

two hundred and sixty-five years ago.

A carriage stops, an over-exposed Barouche,

its passengers damp,

The first proprietor, I picture,

knew who could repair a carriage wheel.

He prepares a bowl of warm broth for the journeyman and his lady, sources a doctor, a medicine man,

It’s an incurable pre-antibiotic fever that takes her.

This now-feathered lady lurks in the oak tree.


My daughter is two, she runs up and down the ramparts.

She does not know, what has been caught in stone.

She examines pebbles in her fat little fingers.

And too tall am I, at five feet two,

for these laneways, openings and stairwells,

unlike the hunched monks carrying crooks and candles,

or water to make up the ink.


The gravel was laid by the Office of Public Works

to prevent lawsuits and muddy boots.

It sieves through those who pass through,

not well-to-do, escape artists, drug addicts,

young drinkers, cans, needles, human waste

a Calypso wrapper, a crisp packet,

non-descript pieces of plastic,

evidence that will lurk for the next thousand years.


And what does the future hold

if the planet has only ten years left to live?

Is it the winter, the last gasping breath of the Abbey.

These rooks see more than us,

backwards, and forwards over the aeons of time

and they know we are on the cusp of destruction.

The Abbess calls to me.

A little hand takes mine.