Catch the No.10 Bus along Baggot St.
and alight at the Herbert St. stop.
You will come
face to face with a veiled woman, a cailleach,
the wise old woman of Irish mythology.
Well, not quite face to face, since she is a towering,
larger than life figure.
She is not alone, this wise one, protector of the land.
Here is a configuration of the feminine,
a womanly trinity : mother, child and nun.
One hand is outstretched.
Is it a gesture of giving or of begging,
a welcome or a movement of farewell ?
The outstretched foot from one angle looks almost dainty,
like a dancer preparing to leap,
but move to the side and you will see
that that foot is like an anchor,
or the root of some great sturdy tree,
the leg massive.
The weight of the figure rests on that leg,
a complete contrast to the hand suspended
delicately in air
like a bird’s wing.
That leg gives balance to the unseen hand behind,
firmly gentle at the mother’s back:
to embrace, to propel, to steady/to guide/to protect/
to comfort/to reassure/to strengthen/to encourage/to love.
They stand outside the house;
like St.Brigid who was born on the threshold,
that zone of inclusion or exclusion,
the way in which is the way out.
She owns the house who ordered it built,
yet she is not entirely free to be its mistress.
On the street perhaps she is freer to greet and to seek,
to welcome and console.
This a circle that is not a circle,
a circle in the making,
a circle at the waiting,
awaiting a response from the onlooker,
each onlooker the missing arc that completes,
makes the circle mercy.
* The work of sculptor Michael Burke, erected in 1994, and titled Circle of Mercy,
stands outside the front door of Mercy International Centre.