And what’s with the title?

I’ve been working on building a devotional relationship with the Irish divine hero/demigod Fionn Mac Cumhaill (more on this later). I discovered his tales many years ago; some time after that he inspired me to write several poems about him and his Fianna.  I think this one is my best; it’s about how he gained his great wisdom, and it’s also the title of my book.

Salmon-wisdom

It all falls away- the crackle and smoke;
The sizzle, smell of his master’s dinner done;
Bright burnt pain, slow to fade- they remain,
Yet dim, as the faint sweet flavor evolves
Upon his tongue, revolves within his brain;
Taste to sight to sound to thrill along his nerves.
Unasked-for lightning, lancing, opens doors,
Sends wheels of light to dance before his eyes;
And before he falls into a well of words, music,
Birdsongs given meaning, a last ironic thought:
From now on he’d look a proper fool,
Thumbsucking to gather his wits about him!
The imbas shatters into him and all the world
Is swirl and spiral, like jeweler’s craft in lines
And zones of light.  All interlinked, entwined;
Held gently cupped in Danu’s hand, tended
By her children.  Just long enough the vision stays,
Then it, too, draws back, enveils itself
Before the head that holds it fails.
The world returns and everything’s the same;
Nothing’s the same- behind the stone, the tree
The rushing of the stream, there is light and song;
And flowing in the bottom of his mind-
Cool water laced with subtle savor
Of hazelnuts- the words swim, waiting.

2/3/1999

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