Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 16, 2015

Breaking Cabin Fever (Saint Finian’s Song) – original poem by Mark Nielsen

St. Finian's Wild Geese

St. Finian’s Wild Geese


Breaking Cabin Fever (St. Finian’s Song)

— 3/16/15, Linne Woods & Prairie, Morton Grove, IL


Stopping by woods on a muddy morning,

(whose woods these are I think I know),

I’m rambling, off the beaten path.

I walk where only deer have gone

–not horse, nor man–

picking and winding my way toward a plan.

I look ahead, far down the path,

improvising my route,

but careful not to trip on a root

or step in a puddle of mud at my foot.


I step around the muck, forge ahead.

I draw near to Him,

the Caretaker of these woods.

I consult with St. Finian Lobhar,

The Leper of Dublin,

who cures me of my dis-ease.

Whenever I come here–

often as if drawn here–

I cannot help but feel that Presence:

Mr. Eliot’s “veritable transitory power”,

stronger in Lent than at any other hour.

My winter of hunger draws me back every year.


A cardinal cloaked in red flies by,

ministering to my heavy soul,

forgiving my winter’s worth of sin

before I have even confessed.

I feel lighter already.


My legs and body find their rhythm,

with Spring in my heart and a spring in my step,

despite this mucus in my chest.

Spirit was willing, flesh was weak–

I needed to walk, but did not want to.

Spirit won the battle.

Unbound, unlocked,

now my chains fall away,

and the inertia of an ill body is conquered for the moment,

as hunkered-down hope

crawls through the last dirty snow pile.

The remainder of my sentence

of loneliness and melancholy is suspended.

I feel that Nearness coming on.

It is contagious, too.


Yet I also wish she was here with me

-lonely together, quieted,

perfectly imperfect,

our hands clasped, trudging messily on.

We would look homeward

through these still leafless woods,

toward the clearing ahead

where friends and family gather.

We two would be a matched pair of muddy hiking boots,

neglected through the twenty-year winter,

finally put to use again.


Above me, a flying V:

the lead goose squonks like Ornette Coleman’s sax,

and the band plays on behind him.

To my right one lone redwing

sits atop a strong sapling,

daring it to bend under his weight.

An absurd pine cone is somehow caught (or placed?)

in the crook of a puny maple’s boughs.

Yet there are no pine trees

for five hundred yards in any direction.


For months, perhaps years,

I built my life around myself,

afraid of changing or venturing out,


racked with doubt

of Spring.


But that fever is broken now.


I don’t have a hammer.

I don’t yet feel strong.

But nevertheless,

let us build a new home

right here, right now.




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