Green and Black: Green Stones and Mary Black’s “The Moon and Saint Christopher”

The poet Kay McKenzie Cooke has very kindly gifted me a copy of her hard-to-find first collection, “Feeding the Dogs”, now out of print. I am keeping it to read on the plane on my next trip to Southland’s beaches. Kay lived as a child in Orepuki. Her ancestry is a mix of Maori and Pakeha. Part of that mix is Irish Catholic, on her father’s side. She speaks of this on pages 13-14 of “Born to a Red-Headed Woman”:  

My father’s parents had a wooden home,
steeped in the sweet and sour
perfume of old coal-fires
mixed with new. It housed holy pictures
of saints and one of Jesus

with an airbrushed face,
His hands and the heart
He wore on the outside,
an unbelievable pink.
Grandpa sipped his tea from the saucer

and handed us cake-paper
from the bottom of the fruit cake
to chew. “Go on,” Granny would coo
as if only half-believing
the everyday news my father brought.

In a low, horsehair chair
in front of the open fire
with its soot-furred hook
and kettle, she sat placid,
heavy-breasted with faith.

Green is the Irish colour, and the most common colour of stones on the south coast – and the variety of greens in stones I have collected is enormous. It is the presence of a mineral in a stone that makes it green, with the common ones being iron, chromium and manganese (see thoughtco.com).

Mary Black is a fine Irish singer of traditional and modern folk, and the song below is a long-standing favourite of mine. It refers to one of the traditional Catholic saints, Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Tradition has it that Christopher sought to serve Christ by helping people to cross a dangerous river. A little child asked for his help, revealing after the successful crossing to be Jesus Christ Himself. Devotional medals with St. Christopher‘s name and image are commonly worn as pendants, especially by travelers, to show devotion and as a request for his blessing. He even has an island named after him, in the West Indies, Saint Christopher Island, known more commonly as Saint Kitts.

“The Moon and Saint Christopher”
sung by Mary Black, written by Mary Chapin Carpenter

When I was young I spoke like a child, and I saw with a child’s eyes
And an open door was to a girl like the stars are to the sky
It’s funny how the world lives up to all your expectations
With adventures for the stout of heart, and the lure of the open spaces

There’s two lanes running down this road, and whichever side you’re on
Accounts for where you want to go, or what you’re running from
Back when darkness overtook me on a blind man’s curve
I relied upon the moon, I relied upon the moon,
I relied upon the moon and Saint Christopher

Now I’ve paid my dues cos I have owed them, but I’ve paid a price sometimes
For being such a stubborn woman in such stubborn times
I have run from the arms of lovers, I have run from the eyes of friends
I have run from the hands of kindness, I have run just because I can

But now I’ve grown and I speak like a woman and I see with a woman’s eyes
And an open door is to me now like the saddest of goodbyes
But it’s too late for turning back and I pray for the heart and the nerve
I rely upon the moon, I rely upon the moon,
I rely upon the moon and Saint Christopher
I rely upon the moon, I rely upon the moon,
I rely upon the moon and Saint Christopher
to be my guide.

Author: tumblestoneblog

Retired Academic, male, living in the New Zealand countryside with his wife, two cats (Ollie and Fluffy), two horses (Dancer and Penny) and a shed half-full of stones. Email john.tumblestone@gmail.com.

6 thoughts on “Green and Black: Green Stones and Mary Black’s “The Moon and Saint Christopher””

  1. Thank you John. A beautiful post with much in it to inspire poetry. I have shared to both Facebook and Twitter @skylarkriddle I am also going to refer to it on my next blog post at kaymckenziecooke.com

    Like

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