charm, County Derry, cure, Derek Walcott, Faith, faith healer, folklore, identity, Influences, Kim Rosen, Memoir, Northern Ireland, power of poetry, reclaiming onesself, Recovery, TEDx, TEDx Maui 2013, Themes of childhood, Words of Wisdom, Writing
My parents were raised in rural County Derry at a time and place that produced the “folk healer,” that individual uniquely gifted with “the cure” or “the charm” for whatever ailed them. Consulted only after it was determined that the medical doctor was flummoxed, the folk healer meted out charms in plasters and poultices, in potions that swirled in brown bottles. It was to the healer my father turned when the local doctor told my mother there was nothing he could prescribe for her bout with jaundice. Dissatisfied with this from a man with formal medical training, my father ventured deep into the Derry countryside to the home of a man with “the charm.” Observant and eager to help, my father accompanied him into the fields but was of no use at all in discerning which wild herbs held the curing powers. Thus, he watched and then waited in the healer’s tiny kitchen as he wordlessly concocted the charm. With a stone, he beat the juices from the herbs then mixed it with two bottles of Guinness stout and poured it into a Cantrell and Cochrane lemonade bottle. The wily faith healer then sent my father on his way with instructions for my mother to drink every last drop. There was no payment – other than faith.
Admittedly, I have been somewhat skeptical of the faith healer but not of the faith at work in the transaction. In crisis, when all else fails, where does one turn? Wherever it is, faith is a part.
When Kim Rosen spoke at TEDx Maui 2013 last month, it was to deliver again her lesson on her faith in the power of words that when crafted in a poem can save a life. For Rosen, Derek Walcott‘s celebrated “Love. After Love.” cast the lifeline that pulled her back from the throes of a suicidal depression.
So it is to the poet as faith healer that I turn, and to poetry, time and again, with infinite faith in its charm.
The time will come . . .