Sunday, August 12, 2018

Her Leaving

Film strip, a train’s windows.
Outside mine,
parents are straining for a last glimpse.
Embarrassed, she stares ahead.

The train moves, windows pass.
Outside the next,
mother is easing the glasses down her nose
to remove a tear.

At the next, husband’s arms around her,
and words, words, invisible words.
The train now gone from the platform,
a tail, a film strip flapping free.

Monday, August 6, 2018

I can’t fit you into my scheme of things,

nor you me,
now that we’ve finally become ourselves.

I turn on you sharper than a scalpel,
choose words shaped to torture.

Out from beneath the quilt of affection,
we, our naked selves so vicious,

bruise ourselves with the same fervour
that once marked our loving.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Coping, Not Coping

You screamed; no one heard.
You wondered if you had screamed at all.

I asked you where the lines on your face came from;
another line appeared.

Now, because your eyes are perpetually electrocuted,
I talk on and on;

always taking the precaution of being somewhere else
before I stop.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Poem beside your hospital bed

Your face that I loved
has changed so completely
that I already know
Our time has gone.

And, as dying like a sandstorm
rearranges your features,
I am useless,
a cripple of words.

But if the winds
 in your head will carry
the smallest part
of what I'm trying to say, father

let it be
that my proud years
are tatters here;
I love you.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


In this wheel
I am spokes, smile and scowl.

Tonight, careering around the town,
I see all the pub doors closing

and take it personally;
don’t want to go in, don’t want to stay out.

Next week I'll tumble down these steps again;
people always make room

but then, just as I've nearly passed,
they kick me.

My smile and scowl are identical;
they think I'm a contraption.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Visiting the Corsetmaker

 It was ireland in the sixties. Corset conversation veered very close to immodesty. Michael O'Hehir was the voice of Sunday afternoons in Summer, and a spin in the car seemed like a good idea, but children get bored quickly.


Miss Gately, you know, the corsetmaker; her cottage 
thatched and whitewashed beneath sycamores ragged with 
crows and their bickering. A Sunday afternoon, my mother 
walking to the red door and it opened and closed and 
nothing else stirring for ages but ourselves in the back of the 
white consul with the red roof at the end of the avenue, just 
outside the gate; stone walls and lichen patches wallpapering 
our afternoon. Father dropping off in the driver’s seat 
while Micheal O'Hehir commentated on matches, one after 
another, without ever taking a breath in all that pipe smoke; matches collecting in the ash-tray all burnt to tiny black bird 
bones and the condensation all used up with words and 
faces dribbling pathetically into shapeless bad temper. Over 
and over: will she ever come out, can’t we go now, why do 
we always have to come, move your legs; till eventually she 
would reappear, a slap in the doorway, motor jauntily, 
red-headed, back to the car like it’s been five minutes or 
something, and Dad’s awake, reversing from the gate, back 
into the remains of a Sunday afternoon.

And I never knew what went on in there; never saw who 
opened the door, never saw a package, never heard anything 
about it. My father didn’t know either. I remember she 
took my sister with her when my sister was in secondary 
school. I wouldn’t have wanted to join them anyway, it was obviously a woman’s house.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Since my molecules are disbanding,
I am becoming invisible,
each day a little more unseen.

As self-belief flickers, I see less in myself;
certainties less certain,
I take steps with ever greater unsteadiness.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


I am a fish,
a sleek white sliver swimming
above the ground.

Eyes all around are agog,
not mine; they are open
as mirrors are.

Nor do I swim, all swim past,
in the contrary direction;
in fact, I am quite stationary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

‘Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

‘What are we?’ I ruminate;
flat stone skipping over water.

‘What are we?’ opposite wall
in blind alley.

‘What are we?’ armchair
drowsy in fireglow.

‘What are we?’ a tooth
in kindred company.

‘What are we?’ pin fixed
 in a pin-cushion.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Nightee Night Night

A boy, stripy pyjamas astray in the woods,
is walking, bare feet in the leaf litter,
beneath woozy woozy woozy drunken trees.

There may be stars beyond those branches,
but teeth and tongues flickering in the leaves,
trees' lingering fingers slithering around him.

Skitterings scramblings, cluttering his ears,
wrigglings worming his skin;
darknesses flashing his eye-bulbs;

beneath those million dripping fruits licked leaves,
his foot flattens on something gelatinous  ̶
he is then all of  him altogether shreik-shaped.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Beaten by life

I had a friend who was beaten by life.  A keen poet once, by no means a great poet, but most extraordinarly honest and brave; think of a gay man publishing poetry that expressed his sexuality without inhbition in the Ireland of fifty years ago.
My poem refers to this man disapointed and despondent in his later years; fight and spirit gone, he was good company, but  kept all that he had been locked tight deep inside himself.

The Poems Are Past.

The poems are past;
goodnight, au revoir.

And life, handed over like a cheque;
good luck, all the best.

Still: an adjective for a man ?
Still ?

Think of rain, bucketing down,
sunshine caught in its strings;

that's how I think of you:
a rainstorm in June; gentle subversive .

Sunday, June 24, 2018


“Hallucinatory”, you say! Sky, earth,animal concentricly ringed.
Lives: stone, stone and river, river, human.
Hallucinatory: spirals, zigzags, chevrons, sunbursts!
Yes, I see the vortex you travelled through,

I see the serpentine trace of the Boyne,
Knowth, Dowth, Newgrange along its path;
the lozenged pattern of fields through which it flows;
the arced hills, chevron forests of trees.

Earlier, I saw the angular graph of human worries
side by side with the eternal turning of Gods’ backs;
the cardiograph pattern that reads mortality
next to the celestial manifestations that measure out lives.

I have seen the sundial that marshals the symbols into their system,
an assignation with mathematical precision;
I have seen them liquefied to become art,
much as Van Gogh painted the night sky.

(The Sundial Kerbstone at Knowth is a remarkable piece of work.  Is it the earth's oldest sundial? One way or the other, it puts many of the motifs in celtic art into a scientific framework. Google an image, if you're not familiar with it.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bird Bones and poetry

AvantAppal(achia) 5 is now online; it gives me the perfect reason to repost this photo; see why at 

Number 6 is due in December. The submission details can be found at the above address.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Childhood, religion, fear.


sunset raging in the western sky meant
Hell was out of control beyond the Galway Road.

Clouds, carrying the flames eastward,
threatened our house.

I, scared witless, kept my head under the blankets,
knowing God’s sun had been swallowed by that fire. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I heard a fly buzz

"I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – 
………………………………– and then
I could not see to see –"
                                           Emily Dickinson

There was a time when the tv picture, turned off,
Diminished to one bright spot on the screen,
Lingered awhile, then quenched.
All that action condensed into one bright spot;
I marvelled and dwelt on it and saw it out.

How magnificent that last buzz must be?
How marvellous the smallest manifestation of life!
How magnificent that last stirring of life:
She turned her head, her head;
She turned her head.