Monday, November 29, 2010

Strange how the world turns

Strange how the world turns. Empty houses dotted the countryside in the twentieth century. Emigration hollowed out rural Ireland right up to the nineties. Old cottages in various stages of dilapidation were everywhere. Then came wealth and with it those houses were demolished and replaced, or they were renovated; the semi-ruins of previous decades became thin on the ground.

Now empty houses dot the country again. Half-built housing estates abandoned without even the melancholy beauty of having once been inhabited; ugly building sites on the peripheries of towns;ugly as rotten teeth.

Both situations happened because of the lack of money, but one marks an era that was tarnished by run-away excess, and frequently greed. These remains will, since they have no other redeeming factor, at least remind us of that.

This poem from Sunfire (Dedalus Press, 1998)was an attempt to catch the sadness of emigration and the aging of the resident population as I saw it in the seventies.

A Stranger In The Townland.

In Autumn the farmhouse
with the sun-folded field beneath its chin,
traps the daylight in its spectacles,
then flashes it away.

A swing hangs among the orchard's arthritic trees
without stirring;
without remembering
a frantic liveliness now reduced
to the occasional commotion of a falling fruit.

Once songs of apples filled the farmhouse;
but the children became photographs,
the dust settled on their frames
and soon Autumns were flying uncontrollably by.
Today, between its curiosities, a bluebottle drones.

Now that the conversation with the hillside
is ended, the farmhouse
with the sycamore stole
has become an eccentric;
a stranger in the townland.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It was the Sixties

There is suddenly a new feeling and, unlike the sixties, it's not coming here second hand; it's our very own Irish turning and my instinct is it's good. But for those old enough here is a taste of the sixties, Irish style.

It was the time of Afton and Albany,
Joe O’Neill’s band and the Adelaides,
hay forks sharing pub windows
with Daz and Persil; the Smithwicks sign
and the Harp sign, half-ones of Guinness.

It was a time of pipe-smoking
beneath naked bulbs and neon strips,
the priest in his cassock,
Hillman Hunters, Ford Corsairs,
Wilkinson Swords and Fruit Gums.

Of scarved heads at mass, berets,
the Messenger and the Far East,
dress makers and blacksmiths;
hollowed faces in the County Home,
yanks in the sitting room.