Saturday, December 31, 2011

Painting Poems

A number of years ago I wrote a series of poems about a painting session. Beside namesake Michael O’Dea and three other artists working at their easels, I sat writing solidly on the weather, ambience, painting process, progress of the painting and anything else that came to mind. To anyone passing, it would have looked like I was writing a painting.

The series is still sitting in my computer waiting to be included in a suitable collection, (or for a beneficent lover of art and poetry), but unusually the model and that same painting did make it into a poetry book. The painting became the cover for Micheal O’Siadhail’s collection “Love Life”.

Came in from the rain,
slate, strangled light,

streets streaming
green red wrack,

a city of disappearing,
quenching presences,

into stillness,
taut concentration.

Her back: a flame;
centre of the room,

on the wooden platform,
the scarlet gown;

her hair tied up, hand:
a teardrop on mahogany.
The chevron shadow beneath her chin,
seagull-winged clavicles,
almond-eyed navel,
lush ravine of her groin,
parabola shade beneath her breast,
arc-topped thighs:

he exposes these like an archaeologist
dusting a stone’s markings
into the light of day.

Skin, flesh, fat,
water and blood,
lymph and bone.

Light diminishes;
all changes
like a moving sky.


From the murk
a lighter hue,
a suggestion of form
rising toward definition.

Colours delineated,
form emerges;
features arriving last,
buttons sewn onto a coat.

He hopes for an effervescence,
a sparkling quality,
the extra melody that plays
beneath an achieved harmony.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Imagining the Emigrant's Sadness

Coming back from a holiday in Scotland,I got a very strong sense of sadness. It has to do with watching the slow diminishing of first the people,then the harbour,then the town,the town's environs,the country.

Loch Ryan is Pink.

Loch Ryan is pink.
Stranraer is curling up in a corner
with its people shrinking inside it.
I'm watching the hills' colour draining away
so they become just shadows of a land.
Only the gulls are real and even they
look more like discarded wrappers.

I am looking back over the stern
with the wind pouring down the port-side,
a wisp of the emigrant's sadness blows over me.
This receding shore to another Irishman
might have been Lough Foyle or Cobh or Sligo
and the light at Malin or Tory might
have been the last twinkle before the ship
buried itself in the Atlantic darkness.
The last beads of land would have been treasure
to be stored but instead they are like water.

As the day funnels even further to the west
Scotland makes itself small; somehow it seems
to be leaving us; turning away. The ship's trace
is a luminous wake and a highway of smoke;
you, who have left no trace, are already forgotten.
I imagine them homeless on board a Christmas tree
bobbing on an ocean between two continents.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bank Exterior, St Stephen's Green

This scene goes back a number of years: a down-and-out seeing himself in a bank window,venting self-hatred to its cold but affluent exterior - the wealth in the building that should be in the people.Even more appropriate now than then as more and more of our people suffer to keep those buildings sparkling.

Today I saw

Today I saw a man
watching a reflection
smoke his cigarette.
When the sun collected on his pate
the reflection wiped the sweat away.

Today I saw a reflection
scorn a man. He moved closer;
it did too
till their noses almost touched,
their shabby coats sewn into one.

He shook his right fist,
the reflection shook its left,
words passed between them.

Today I saw a man
turn with hatred from his reflection
or was it the reflection
that turned away from him.

I suppose I could have hit a happier note for the season that's in it; anyway HAPPY CHRISTMAS, see you on the other side!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jesus' Blood

In 1971 Gavin Bryars was working on a film about people living rough in London when some people launched into drunken song. One, who was not drinking, sang "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet".

The song’s optimism, in striking contrast to the man’s living conditions, is extraordinarily moving; the direct statement of faith in his song is beautiful and somehow reassuring of the human spirit. The album "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet” was released in 1993 and nominated for a Mercury Award that same year. Sadly the singer had died before being able to share Gavin Bryars’ success.

This poem was written after listening to the album. It helped that his voice wavered like my father’s.

An Old Man Sings.

An old man sings;
I have not got the words, nor the art,
nor the understanding to convey to you
the sadness of that song.
It is as if he has always lived;
it is as if he lived as a bird that flew
through every battle, every famine,
every massacre.

And as he sings,
the words come clear and strong and wavering;
words that wash through his veins as surely
as blood does; words that have been left
among the homeless. Yet, when he sings,
he touches each one like a treasure.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Dance

The film Heaven's Gate will always stay in my memory for its wonderful dance sequences. Spectacular, exubrant, joyful; not many films have brought sequences of such joyful abandon.


I remember getting the same sense of exhilaration from the dance scene in Brian Friel's play "Dancing at Lughnasa".That brief explosion of exubrance that serves to highlight the degree to which the Mundy sisters are oppressed in their normal existence (and the heights joyfulness locked away in their hearts) in rural Donegal.

What an escape those house and cross road dances must have been in the hard times of 18th and 19th century Ireland. It's unlikely most of us can even imagine.

From Pat O'Connor's film of "Dancing at Lughnasa" (1998)

See how, like lightest waves at play, the airy dancers fleet;
And scarcely feels the floor the wings of those harmonious feet.
Ob, are they flying shadows from their native forms set free?
Or phantoms in the fairy ring that summer moonbeams see?
As, by the gentle zephyr blown, some light mist flees in air,
As skiffs that skim adown the tide, when silver waves are fair,
So sports the docile footstep to the heave of that sweet measure,
As music wafts the form aloft at its melodious pleasure,

from The Dance by Friedrich von Schiller

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bringing Misery

Apropos of the last posting, it seems that we are designed to distance ourselves from emotions that are negative. How else can we view the horrors of famine and war, then within moments, revert to our carefree selves. In times of personal tragedy be so distraught and yet glibly allow our politicians wage wars on dodgy pretexts, and frequently in our name.

Wars for economic reasons, thinly veiled as humanitarian bringing unspeakable misery and heartbreak to millions.

This Don McCullin image captures the horror of war in one face; I write it and turn away.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Shock of Death

The greatest shock is touching the marble face of someone so loved and the message arriving through your fingers: this is no longer him.

The Viewing.

Dead: the colour of old cream,
his eyes shuttered shut;
so neat, besuited and slim,
weight he lost dying.

They made a basket of his fingers
with a rosary spilling down;
everyone said he looked lovely
but when I touched his face,
it wasn’t him at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This is from a series that was based on carnival masks. Masks are associated with fancy dress and fun, but masks are worn for concealment too. These include the criminal's mask,the facial expressions of a con-man,the poker face, teacher's discipling demeanour, the actor, politician, policeman, etc.These are the faces we present in our daily transactions, the myriad approaches we adopt with everyone we meet.

My head is an eggshell
intact, hollow.

Left on the ground
weather leaves its stains;

on the outside I smile that smile
which passers-by notice less and less.

All I can do
is keep widening the smile;

wider and wilder,
eventually grotesque.

They start running;
I am left alone.

(from Felos ainda serra; pub. Amastra-N-Galar, 2005)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kitty Fenlon’s Last Day

That day Kitty Fenlon,
propped up in her bed,
was staring at the bedspread.

Snow melting in her eyes
fell, tiny bells,
into the valley far below.

Suddenly, arms spread wide,
a blizzard of hair,
she swept outward

off her ledge,
into the sky
across the room.

We stared at her
non-plussed face,
the four pillows tucked behind her.

(previously pub. in the sHop)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


If only you’d come,
seen the moonfire on the mountains,
the granite glowing underfoot,
the cream grass shining.

And those clouds like flames
whipped from the mountain-top
with the moon’s alabaster whiteness
trapped, a prisoner inside them.

And I wish you’d seen me
with the mad swirl of a kite
lashing songs into the wind
beyond the city’s iodine stain.

If pushed for a favourite Neil Young tune, I might just pick "Harvest Moon". It's like you unfurled the heart's sail and set it on a warm breeze to a faraway island dancing on sparklets on the sea.Beautiful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Exciters

The Exciters was a showband from Roscommon - now there’s a name to tick all the boxes. The local ballroom was Fairyland, (we had a way with names back then). Back in the sixties, Reynolds’ ballrooms promised almost heavenly delights: Dreamland, Cloudland, Roseland and (wait for it) Wonderland. The promise involved careful cultivating from the ruck to the dance-floor to mineral bar back to dance-floor to balcony to rear of dancehall. Meanwhile bicycles, cars, Honda 50’s, tractors, vans, passion wagons of all sorts waited with bated breath, sometimes with glorious expectation, sometimes with an over-powering whiff of sheep dung.

This is by way of introducing the following poem, but it also gives me the opportunity to recommend a visit to the Irish Showband website which brings back all of the above. <>

Last Tuesday Fabulous Arthur Quinn
was Found Dead in his House.

Fabulous Arthur Quinn
and The Rhythm Fountain,
Cloudland, 1967.

They saw the advertisement
in the Roscommon Herald.
It was in a box under the bed.

The Fountain must have dried up
quickly; Arthur worked
in the meat factory for years.

Left with a broken wrist in 1983
and went home,
he can’t have been that old.

They said Fabulous Arthur
must have stared at his ceiling
for at least 6 days without blinking.

from Turn Your Head, Dedalus Press

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Apparently my face changes as soon as I cross the river Shannon. I am home in Roscommon and a smile spreads across my face as broad as the river in spate.
And it’s true. Even on route to Galway, I savour the stretch between Athlone and Ballinasloe as though it basked in the only patch of sunlight in the whole of Ireland. In that second passing by the familiar road to Kiltoom, Lecarrow, Knockcroghery and home, my eye travels the first half mile and I am back to school and college years and for a few moments I’m in a wash of the carefree feelings of that time.
I suppose that’s what it is: I had a privileged childhood, an easy and safe passage; my parents gave us that. Happiness made home and I’m carrying it still.
Main St in the photograph is Main Street as I best remember it. My grandmother had a butcher’s shop, Connollys, where the car on the right-hand side is parked. There were some treasure troves on the street: Finns toyshop just beyond Morris’s was our source of Lucky Bags, ( all the money I spent on those surprises !); Higgins where that bread lorry is visiting: I can smell that delivery, Kellys Bread sliced and unsliced; I had a particular fondness for the small Hovis pan. In a tiny space Nelly Higgins had grocery, newspapers, a bar and a press full of toys.
Further up on the right, Smiths (out of view) with petrol pumps outside the door; do they still make Charms sweets? I bought my first proper books in Morris’s, Treasure Island, Coral Island etc and started a small collection. But best of all was Josey Kerrigan’s under the Bush sign, a small cave chock a block with appliances and wonders of all sorts and on a good day Josey would demonstrate a gizmo just in with the greatest of pride. Wherever you are Josey, my guitar sounds as good today as the day it left your shop all those years ago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From a Child's Bedroom Window

A small child with a view of countryside from his or her bedroom window has a million miles of darkness for imagination to roam through after darkness falls. Heaven and earth merge in the blackness;so the realms of spirit and man become one.

The Boy Who Watched For Apparitions.

Goodnight to the twin moons
stretched along the railway tracks
outside Roscommon.
My night-time window halved
with those trains rushing across the glass,
strips of film filled with their own lives:
adventurers and bon-vivants,
whose strings of lights recreated as they passed
the grassy slope, the elder bushes,
the buffer with the hole in the side;
strangers oblivious to such little worlds
and to the boy who watched for apparitions
from his bedroom window.
And in a moment they were gone,
leaving the darkness darker and the boy listening,
trying to gauge where the sounds
finally disappeared into the wind.

What lay beyond that window-world ?

The station to the right,
the white gates to the left,
and then..........

Now I remember those film strips
sailing through that pitch emptiness;
sometimes they were only ruffed impressions
when the window was full of pouring rain.
I remember how my imagination filled like a can
when all that was left was the headlight's beam
over the trees of Bully's Acre.
And there is often disappointment in these poems;
the disappointment of that place beyond
where the rhythms of trains were reclaimed by the wind.

......from Sunfire (Dedalus Press)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rain in Donegal

I never really appreciated the beauty of rain on the landscape. Looking out over Donegal Bay from Murvagh beach, the short-range weather forecast is well within everyone’s capability.

Showers approaching over Mullaghmore, will be hitting Ballyshannon, Creevy and Rosnowlagh in 6, 8 and 10 minutes. Mount Charles will remain dry until hit by a following bank of showers ten minutes later. Sun shining on Slieve League and will continue into the foreseeable future, i.e. until 3.30pm, beyond which time weather forecasting is for now purely speculative.

Meanwhile God’s fingers radiate from behind an encroaching cloud and for the next five minutes there is an almost a divine glow of light in the middle of the bay.

Back in Barnesmore the rain blurs the Bluestacks into the grey backs of beasts grazing ethereal meadows that were not there five minutes ago.

The beyond has disappeared, taking Ballybofey, Stranorlar and all points north with it; it is now a million miles away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

By the Grand Canal.

The trees “in their Autumn glory”; the canal an unstirring, uncreased line of sky, almost a memory of blue. The lock houses holding their breathes as though they too, might blow away like leaves of the departing year. All nature seems entranced on days like today. And though the background din of cars is incessant, the atmosphere is as it must always have been on becalmed days: serene, slightly eery, lonesome almost. But the butter coloured light gives it a touch of Constable, romantic if you’re with a lover, sad if you’re alone. And everywhere memories falling with just the gentlest of alarms.

Beyond The Twelfth Lock.

All the world was in a pool by the canal;
all the Autumn,
all the Summer turned peacock
gazing at itself
quietly, still, face to the water.

Where I had seen the swans
flaming in Spring,
today I came on Summer,
gold and beautiful,
about to die.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blue-veined old hands:

I never saw them coming
till they were spread bleak
as the limbs of Winter trees
across vacant heavens.

When I said I loved you
I lashed at the wall
with a stick of oar weed
picked off the strand.

Cantankerous old fool:
never saw him coming
till words I spat out
fell like lightning turned
to twigs of rotten wood.

from "Turn Your Head"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Consideration of Pearse Hutchinson's Poetry

Placed not Cast

Hurling the frail door wide open, erupting down
from dim-lit narrow side-street three shallow steps
into the dark, small, quiet pub the raw young marine
in the dark blue blared
‘Is there nobody here?’
(from Saturnino by Pearse Hutchinson)

Following the marine back out onto the street, publican Saturnino cried Are we nobody? and back in the bar, Are we not people? not once nor twice but three times at least. This declaration of the most basic human right: to be recognized as a person, occurring in a circumstance most of us would probably file under forgettable, is a recurrent theme in Pearse Hutchinson’s writing.

The poems are frequently anecdotal. In the telling, he relates an incident, a minute event, the sort most of us think nothing of; and in the light he throws, we see the metal strip, the watermark. So much that passes as mundane transactions between people carries within them the watermarks we’re born with. Hutchinson recognises this; his anecdotes carry within them the universal truths about humankind.

His regard for people, the downtrodden, small, voiceless people is apparent time and time again. The narrowing of his focus from the Vatican-voluptuous, higher than God’s own sky ceiling in York minster to the timber model of Barnsley Main Seam....... nestling modest into the minster wall exemplifies this perfectly. The grandeur merits myriad cold, lavish adjectives. By contrast, the small model made by miners receives a distinct lack of adjectives, but the warmth in (and when was ‘w’ more effectively used) the phrase he chooses, well worked in wood, is palpable. It is not primarily a statement on the relative merits of the craftsmanship on display, but the honest endeavour of those who do not have the means to be loud. When he contemplates what would be revolutionary, it’s not of the ‘pull the palaces and parliaments down’ variety, but universal courtesy that comes to his mind. He is right; though not often referred to nowadays, courtesy between all would indeed eliminate most of the injustices we live with.

Another seldom mentioned virtue, gentleness, appears regularly in his poetry; a virtue that manifests itself in the daily transactions between individuals.

If love is the greatest reality
and I believe it is,
the gentle are more real
than the violent or than
those like me who
hate violence,
long for gentleness,
but never in our own act
achieve true gentleness.
We fall in love with people
we consider gentle,
we love them violently
for their gentleness”
(from Into their true gentleness)

His gentle spirit suffuses not only the subject matter of many of his poems e.g. regarding the raw-looking hand in All The Old Gems but also in the expression of his subject matter as in Legend:

The Russian word for beautiful
is the Russian word for red.
The Chinese word for silk
is the Chinese word for love.

Beautiful red silk love.

Silk isn’t always red -
is love always beautiful?
When you are with me,

even in his choice of writing style e.g. the softness of the prose style adopted in A True Story of Art and Friendship.

His eye for the small detail: a snowflake in a web, a dandelion recalling a yellow fire, a wooden stile, enables him to reach the heart of poetry as a listener for the bass line in music reaches into the middle of the tune. Who else would ask,

Would unspent matches
lightly driven against
the handle of a silver spoon
make a different sound?

This after hearing the sound of spent matches touching the handle of a silver spoon in the poem Koan.

The last poem in Pearse Hutchinson’s Collected Poems is River. A girl plucks a flower and walks to the river outside the town,

She stood for a minute, watching the water move,
Then bending down she placed - not cast -
The flower on the water.

This last image might well be his poetry.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Poet For President

I’m pleased Michael D. has got the presidency, assuming he can put aside his tendency towards being a bit pontificatory,(if there is such a word). He has espoused worthy causes over the years particularly in relation to human rights, and he will no doubt champion arts and culture. On top of this he is a very eloquent speaker.

To have a poet president should be particularly welcome, but I’m not sure it’ll be all good. He is such an obvious target for comic impersonators, we have to expect that we’re in for seven years of unmerciful, versified gobbledy gook; a present to the likes of Mario Rosenstock or “Green Tea”. And this is not necessarily a joke, as those who remember the damage Hall’s Pictorial did to Liam Cosgrave and his cabinet will know. When it comes to fallout, a mean caricature is easily worth a thousand words.

While I’m on politics, I was watching Miriam interviewing minister Alan Shatter in relation to the referendums(?). He referred to accountability and transparency while blatantly side-stepping the questions asked. When will these politicians realise that they are the root-cause of our lack of trust.

They promised us change, same old arrogance and disregard for the public; not impressed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Different Musics

Loads of different, weird and wonderful music to be found on the web. Search YouTube for animusic, magic music machine, weird/strange/unusual (musical) instruments etc. No better way to send your mind in a new direction. I think you’ll enjoy these.



Ice Instruments

And that takes me neatly to a poem of mine published in an Irish number of a Belgian poetry magazine, “de brake hond 76”,published in 2002, edited by Nessa O’Mahony, which featured ice musicians.

The Beginning of Science

Long before Saint Patrick,
leather-footed musicians
would keyhole dawn
to catch the sun in ice candles.

They played those flames on strings,
their spikes of sound,
for children’s whistling eyes and lunatics
who, in their distance danced.

Fire caged in ice, ice in their hands;
music lit from within.
Ambition began;
separation became a beauty.

Monday, October 24, 2011


(in memory of Michael Martin)

the stack of papers in the staff room belongs to the past,
the word ‘remember’ keeps cropping up in our conversations
with the cream cakes, jacket pockets lined with biros,
floppy discs abandoned beside the computer.

Suddenly our memories are linked. A day will come
when one of us meeting another on a street will say
“Do you remember ?” and be answered ”Yes. Yes, I do.”
and for a moment the two will be one.

Suddenly “enjoy your summer” also means
“come back well. It matters.”
And some I would wish to kiss good-bye,
for our shared past, for the times we are one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two poems on Life Passing

The first by Charles Kingsley has all the maudlin excess that has killed off so much of 19th century poetry for the modern reader. It was learned in primary school from one of the “Young Irish Reader” series that was the staple for countless “Christian Brothers’ boys” back in the sixties and before. Looking at it now, it seems a cause for jumping.
Young and Old
by Charles Kingsley
WHEN all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green ;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen ;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away ;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown ;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down ;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among :
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

Then secondary school, and some excellent English text books including “Exploring English” 1, 2 and 3 (Gus Martin’s anthologies) for Inter Cert followed by the recently republished “Soundings” for Leaving Cert poetry. And there was the poem that I think I can call my favourite of all, “Fern Hill”. (When you’ve got the house to yourself, dig it out read it out loud and clear; the only way to do justice to this poem.)

from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

…………………………. And final stanza
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The full poem is on page

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From Kailas down to the Erne Estuary

From under the rag tree the world looks a kinder place.The dancing dreams and prayers of pilgrims are reminders of human soul before hopes and wishes became more pocket-dependent.

Rag Tree

A thousand dances for Patrick’s stone eyes:


each rag a soul treading thin air.

A thousand advances on Patrick’s stone ears:


each petition a guttering flare.

On The Slopes of Kailas

There are no
january pilgrims

On the slopes
of Kailas.

Buddha squats

In his brilliant
white universe.

prayer rags

Dream away
the off-season.

The Tide's High Blood Mark.

(Before The Firing Squad)


The sun's tide
is licking me.


In one eye-full I have examined every brick,
seen the crack in that window,
the wasp on the flag
and still felt the sun
and heard the voice right down
to the bubble on his vocal cords.


The sun traveled its 93 million miles,
Threw my shadow against the bricks.
My shadow stretched
My shadow stretched
My shadow stretched
And the sun said
That my shadow was as tall and slender
As any wave that ever rose
That ever rose out of the full tide
Climbed and stretched its arms
Over the bricks of this barracks wall.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1960’s Ireland

If, like me, you enjoy occasional immersions in nostalgia, you might well enjoy visiting the John Hinde Collection - Postcard Archive. Postcards from many countries and all the old favourites from Ireland.For a journey to the past go to:

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,
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,
the Messenger and the Far East,
dress makers and blacksmiths;
hollowed faces in the County Home,
yanks in the sitting room.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Colour of Launguage

The repeated use of colours in this, not so recent, poem came after reading Vincent Woods’ excellent collection “The Colour of Language” (Dedalus Press, 1994). The device opens up a whole new palette of possibilities for unmoored expression, the colours, (excuse me for saying), add colour to what have been a very dull love poem and I think they add a richness that would have been, otherwise, difficult to achieve. I’m not sure how appropriate it is to be so praising of my own work, but I was happy with this poem.

And now a re-reading of Woods’ collection seems well overdue.

The fields, green with snow
under an apple blue sky;

you, brimming
winter’s brightness,

turning cartwheels;
your whole body grinning.

The silver trees of our breathing
in full flower;

my golden happiness
in being with you

till the shafts of shadow
turned purple at sunset;

and our hours together
colourless at parting.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I wonder will anyone remember the man I'm describing here; he was a familiar sight at one time in south Dublin.


frost-forged face.

tarn-deep irises.

bog-cotton hair.

shadow man.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Too Far !!

Tom Stoddart’s disturbing photograph of greed, as a starving Sudanese boy watches his bag of food being stolen by a man with a stick. Fortunately the camera didn’t catch us: sympathetic, very wealthy, but too far away, much too far away; maybe 6 hours flying from London!

(As a point of information, in 2008 the cost of one B-52 bomber was approx $2.2 billion; potential to carry 31,500kilograms ordnance - 45 bombs. It could do the above journey more quickly than above and wouldn't need refuelling before return.)

Friday, September 23, 2011


Our Lady's Island in Co. Wexford has a special atmosphere to it. Like many places of pilgrimage, christian or pre-christian, its topography is distinctive and interesting. An island in a lagoon,(appears more like an inland lake); add to that some striking ruins,(Augustinian priory and Norman tower), outdoor furniture needed for crowds of pilgrims, quirky mementoes left by pilgrims, and you've got a place that cuts a dash in the landscape and draws the curious in.


The water waves roll ashore in Hail Mary rhythms,
winds come, contours around the island
and speakers on poles are abandoned mouths
where rosaries of sinners collected in May.
Pews like pricked ears; regiment readiness;
oh Mary, you sure pick your locations!

In a hole in a ditch a community of holy ones
fancy dressed and frozen by a wall;
and all encased in glass, ready to shake
but snowless in July.

Best wishes, see you Monday,


Monday, September 19, 2011

More FREE Laughter Yoga

18.30 – 19.30, Tuesday 27th September, in the Swan Centre,(opposite The Hopsack), Rathmines.As before bring a towel or yoga mat and a willingness to laugh.

And for a paltry €40 or €5 drop in: Tuesday evenings in the Travel Lodge Hotel, Rathmines from Tuesday 4th October for 10 weeks.

For more information ( ) and booking for the Swan Centre Free event and the Travel Lodge sessions contact me at, or 085 707 4465 / 01 4922892

The Laughter Yoga Movement was started in 1995 by Dr Madan Kataria; an initial session with just 5 people in a Mumbai park has since mushroomed into a global movement with over 6,000 clubs in 60 countries.

Just last week came the report: “a research team led by evolutionary anthropologists from Oxford University in the UK has concluded that the endorphins released by a big belly laugh in a social setting can make pain more bearable.” Noting that laughter was more likely in groups, it was reported that “Laughing with friends for around 15 minutes boosts a person’s pain threshold by an average of 10.”

The paper, entitled “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold” was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Most Poetic Painter

Marc Chagall is the most poetic of painters. I think you can immerse yourself in the images without knowing their references. His beautiful colours, the floating dreamlike nature of his characters, the sensual depiction of lovers, the gentleness and sometimes homeliness; the possibilities for varying interpretations. To stay with them awhile can be just enough to start a new poem. Thanks to uploader Yaellavie for the video below.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

To Say That You Are Beautiful

The sunlight on the back of your neck,
ear-lobes and hair;
the page-reflected glow on your chin,
dimming upward towards your forehead;
all else in darkness around you.

If I’d never seen that you are beautiful;
that day, the light that chose to steal up behind you,
to settle on you so gently but dazzlingly;
that light would have been light enough.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Yellow Rose

The Yellow Rose.

for Alan Biddle

When his eyes had shut for good
and his face was just a face,
and conversation had slowed
to the ebb and flow of memories
speaking among themselves,
a small gesture recast the day.
She placed a yellow rose on his chest
over the picture of the Sacred Heart.
The gentleness of that moment;

the single rose: how well chosen;
how well she chose it.
His face: changed, full of ease
as through all his illness,
but death had sculpted warmth away.
His eyes shut against us,
fingers tangled up in rosary beads;
I'll remember him alive
or remember the rose when he was dead.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Now my father's life
is breathing.
Heavy work.

He has already slipped away
to be alone
while we outside
mark every breath
like lap timers.

Now come the spaces:
a breath
is an isolated thing.

Finally one breath
arrives alone.
I feel a soul has left,
but just then

I see, so clearly,
it was hope
that slipped out of the room.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back in the Day, when Small Towns were Pure

What is Club 81 ?

Ba bloody news’s whaw tis.
We doan wan dah kine ting rown here
I’m tellen ya dah.................

What goes on there ?

I’ll telya wha’s goin on.
Dey cum owha dat place ah all hours,
day’r night, wimin.
I seen em owha dat place
ahafa leven of a Sunda mornin.

But what do they do in there?

Shure howd I know wha dey'd be ah..........
buh dey can fine sumwhar else fer doin it;
we doan wan dat kine rown here.
Anya can tellum I sed dah eswell.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Civic Responsibility

I wonder if there's a greater need than we acknowledge for civic responsibility to be inculcated in our children. I remember my grand aunt in her late eighties or early nineties saying after taking a fall, she was left sitting on the kerb in the middle of O'Connell St. This poem brushes up against the same issue.

On The Street.

He has her against the railings.

Holding his mouth up to her face
like a gun-barrel

he bawls;
words that burst clean into my sitting-room.

His fist, swinging in a small arc,
makes a soft sound of her cheek.

with my marmalade coals curled up like a cat,

I ask myself what I should do,
taking till they've gone to reach no decision.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rag Trees and Holy Wells

St Kieran's Holy Well, Kilcar, Co Donegal

Holy wells and rag trees, the exotic places of the Irish countryside, have long ago joined the list of endangered species. Disappearing yearly under bulldozers or through abandonment, one day they will be irretrievably gone and yet another colour will have been lost from the rainbow of Irish culture.

St Patrick's Holy Well, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Moon and Me

I can completely understand why the moon is associated with madness. Watching it sail through the countryside of clouds, it becomes mesmeric and then it crashes out onto open desert to drift with its non-plussed face through nothingness with no apparent destination all through the night. And then there’s its strange enamel light, a weird brightness, the negative of day.
The whole effect is to bring you into yourself, to travel with it, through your own bleak wastelands. It always makes me introspective and catches me somewhere between it’s otherworldly beauty and a feeling of loneliness and loss. (The fact that cloudy conditions in Ireland makes the moon’s light scarcer and therefore more precious adds to the feelings)

Trapped between want and need;
desire brushing my face
like some woman’s hair.

Looking for comfort;
finding only a drizzle of muscles
and outside

the moon
filling the world with longing
and hopeless space.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


We are two scarecrows: rags and string;
what the rain softens the wind picks clean.

We are two scarecrows: sticks and straw;
crows fly out from underneath our jackets.

We are two scarecrows: nails and wire;
each day drowning as the corn grows higher.

We are two scarecrows: sacks and hay;
nodding toward eternity, we tip toward clay.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Poetic Imagery in Art

The photographs pinned up in Francis Bacon’s studio re-emerged in some form in his paintings, The grotesque mouth in the still from the Battleship Potemkin (above) appeared more than once.

It helps in poetry to have images all around, to know the artists and images that will inspire. For me it’s Bacon, Hopper,Goya, Bosch among others. Among Irish artists, Le Brocquy, and Martin Gail’s work in particular inspires me. In this way, I believe that the process of writing poetry, in my case at least, is very similar to that of painting.

In Klimt’s “The Kiss”, the splendour of the enwrapping mantle expresses all that needs to be expressed about their love, it is so marvellously poetic. Andrew Wyeth, an artist I enjoy very much : his knowledge of countryside in his rendering of colour and textures is special. I find his eye for the poetic in rural settings moves me. In Snow Hill, he has his past subjects dance in a space
cleared by the snow’s whiteness that leaves plenty of room for poetic musings.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Laughter Yoga in Dublin

"What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul." proverb

Quick mention of a free Laughter Yoga session at Rathmines College, Town Hall, Rathmines on 18th September at 2.30pm.Bring yoga mat or towel. Check out link for Laughter Yoga Dublin in links column.

Caught, Tangled in Old Years.

Caught; tangled in old years
young man;
the brambles have made you
delicately eccentric.
Your ears are closed
but to the berries,
eyes fixed to where the winds
have bent them.
You are like a hawthorn above the sea;
you seem to have frozen
at the very moment you were jumping clear.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can't Sing

Can’t sing but good with languages and accents: I don’t believe it, I think it comes down to teaching methods. And there is a singing style to suit everyone, even if it is Professor Higgin’s “Why can’t a woman be more like a man.” I think children deserve the search for that style; being able to join in a sing-song and sing your own piece is a great confidence builder and for that reason gives even more pleasure.


When the class was built up like an orchestra
my child was found to be hammering at the scaffolding.
Assaulted by such discord, the teacher
hit this gong over and over and sent her
down to the caverns to be a subterranean scaffolder forever.

There she could hammer alone, alone with her notes.
And it was there she heard other choirs;
choirs of discarded pipes singing in their hollows
bass notes for nether world shafts.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patrick Kavanagh

A snippet of Patrick Kavanagh talking from 1962, one of my favourite poets and one that has had great influence on my writing:

As always,a search of YouTube will throw up more wonderful links.

Wasted Treasures

The lighthouse at St John’s Point in Donegal Bay in one photograph mimics a wave on the sea, in another a seagull.
It’s such a pity that lighthouses tend to be behind closed gates; they have such allure. I remember visiting one, years ago, in Finistere, Brittany; I loved it. Beautiful brass and wooden fittings, the great glass lens, the winding stairs; a walk straight into previous time, a more romantic time.
And then again you’ve walked a distance, away from towns and houses, out along a headland and there’s this one tower with commanding views all around, and entry is forbidden.
So it’s great to hear Loop Head lighthouse is opening to the public, and let’s hope it will be the first of many.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alone in the City

I’m a great fan of Edward Hopper’s art: those images of solitary people in city venues are haunting. There is so much emptiness, sparseness in his pictures; his people caged in the emptiness. I have often sat looking at reproductions of these, they move me; yet when I went to write a poem on a similar theme, it came out crowded: more influenced by urban jazz and its motor-junk sound than by those wonderful images.
Funny that, writing poetry is often more about letting it happen in your head than directing it. The subject matter seems to negotiate the furniture in your head and emerge as it will.

City Lives.

They shout into space,
answer each other like whales
across great haunted distances;
they never meet,
only sound waves ever meet.

Alone in their canyons,
they roar.
Rooms upon rooms
upon houses upon houses
upon streets upon streets:
roars spilling out,
spilling over,
spilling down.

A million sound waves,
a million discordancies
tumbling, surging,
pouring out
onto the streets,
into the traffic,
wheels, cogs, pistons:

the cannibal jazz
of cities.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

She Leaves.

She leaves
a country of mountain tops,
pencil points in nothing
and crosses on current arrows
to where the sun shines on a space.

look over the rails,
cheering ferries on the sea

of her worries;
for that is where she bobs,
among all the sparklets
on the sea-top.
And fears
scratch their fingernails
down the glass

she has left;
not left,
left, not left.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Revisiting Lough Ree

There is a recollection in Brian Friel’s “Philadelphia, Here I Come” that rings a loud bell in my head: Gar Private recounts a May afternoon out in a boat, fishing with his father. He remembers the fine detail: peeling paint, an empty cigarette packet floating in the water, a rowlock kept slipping. He recounts....”between us at that moment there was this great great happiness, this great joy………………an active bubbling joy”. I admire Friel for so much in his writing, but his accuracy in his encapsulation of the Irish character, and particularly that of the young man,Gareth O'Donnell, in this play is breath-taking.

I was particularly struck by this recollection, because one of my most treasured memories from childhood is very similar. My father had to visit a property on an island on Lough Ree. There is a special atmosphere around a becalmed lake in Summer warmth; it induces a sense of complete ease and, dare I say it, spiritual fulfillment. I never had Friel’s difficulties in my relations with my father, but on that lake, on that morning, my ease and pleasure in his company were complete, and I feel very grateful to have had the experience.

Revisiting Lough Ree

Morning comes colourless;
trees stoop to the lake like pilgrims
witnessing images that are riddles in the water.

A sudden shriek: “Over here, no here, over here.”
I see nothing; the lake keeps its children chilled
in ice buckets among the reeds.

Once I trailed a ripple from a boat
that beveled this water. I’ll remember the oars’
loud soft thud, slap, lick till I die.

It was June. Insects teemed on the surface.
The sun, that tanned our backs, lulled the countryside
into sleep before the fields were even cranked.

My father was there.

Now December.The lake drags its cutlery
through this cress-green landscape
with an indifference that leaves memories shivering.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Wonderful to have access to new and high quality Irish writing for free, and if you haven’t found Southword Journal Online yet, that’s what it offers. Number 19 and Supplement 19A is now online for poetry and short story readers to enjoy.

Southword Editions is the publishing section of the Munster Literature Centre, “a non-profit arts organisation dedicated to the promotion and celebration of literature, especially that of Munster.” Apart from publishing, MLC also organizes readings, workshops, competitions and festivals. (Long may the funding from Cork City and County Councils and the Arts Council last)

Leanne O’Sullivan is poetry editor of the last two online publications, Patrick Cotter and Tania Hershman, the fiction editors; go see. Explore the Munster Literature Centre website and follow links to Southword.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Heightened Vision

Heightened vision. And seeing everything around you as part of the texture of your life.(Too much texture.) The minutest detail magnified, and considered like a tiny echo of the main argument in your head. This lucidity that can be part of the dam-burst of a lover’s quarrel.If you see it coming, get out of the way.


(part of my love story)

discarded matches on the pub floor,
reflections in gutters,
cobwebs in the corners of ceilings,
petals shed and shriveling,
railings’ wrought iron curlicues,
broken windows, tattered curtains,
carrier bags snagged on branches,
the moon running along beside me,
heron one-legged by the pond,
a glove on the footpath;

each fleck, speck, flaw in your argument;
every minute branded, second burned
as thoroughly as a pipe smoker’s match.

I would like to refer back a few posts to July 1st, Autumn Conversations; it seems I posted an earlier version of the poem, not the one that was finally published in the Sunday Tribune. So for anyone interested, I've made the changes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Waiting for the New Testament (Scientifically Speaking)

Homo Sapiens.

They were anxious to put as many genera between us and ape
as possible; so each new jaw-bone, each different skull,
each new femur became a new genus.
Gradually then, all these rungs were being discovered.

Then someone said " Hey, where’s the cut-off."
No one knew, it hadn't been discovered,
or had but wasn't recognized.

So we're still waiting for him who'll come to announce:
"Hallelujah, this is The Bone, the One that'll divide the fossil record
into b.b. and a.b, (before and after bone).”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Autumn Conversations

There is something very re-assuring in the congregation of old people in parks or wherever enjoying a hearty conversation.They look so comfortable together. Presumably a certain pressure of competition is lifted and they can just enjoy the moment.(Then again maybe the pressure is as intense as ever). One of the pities of Irish weather is that communal park life never got to the levels that can be seen in warmer countries.

Bridge Life

It was, of course, bridge life:
the monk-like garb of old men,
their herring-boned elbows on the parapet,
at home with those ancient lichens
and warmed by their burning pipe fires.

It was those muffled conversations
drifting back between their capped heads
like smoke; their ease, their shapes
hardened or softened by the rain
like limbs of trees left there for cutting.

And it was the river flowing, weaving
their childhood and old years into a tweed:
a comfortable cloth, their cloth, the cloth
to warm their bones when the wind comes
that makes old teeth chatter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Winter Morning Roscommon

Lost in the city is the sense of seasons changing. Snowdrops, daffodils,stands of primroses,lambs,that early summer oppulent growth in hedgerows, hay in the fields,lupins in our garden, swallows wheeling. Later in the year, spiders' webs silvery in the sunlight,fading leaves,full orchards; and late Autumn ground fogs transforming shrubery into shadowy shifty figures. Then of course there are the wonderfully bright, crisp blue, frosty days of winter.

Suddenly sycamore branches
were fissures in the porcelain sky,

question marks hung like apparitions
above cows at a barbed wire fence,

rusted tins and abandoned nests
were the exposed secrets of blackberry bushes,

white grass stood
stiffer than cats' whiskers,

birdsong spilled down
from God knows where;

and the earth beneath my feet,
was more magnificent than all the palaces

that ever sparkled in my sleep.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

With You

There is a day in every relationship, a make or break day. If 'break' there is no reclaimation;those days make sore memories.

With You

The fields, green with snow
under an apple blue sky;

you, briming
winter's brightness,

turning cartwheels;
your whole body grinning.

The silver trees of our breathing
in full flower;

my golden happiness
in being with you

till the shafts of shadow
turned purple at sunset;

and our hours together
turned colourless at parting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Capitalism: The System That Works...(for us)

Nice to live in Western Europe or Northern America. Capitalism:our system, the clean system that works. Well, as an Irishman, a system that was working until 2007ish. But still it’s neat, and right now, it’s being fixed, isn’t it.

And if there is a hiccup somewhere on the planet, as in some country pulls against it, then following civilised procedures akin to following a doctor's prescription, planes are sent in meting out corrective measures; a clean process too: no bloody hands.(That beautiful and very laudable objective 'protect American interests wherever....' comes to mind.)

Why is it so clean for us in the West? For just one example, take a look at these videos:

Mind you it’s not just Nigerians that bear the brunt of oil company activities aided and abetted by the authorities, even here in Ireland there are examples of that misuse of power. See the excellent film, “The Pipe”, by following the link

Of course this is Western Europe, so it’s a lot cleaner.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Moment Certified By Lovers.

It's a certifiable moment
a punch-drunk second
a pulse's high tide.

A dog eats grass
a water drop shivers
a barrel fills to its brim
an apple falls
a body drifts
a face buckles
a lover screams.

At the tip of an orgasm
passion powders;
the creek turns to dust.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Life`s Memories

Trains: straining for that last fleeting glimpse; phonecalls: mis-understandings, badly chosen words; youthful infatuations remembered in amber glow. Sadnesses. A ship pulling away with a loved one on board, that wave shrinking into a dot; an old pop song recasting a long lost memory.


One afternoon, a long time after, I call her.
I hear the phone’s ring
streaming through the air
of her sitting room;

flow over her writing desk:
wallets of holiday photos,
saucer of earrings,
one broken watch;

full sail across her carpet,
leaving behind
the mess of Sunday papers,
empty wine bottle, wreckage on the couch;

out into the hall,
above floor-boards,
raincoat on the banister,
umbrella fallen onto the first step;

to the landing,
boxes of books,
that standard lamp forever
on its way to the bin;

my calling her:
smoke curling in a square of sunlight;
a cloud of silver smidgens
with nowhere to go.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Taste of Emptiness

I arrived in Dublin in 1973, having joined the Bank of Ireland, and was training in the Head Office in Baggot Street. Away from home, it was the first time in my life I was not answerable to someone for how I spent my time; no one questioning where I was, or who I was spending time with. Strange after all those years,it felt wrong; there seemed to be too much space; there was a hollow feeling to it.

I think that hollow is the one that sometimes bringing loneliness, gets filled with drinking. Of course, it could also be filled with golf or dancing or..or..., but pubs are so accessible and they promise company or the illusion of company.I was at a loose end and I did find it lonely.This memory has very little to do with the poem Passage, but the "space, to wander in" brought it back - a disorientated state of mind.


We were lovers;
now I'm off,
you're packed away;
you folded up small.

So with curving spine
and arms belting knees
tight under chin, I roll on;
a wheel from the accident.

Ahead there is space,
to wander in,
to kick up dust;
space where fires won't burn.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Communion Girls.

Small white spinning tops;

tinkered with children

parade affectation,

grotesque display

of competing Hail Marys.

On May 25th

doll darlings

agitate for cash;

let us pray.

“Let us pray

for long white dresses,

matching gloves,

patent shoes and handbags.”

“Dear Baby Jesus

let there be sun;

may it twinkle and shine

on our little one.”

Exploiting Fears For Profit

So much attention paid nowadays to the individual’s right to self-respect and dignity. And yet the incessant bombardment of people to be what they are not.

There's nothing new in this post, except I've never before quite considered the extent to which women must alter themselves cosmeticly to meet the expectations put on them socially.

So they must colour their faces, their hair; tan their skin, paint their nails, enhance their breasts (surgically if needs be),remove old skin, remove wrinkles or other signs of (horror) age, slim to a shape totally unnatural, remove body hair, add lashes, nails, coloured lenses even. In short, change almost every visible aspect of their bodies. Deoderise, then add perfume; moisturise; forgot to mention remove any blemish however small. All done; no, higher heels, change height (shape too).

Then clothing: slimming, appropriate colours, up to date, classy, sexy, original, not too original or you’ll look like an oddity. And of course it would help if you had more money; a lot more.

How long will governments continue to allow money-makers undermine the basic right of an individual to be content in his/her own skin?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Dog

A dog built around his snarling teeth
demonstrates human instincts
when I cross his ground.
Glass stare, no, spikes from his face,
his crew cut spines speared,
snarl or smile, legs set in concrete:
stance consciousness.
The considered setting of his growl:
natural resonance of nerves.
The chosen time for a step:
psychology of closing, removing space,
building a crescendo of presence.
Then the howling with muscle release:
snap of dogs, snap of men.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

History Recorded and Available Online

Amazing what's preserved and easily available online.Youtube is of course an amazing resource for finding just about anything; how about the

oldest written music, only 1400BC

First Photograph 1826 Nicéphore Niépce; view from his upstairs window

Voice Recordings: Florence Nightingale 1890

Edison, Houdini, Yeats, Ernest Shackleton,Conan Doyle and others

Robert Browning, 1889, recites 'How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix'.

Film: Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, 1896 and a number of other historic film clips at

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Miners Town

"Carry slack" she says
to the spires of smoke
stealing away from Miners Town
where every child is born
to carry a bucket.

In the evening the little men
will gather below the street
where the pit-head eyebrows meet
so when their fathers come,
they'll parade nearby;
smaller jackets just.

A jet shape of geese
passes through the smoke columns;
for a moment she travels too
but then they leave her,
disappearing each year
over the same roof-top.

"Carry slack," she repeats
into the dog's ear of a kitchen door,
and in the shortened evening
she too unfurls a stalk of smoke
that'll mark her place
in the forest above Miners Town.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Child's Imagination

It doesn't take much. Under a hedge was a tunnel, a tree was a fortress, long grass was crawling with unfriendly natives, wildlife, whatever.

The Fort

When the shed was loaded with turf, Martin and I dug a bunker, mounted hurlies, one to the front, two through the slits in the back wall and spent all afternoon watching for Germans invading from Fahy’s or crawling on their bellies through the long grass behind Glynn’s.

Sometimes we took our rifles onto the roof. Shot, we plummeted to our deaths on the lawn or maybe we parachuted with pillow-cases, before dashing for cover under a hail of enemy fire.

Now and then we came charging, guns blazing, picking off enemy between the gooseberry bushes; occasionally we fired on jets, watched their jet-trails pour smoke into the sky before ditching over the horizon, somewhere beyond Stonepark.

All winter our bunker dwindled, till May saw the shed empty. Good thing too, Geoff Hurst wouldn’t want turf stacked in the back of the Wembley net.
Our shed filled with turf.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Beginning of Science

Long before Saint Patrick,
leather-footed musicians
would keyhole dawn
to catch the sun in ice candles.

They played those flames on strings,
their spikes of sound,
for children’s whistling eyes and lunatics,
who, in their distance, danced.

Fire caged in ice, ice in their hands;
music lit from within;
ambition began;
separation became a beauty.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Emigration out of Ireland

I honestly thought that the subject of this poem belonged to an Ireland that had passed. I was conscious of the fact that it described a state of affairs unrecognizable to an increasing number of readers, and like most people, believed that Ireland's affluence was here to stay. It’s a poem I felt achieved what was intended, but was past its time.

Who could have guessed that the country would return in a flash to days of high emigration, high unemployment, inflation, lowered wages, and empty houses.

It may not be as bleak in today's rural Ireland as the poem describes, after all we're falling from a richer place, but it is the 2011 version of same and I no longer believe the poem has lost its relevance.

Inheriting The Land.

Here the sea is no more than a sigh in a shell,
conversations speed past, pole high, Dublin to Galway
and music is the wind whistling beneath a door.
Slightness describes Summer's step,
stonework its skies; a little light drips
from its edges but it's falling from a miser's hand.
Across the fields the church, within its necklace
of dead congregations, is a rusty hinge;
a place filled with a century's stillness.
And the ivy-choked trees lean closer together
like old men guessing at each others' words.

If you were to fly over these patchwork hills,
along the hedgerows and through the lightless haggards,
you'd never meet a soul. The old farmers are sitting
in their twilight kitchens, their families standing
on the mantelpiece in the other room that's never used
with faces tanned beneath American skies.
Only the din of crows seeps into that silence;
crows more numerous than leaves on the sycamores,
always bickering, hogging the light,
building their cities, staking their inheritance.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Growing Up

Shortly you will trace lines,
join the herds,
leave your trail among the trails
meandering over the hills.

We are part of some eccentric’s
I wish I could tell you more,
my little love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where Are You.

Where are you.
Where are you child.
Among the spring green leaves
Naked as a lizard;
I hear your airy lilt,
Why are you humming.

From what remote well
Do these grotesque sounds come;
Dispatched, bleak cirrus
In the high skies of a child's voice,
Freezing all the forest
Into fairy-tale stillness.

Where are you,
Where are you child.
In what empty paradise;
Where's the tower that emits your eccentric song;
Against the frozen wings of which birds of paradise
Do you rub.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Often the well is dry


tired words
burst like plastic footballs.

Waiting on this sand-paper plain,
I am no more than a skull
propped up.

With biro for harpoon,
I remain still
in the little pool of my shadow,

turning questions over
on the spit of my mind;
I have burnt larks on my plate.


And when there is drought and nothing is growing, the first rain comes like a shower of diamonds.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Happiest Days

The happiest days were the days before worries or responsibilities, before time was important; summer afternoons at home in Roscommon, childhood days,nothing to do but watch swallows circling and put the eye low to the lawn, imagining.

This poem was included in an excellent anthology, edited by Niall MacMonagle,"Real Cool, poems to grow up with"(Marino Books,1994). This is the anthology I would recommend to anyone who is dipping their toes into poetry, an inspired choice of poems from editor Niall MacMonagle


On an evening
when apple was eating the worm,
tree grating the sun
with some clouds, dusty birds;
the green cloth
was spread to the orchard wall.

I watched bees collecting post
while cat was a tea cosy
with dozey trip-wire eyes.
Suddenly dog alarm in the hedge
comes bursting from the undergrowth:
big game hunter
and cat gone steeplejack.

Then dog winks
and we stretch out,
and I go back to being a microscope
eyeball deep in daisies.

Another poem I've posted previously comes from the same time:

Where The Poetry Comes From

Fathomless blue;
Blue sky.

Two swallows proclaiming it
Are extravagant

Dancers in an empty ballroom.
A church bell chimes

Two, three, five o’clock;
No matter;

Tracing curves to unending time;
A route to south Africa?

Fathomed true;
Blue sky.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The baby in the tree

The baby in the tree
is screaming.

High above the pathway
near the black tips
of the sycamore branches
he is gaping,
white membraned luminous.

How did he get there?

He blew there in the wind;
it took him
like a flag from his cot
till he was stretched
across the boughs
like the wings of a bat.

And who sees him?

I do;
all his hopeless writhing,
too high for the passerby.
And his screams:
too high,
too high for the passerby.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Mayo

Some places remain in your head all your life. Not intact, but fragments that still convey (broadly) the appearance of the place. So you return, and your geography is completely off but the essence is right.
As a student of Geology, I spent a week mapping in Finney near Lough Nafooey in Co. Mayo. A wonderful time and a wonderful place. The fragments have stayed with me ever since. When I wrote a poem “In Mayo” sometime around 1990, it was Finney I was thinking of.

See for a range of photos from this beautiful area. From “Sunfire”:

In Mayo

The sky:

rags on bushes
in a wintry gale.

The barbed-wire fence:

a lunatic's music
sprinting down the valley.

The mountains:

tossed heads
with their silvery sheen.

Telephone wire:

daisy-chained voices
humming out of tune.

The lake:

a shirt that blew
off a line.

Rowan tree:

tongue on the mountain
shaping high C.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Laughter Yoga in Rathmines

Another chance to take an instant vacation.

Cathetrine O'Dea will be leading two series of Laughter Yoga in Rathmines over the coming weeks. The first begins on Tuesday 10th May in Centre Studios, Rathmines (over Boots),5.45pm to 6.45pm. The second begins Thursday 12th May, 4.00pm to 5.00pm, at Swan Leisure. Both will run for five weeks and the cost is 45 euros,(30 euros: OAPs job-seekers and students).

Wear comfortable clothing, bring yoga mat or towel and a bottle of water.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"True poets must be truthful"

......Wilfred Owen

This YouTube movie originates from Voices [Education Project] whose mission is to "Amplify the voices of veterans and civilian witnesses to war, in order to heal the wounds of war and lay the basis for a more peaceful world."
"Difference can lead to dialogue and growth rather than violence." To know more about this see their website:

This clip sets very well the context to Owen's poetry.

Smile, Smile, Smile (by Wilfrid Owen)

Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday's Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned;
For, said the paper, "When this war is done
The men's first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodromes,
It being certain war has just begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead, --
The sons we offered might regret they died
If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought,
We rulers sitting in this ancient spot
Would wrong our very selves if we forgot
The greatest glory will be theirs who fought,
Who kept this nation in integrity."
Nation? -- The half-limbed readers did not chafe
But smiled at one another curiously
Like secret men who know their secret safe.
This is the thing they know and never speak,
That England one by one had fled to France
(Not many elsewhere now save under France).
Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week,
And people in whose voice real feeling rings
Say: How they smile! They're happy now, poor things.

23rd September 1918.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Irish Religion and Irish Literature

To be brought up Roman Catholic in Ireland in my generation and before, was to be brought up with with a strange mix of observance of hard fast doctrine on the conduct of one's life, and a wonderful belief in fantastical superstiton.I think this has a great deal to do with the richness of Irish literature.Anything is possible in a reality that can be influenced by supernatural events, where excessive pain is directly associated with love, where the icons of gentleness are sometimes gruesome.

It's a mix that brands itself, smoking, on the soul.


Though birds have nested

among the thorns, and the trunk

has grown wild with ivy,

his arms and legs

are still outlined in those sinews,

his belly is a knot of growth.

Deep in the withered leaves

shines an eye; a fish swims there;

he who eats the fish lives forever.

They say he was nailed to the tree,

well above the ground

so a soldier could lance his side

to satisfy the crowds

that fish swim in rivers,

wishes swim in blood.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Short Poems on Love and Life and Life Passing

Days scud by like clouds;
that generous wind
blows forever.

But it blew into a corner
where our days collected,
not clouds but leaves.


One bullet
and your universe went black.

One piece of metal,
the opposite to a key.


empty hangar
but for a step-ladder
and a bucket of oil.


Father’s Day:
her voice came into my head:
“Daddy’s Day”, she said.

I went to see if she was in her room;
it was 6am.
Can it really be so long ago?


After all, a house is just a box
without a human to rattle.


Your face: smoke.
Or was I holding it in smoke fingers?

Love crashed then receded.

Remember your face?
It might have been a heat haze in January.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Air Spectacular - Starlings over Lough Rea

I've always known that starlings leave Red Arrows for dead. But take a look at this footage from Lough Rea, it's awesome.(brilliant posting by BDaly1234 on YouTube)

And this is the perfect introduction for a poem called, Dead Starling:

Last evening starlings were
balloon bursting
cluster bombing
wheat whirling
skirt twirling
cape sweeping
out beyond the town.

This morning
a meteorite
outside my door;
there is nothing on earth
as motionless as
a dead starling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Whale Song

The eeriest, saddest sound on the planet. Check out The Oceania Project channel on Youtube for more videos on whales and their beautiful, haunting songs.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mother Liked This Poem

To begin with, my mother was more than a little apprehensive of my writing poems. She dreaded finding herself published inside one of them. When one of my earliest publications turned out to be "Visiting the Corset Maker", her apprehension seemed well founded.Fortunately a friend of her's, who also visited the corset maker, liked the poem and her regard shifted.

However, she really did like "The Country Boy"; and though she occasionally wondered why I can't always write happy,pleasant poems, this poem convinced her that she could let me out with a biro in my hand.

When she had died I found her copy of "Sunfire" with press cuttings cellotaped in, and realised how proud she was of the book.

So for mother's day:

The Country Child.

The country child
runs in and out of rain showers
like rooms;

sees the snake-patterns in trains,
the sun's sword-play in the hedges
and the confetti in falling elder blossoms;

knows the humming in the telegraph poles
as the hedgerow's voice
when tar bubbles are ripe for bursting;

watches bees emerge from the caverns
at the centres of buttercups,
feels no end to a daisy chain,

feels no end to an afternoon;
walks on ice though it creaks;
sees fish among ripples and names them;

is conversant with berries
and hides behind thorns;
slips down leaves, behind stones;

fills his hands with the stream
and his hair with the smell of hay;
recognizes the chalkiness

of the weathered bones of sheep,
the humour in a rusted fence,
the feel of the white beards that hang there.

The country child
sees a mountain range where blue clouds
are heaped above the horizon,

sees a garden of diamonds
through a hole scraped
in the frost patterns of his bedroom window

and sees yet another world
when tints of cerise and ochre
streak the evening sky.

He knows no end, at night
he sneaks glimpses of Heaven
through the moth-eaten carpet of the sky.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Give You

This tree's dripping fruit
to place in your mouth
to ripen your tongue.

The water guttering down
these green leaves
to be a trellis of fingers
about you.

This soft drizzle of sunlight
to fall gentle as the petals
of meadowsweet on your cheeks.

This bindweed and all tendrils
to hook and bind
our desires together.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspirational Bacon

Three Monsters (Sunfire, Dedalus Press 1998) is based on Francis Bacon’s famous triptych. The visceral nature of much of his work cuts straight through to feeling and so makes writing more heart-felt and immediate, that along with the mind-bending imagery which aids innovation.

Three Monsters.

Here are three monsters :
Agony, a greyhound skinned; howl.
Hollowness, a hen plucked; peck.
Dementia, a bundle of hay; scratch.

I have stood them on furniture
to pose.

They were in the entrails of spirit,
I picked them out with a forceps.
I thought they looked remarkable in the light.
I thought the viewing public
might want to scrape at them
with their spatulas.

Attitude (Sunfire) came from another Bacon image, "Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)".It has probably further from the spirit of the artist’s work; somehow the image engenders feelings of pity in conveying delicacy and vulnerability.


Who owns the child
with the withered arm-wings,
who carries the mutation that weighs a tonne;
who, when the air is full of flight, hops
and hops and hops.

See how the children littering the yard
launch like torn pages into careless flight.
Like gulls they hog the sunlight
while a sea worries far below.
This is the currency.

But who owns that child,
the child with the withered arm-wings.

Whatever about the success of the poems, Bacon’s art is wonderful.

Friday, March 18, 2011

War's Harvest

Early each morning, the river is obscured by fog;
sounds come ashore like cries from Limbo.

At dawn the young women come,
spools of brightly coloured thread, with fishing rods;

and, magical spiders, they cast weightless filaments
out over the water;

and for a moment there are more threads hanging
than there are people on the streets of Calcutta.

The river stops;
nothing stirs; the earth turns a little.

Then suddenly a rod bobs and bends
and stares through its tiny eye into the water;

straining, tensing, till in a slick of weed,
slivered as newt, a young man's body breaks the surface;

bulb-eyed, marble-chested and tapered
to a train of drops dripping back into the river.

Thousands upon thousands, like lanterns,
or candles being lifted from wax.

And when the fog clears
the women are standing with their unlit lanterns;

the bank is a thousand miles long
and the river is wider than an ocean.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Laughter Yoga in Rathmines

Catherine will be leading two Laughter Yoga sessions as part of ‘Festival Under The Clock’ on April 2nd in Rathmines Town Hall. The sessions are at 11am and 2pm, admission is free. She recommends you wear loose clothing, bring a yoga mat or towel to lie on, and a bottle of water.

A combination of unconditional laughter and yogic breathing, Laughter Yoga is a group activity in which laughter is induced without comedy but soon becomes contagious and yields well proven physiological and psychological benefits to those involved.

Clinical research on Laughter Yoga has proven that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones e.g. epinephrine and cortisol in the blood. It combats stress and depression, fosters positivity and hopefulness.

A trawl through some ‘laughter quotations’ confirms the above, my favourites include:

“Laughter is an instant vacation” - Milton Berle

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face” -Victor Hugo

“Laughter………. the most civilised music in the world” - Peter Ustinov

“There is little success where there is little laughter” - Andrew Carnegie

“Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.” Henry Ward Beecher

“A good, real, unrestrained, hearty laugh is a sort of glorified internal massage, performed rapidly and automatically. It manipulates and revitalizes corners and unexplored crannies of the system that are unresponsive to most other exercise methods.” Author unknown

(This latter is true, there are very impressive and genuine statistics for the value of laughter as a physical work-out. Elsewhere it has been described as an internal jog.)

For further information on ‘Festival Under The Clock’ check out:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

20 Essential Irish Writers

Thanks to Carl Andrews for sending “Poetry and Miscellaneous Yap” a list of "20 essential Irish writers". See
The advantage of lists in general is that they serve as a good introductory reading list for new-comers to a particular genre or whatever and of course, they give rise to lively debate. The downside is that they guide readers away from the many very talented writers, often more provocative and interesting , who never feature on lists. Of course the problem for the compilers of lists is that they know they will come under attack and so they play safe. At least here the list does not claim to be definitive, merely essential and it is interesting that a quarter of the writers on this list are from the Gaelic tradition.
My strongest point of disagreement would be the omission of Brian Friel. There would be strong arguments for short story writers Frank O’Connor or Sean O Faolain, for Máirtín Ó Direáin and Seán Ó Ríordáin, for Patrick Kavanagh, for Flann O’Brien. I would include any of these before Frank McCourt or Anne Enright.
However, follow the link and see what you think.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Question I Ask Myself

Is the photography of the victims of war, famine, crime, natural disasters etc. acceptable? The argument, of course, is that it makes the rest of us aware and maybe mobilises our sympathies to the point where we do something about it.

But what about the photographer on the spot, who prioritises the photograph over the victim in a fleeting situation? The media circus attached to certain disasters?

And what about myself who buys the books?

A Brief Note on an Imminent Famine.

Everyone here will starve:
each bone will be a stripe,
each hand a bowl,
each leg a stick.

Then there’ll be the gluttony
of cameras:
our threadbare skin
will be devoured,
our eyes exported
shining like pickles.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rain Street

Down the street
rain lights running
drizzling concrete
sizzling lake.
Flashes red flashes
running in rivulets
yachting cartons
crowd in a grate.
Umbrella shadows
with foot halo splashes
shirt collar drippings
shoes under siege.
Gutters play bongos
for galvanize tappers
tyres make clashes
spangling streams.
And faces in windows
unravel down panes
their cigarettes burning
their signature stains.
Then squinting bus queue
like socks on a line
become runaway legs
legs like twine.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Festival under the Clock 2011

Great line-up for this year’s “Festival Under The Clock” on April 2nd in Rathmines. Performances in Rathmines College kick off at 1.30pm with Cora Venus Lunny. Also in the afternoon are Liam O’Maonlaí, Latvian Choir "eLVē" and Cuckoo Savant.The evening entertainment includes John Spillane, comedian Jarlath Regan and the Toby Reiser Quartet.

On top of this there will be an opportunity to learn Breton Dancing and shed your worries with a session of laughter yoga.

Meanwhile a programme of events will take place in the Swan Centre and out on the street at Rathmines Square. These will include lots of family entertainments, busking, face-painting, dance etc. All sounds great and it's all free

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Know The Woman That

Her hand is tracing a face;
she sees it where her fingertips are
running down the cheek,
following along the jaw,
sweeping off the chin.

And then it seems
she doesn’t see it anymore;
standing outside Tesco’s,
her hands in mid air,
tears running down her face.

Nor does she see the procession of stares,
that great gobbling curiosity,
but gathers herself and bag,
crosses to the green grocer’s
and is, in a moment,busy pricing lettuce.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Invitation to Irish Authors to Submit Poetry/Short Stories

Stephen Behrendt,Interim Senior Editor of Prairie Schooner, the oldest continuously publishing academic literary journal in the United States writes to say that he wishes to publish a special issue of the journal featuring the work of contemporary Irish writers, including both poetry and short fiction. He is hoping to have all submissions in hand by 1 May 2011, so that the issue can appear in early 2012. He is looking for previously unpublished work, which can be sent as email attachment to:

If you would like to have a look at the Prairie Schooner website, here is the link: