Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Poem-Nature is Music

Following on from the last post,  this is one of the new poems.I'm using it as an introduction to the piper's music, the music of nature.

Music is a stream

whose fingers, knuckling over boulders,

send droplets trickling into crevices, tinkling;

gurgles bass notes in hollows beneath the rocks,

spills soprano trills

that burst into the white noise of spray.

Music is the wind

that whistles high notes in the leaves

low in a bowl of mountain-side;

that whistles sad through a stone wall;

laughs in a stand of nettles.

Music is all that stirs on the earth;

the blackbird standing on the morning

trout etching circles at noon

raucous crows bickering with evening

a fox tearing a hole in the night-time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Following a Different Piper

It’s been a busy and productive three weeks. After researching mythology associated with Irish neolithic sites, particularly Brewel Hill and Killeen Cormac in County Kildare, Loughcrew in County Meath, I have written 12 new poems to accompany a forthcoming exhibition of paintings by Elaine Leigh, a colleague of mine. Elaine’s images draw on stories related to these sites: the piper and dancers turned to stone on Brewel Hill; the Cailleach, goddess of winter, who scattered the stones that gave rise the cairns at Loughcrew; the Púca, (related to Puck), shape shifter and mischief-maker in Celtic lore.

The paintings are abstract: suggestions of human visages in stone, orbs of energy like flowers on stalks that are threads through time, ballerina-like trees, skeletal heads of horses, hounds, goats: the various incarnations of the Púca. They are richly coloured in gold, crimson and azure blue, beautifully rendered, highly original, full of energy, absorbing and evocative.

For me, it has been a change in direction. Not altogether my comfort zone: getting the balance between the modern and ancient proved difficult. Should there be constant reference to oak woods and hazel copses, should I use November or Samhain; keeping the “faery” element without becoming 19th century presents problems.

It has been instructive; the difficulty of writing poems that are not merely retelling what is already in the images, that provide information on the images while retaining artistic merit in themselves; poems that complement the spirit and mood of the paintings. Has it worked? I have no doubt about Elaine Leigh’s work, and I’m looking forward to your judgements on mine.

On a different tack but, coincidently, related, this Thursday there will be two sessions of story-telling in Rathmines Library at 2pm and 5pm. A fantastic opportunity to hear wonderful tellers weave their magic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Life Journey

This nightmare sequence is a life journey. My life hasn't been nightmarish, thankfully, but yet, this sequence is appropriate. I suppose, set against certain expectations, many lives can have bleak countenances.


These gates are always swinging:
they screech,
squeal at each other.
These gates are jaws;
without partners,
they are harmless.

Now a field of pistons;
here work is the law.
Day and night they strain;
groaning up, collapsing down.
These pistons are muscles
betrayed by humans.

And this is the room of wings;
hold tighter.
These wingsflap, frighten the air;
have pity on the wings,
they have no direction,
only agitation.

Finally space
where molecules disband.
we fall;
terrorized by incomprehension
we scream into eternity.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“The world is your oyster”.

the years will turn homeward,
their promises
still tight in their fists.

Endless corridors
leading nowhere,
crammed with people
all tumbling on.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Damp and Drizzle.

Damp wet, wet, wet.

Grim drizzle

Leaning against the wall

All day.

If I could hum the mood

Into your ear

You'd know what I mean;

You'd remember.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Good Friday and Christmas Night; my religious belief was so strong that I expected something to happen. I expected the word to become, if not flesh, spectre. In driving homecatholic beliefs, we were made more aware of the personalities than the teachings. The gospel stories were vivid in our minds and almost on equal billing were the Lourdes and Fatima apparitions. There was always the threat of divine intervention: punishments at worst, but at the very least, dire warnings complete with revolving spectral solar displays.

The significance of these two days in particular, the sorry state of the world - the treat of a third world war was palpablein the Cold War years of the sixties, I remember a Christian Brother telling us in 1967 that we probably wouldn’t survive the year – made an apparition a fairly likely occurrence. Our upbringing was strongly religious, that put me on the front line for a visitation.

The Dread of an Apparition

The most effective means
of avoiding a death fright
by apparition
might have been my blanket
but for the thinness of its cover
and the need to obey
Heaven's commands
which do not stop at blankets.
The problem was Mary's
predilection for teens
and my undoubted piety.
Therefore I can say
without any hesitation,
my earliest plans to reject
Catholicism - thereby
putting myselfsafely
beyond the fence -
were due to apparitions;
their lightning
and ghastly messages.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

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.