Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Two poems from  “Turn Your Head”. They refer to individuals’ defiance in the face of torture and death. The looks on two faces among the photographs from Khmer Rouge’s death camp Tuol Sleng inspired the following two poems.
(I doubt this sort of bravery is on my own list of attributes.)


I will not look up.
I will not allow them look
me in the eye.

The light that shines there
I control;
I will not comply. 

Though freedom be reduced
to the thimble-full,           
I will have it when I die.

Let them flash my hatred,
let it pierce them;
if they dislike it, they can kill me;
they will anyway.

Be sure lens, don’t miss my steady eye
and fixed mouth;
know that every muscle in my body
is a clenched fist.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Treasure Hunt in Madrid

If I had my choice of buildings to walk into tomorrow morning; I might just choose the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
I would walk with purpose through the main entrance of the Villanueva Building, head straight then take a left, the Raphael collection would be before me but I’d be turning right, pass through the Durer Room with reservations but carry on, enter two rooms with Flemish paintings then take a left, and I would be there: Room 56A. Have a look, here is the url:
Rotate the view 180 to see the work on the end wall behind the cam; it is perhaps the artwork I most wish to see anywhere on the planet. 
If you agree with me, and have an hour to spare you will certainly enjoy this BBC programme:

Monday, October 15, 2012


What Happened ?

I can’t remember.
no one thing, no bust up.
All the time talking
about our  love,
we were crumbling,
till one day
the emptiness was complete
as our love had been.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dicing with the Devil

The local men outside the church interested me as a youngster. On a point of doctrine, did it qualify as attendance at mass if you joined them outside the church or was it a matter of being inside the porch door? I suspect it must be the latter. But why did they bother at all? Does God make these sorts of distinctions? One way or the other they had the best time at mass with the exception, probably, of the priest and altar boys who as far as I was concerned always performed to full houses.

The After-mass Men were these men with the addition of a particular strain of ‘inside the door’ man, a type who appeared to me to be taking the same risk as marijuana smokers who hang out with heroin addicts. Anyway, morally,they all constituted a dodgy breed, endangering each Sunday their eternal living conditions.

These clusters of men arranged themselves in ways that would have excited a sculptor. Dark clothes and, I suspected, dark conversations reigned. They were a dangerous influence, to be avoided by such as myself, to be looked down on, to be prayed for like you’d have prayed for the conversion of Russia;and every boy risked joining them at least once.

The After-Mass Men

Remember those figures by the church wall
Sculpted in after-mass conversations:
Blather-tattooed men
That hung there by their jackets;
Museums with pockets,
Pockets full of knives,
pipes and matches.

Stone men:
Pre-Christians defiling Sabbaths
With their Saturday conversations.
Coats would be wrapped against them
As though they were sudden showers of hail.

from Sunfire (Dedalus Press)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paradise Lost in Dublin

Plans are afoot to have a reading of the whole text of John Milton's great poem Paradise Lost on Friday the 14th of December, 2012, in Trinity College Dublin. The event is being organised to raise funds for the National Council for the Blind (see for further information) and to hear Milton's poem read by many different voices in one continuous reading.
Established poets and writers will feature prominently among the host of voices that will be involved in the day-long reading;a number of well-known poets are already on-board. Dr Philip Coleman and Dr Crawford Gribben of the School of English are the organisers of the event;it sounds great,definitely one of the literary events of the year.

Monday, October 1, 2012


A poem I have come back to many times. Dangerously close to sentimentality, but a challenge to get it right. Normally I'd wait a long time before anyone else would get to see it, but the last draft has been sitting there for ages out-staring me.

Two Lovers Sunbathing

Two lovers sunbathing on the grass
in a weave of meadow sounds;
laughter swishing them
round and around.

falling into the infinite blueness of the sky,
their hands clasped,
grasping eternity in an afternoon.

One sunny afternoon
forty years ago.