Friday, December 26, 2014

Perfect Painting

Andrew Wyeth's painting of Helga conveys weight, and not just physical weight; I think it is supremely sensual. It stays in the memory and compels you to revisit it.
However, it  is not just the portraits, but his landscapes and still-life studies: there is an atmosphere to them, a feeling of being present, that is very unusual. The choice of  palette, the naturalness of his subjects and  compositions, his precision in depicting rural life , people and places. Maybe too we feel like we've got to know Helga, ourselves neighbours.
Whatever, I could  have written this poem for Wyeth and Helga. 


i.    ( painting ) 

The chevron shadow beneath her chin,
seagull-winged clavicles,
almond-eyed navel,
lush ravine of her groin,
parabola shade beneath her breast,
arc-topped thigh: 

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

ii. (one year later) 

The weight of her breasts,
the flesh-fold across her belly,
boniness of  her knees,
the muscles down  her calves,
knuckles of  that wrist
angled over the back of the chair: 

much more than seeing,
the feeling  impressed into my hands.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On Seeing Salman Rushdie

I've just stumbled on a short, whimsical poem I wrote many years ago.
Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published in 1988; a fatwa for his execution was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. After this, Rushdie had to go into hiding. So imagine my surprise when, a few years later, I saw him, (well, it looked like him), drinking coffee in a window in George’s Street. Then a thought struck me.

 Under Fatwa 
In a coffee shop window,
couldn’t be!
He’d never sit in a window,
would he?
It must be someone else,
Now there’s a thought
just struck me:
I wouldn’t want to look like
Salman Rushdie!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I am weave

I am weave. Artwork by Elaine Leigh
I am weave,
flows bare bones of the land,
roots, blood my stealth;
streams mountain hair,
hillsides’ thoughts,
meadow waves;
bleaches sunlight, sugars earth,
rips the seas’ tides,
calls clockwork from branches,
drags bones down borrows,
drags days behind,
stirs the year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Way of it

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,

spit words chiseled to wound.

Out from beneath the quilt of affection:

our naked selves so vicious,

we bruise each other with the same fervour

that once marked our love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Summer Orchard Evening


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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The perennial Question

For those born in the wrong place, life has no upside. The perennial question:

Jesus, don’t you remember thorns,  
taunts, flails, fear,
the weight of wood,
the jolt of your cross into the earth? 
Lord, why is it still this way?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Child's Play

Hard to beat the imaginations of children. Our back garden was Landsdowne Road or Wembley, Croke Park, Lords. The shed gave us one well-formed goal complete with concrete net. It was nice to score in the top corner. It was also a bipeds' show-jumping arena, an obstacle course for cyclists and dangerously open ground for  cowboys. On frosty days a robin perched on the clothes line and declared it the finest day ever God sent. On a fine day, I lay out on a rug, watched glinting jets create the geometry of jet trails; I followed their progress as far as possible, then dreamed of places far far away.

The Fort 

When the shed was full of 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 onto the lawn or maybe parachuted with pillow-cases before dashing for cover under a hail of enemy fire.  

Now and then we charged, guns blazing, picking off enemy between the gooseberry bushes; or we fired on a jet, watched its jet-trail pouring smoke into the sky before ditching over the horizon, out beyond Stonepark. 

All winter our bunker dwindled; May saw the shed empty. Good thing too, it would have been hard playing the Cup Final with turf still stacked in the net.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


My favourite word to in the English language is ‘rapscallion’. What a pleasure it would be remonstrate with the greatest indignation ‘You, sir, are a rapscallion; a cad, a bounder of the most insidious hue.’
For building drama, it is hard to compete with the man  I overheard, many years ago,  at a Roscommon Galway football match, who punctuatedly blurted, ‘Ref……..Ref………you………….you………..(mounting expectation all around)……you…..(worries for his state of health)……. you……(it’s going to be appalling) ………you….………..pookie!’
But, of course, Shakespeare had the edge here too: word-power gave him the full pallette : ‘You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish – O for breath to utter what is like thee; you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!’
Or, how about the more pithy,
‘ You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian!’  (both Henry IV)

Sunday, November 30, 2014


He, who covered my body

with snail-trails,

whose hands were wrack

swept over my skin,

kisses on my back

a colony of shell fish.


He, who would have crossed a mountain range

for an hour between my thighs

now crawls over me

with wizened passion.

Gutted of love,

he comes clawing,


and insults me with lies

that have made greater pincers 

of his mouth than his hands.


What does he see in me?


Meat to excite him,

his groper's desires,

even his fingertips betray him.

But no more,

the erotic becomes ugly,

decrepit manoeuvres disconnected

from their original meanings;

the touches stain you.


I have watched him slither from my gaze

a thousand times a night 

while slipping the word love 

from his vocabulary;

watched him develop this communication

of knives and forks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nothing Learned, No Enlightenment.

The strength of Goya’s contempt is palpable in his ‘The Disasters of War’ and ‘Los Caprichos’. 
The absence of humanity, not just in war, but in society, particularly the institutions of society is still as plain today. Plainly visible to all, except it would seem, the leaders of society, (or how brazenly they portray themselves oblivious). Rife in Ireland now, in Europe, the U.S., despite the never-ending rhetoric; rife everywhere corridors of power exist.
Nothing learned, no enlightenment, and apparently no wish for enlightenment.

These and many more short videos on the works of famous artists can be found at

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In Memory of my Mother

It's hard to explain why I find it hard to write about my mother. Is there nothing to be said about the love and care she lavished on me and my siblings, or do I think the role of mother is so humdrum that I  cannot find a poetic lift in it; is it that that role is so intermeshed in my life that I cannot separate the threads, or  have I not got the words nor art to match the love? Whatever it is, these six lines are all I've managed to date.
           In Memory of my Mother

She was
Two cups of flour resourceful
Plumb-line straight
Three sides of a triangle logical

Rain-coat wise

Five woollen blankets caring.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Among the blocks of the establishment
a flawless rise bolted your trust; 

success was cement,
all loose notions were pebble-dashed.  

Now you revise:
the establishment, its self-righteous system:  

how many bodies like you
have fallen from the sides to point the pyramid?  

And how many times did you skate over principles,
that I remember, you once held dearly? 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leering Masks and Nightmares

from Felos ainda serra

Tonight my sleep was restless.
I could not stand: undulating feet.
Nor clutch my mother’s face: tidal.
Nor shut out burgeoning masks.
Sleep could not be thrown  over
those leers:
too thin its cover.
Struggled under thin sleep,
a geyser of worries.
Dangled naked,
joggled by jets, gratuitous jibes.
Gas jets and phlegmatic one-way mirrors;
there was nothing else but are walls.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

David Bowie's new video

Now this I like. I don't often do music promotion, but 'Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)', the new single from David Bowie's upcoming greatest hits album, 'Nothing has Changed', is my idea of class. 

Have a listen; it's definitely not targeted at the commercial end, but  the video and musical arrangement are fantastic, and I think the air and words, as he sings it, lodge in the corners of the brain, like a particularly successful poem .


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Did you dress up for Halloween

My answer is  always no. It must go back to my childhood, maybe Halloween scares; I’ve never been fond of fancy dress and masks. They make me uneasy, and I don’t particularly like not being able to see faces.
The poems below are from ‘Felos aínda serra’ (AMASTRA-N-GALAR, 2004), and were inspired by photographs of felos ,  carnaval maskers ,taken by Emilio Araúxo in Galicia.
The chapbook, with wonderful illustrations by Charlie Cullen,is one of a series penned by poets from around the world. It consists of 10 short poems translated into Galician, my English originals are  below each. The whole publication can be viewed at ; the others in the series are also available for viewing, see . Great credit and congratulations are due to Emilio for publishing these very attractive booklets, and making them available to all.

  In the holes.
  Eyes watching you.” 

  I see them.
  In the holes.


He lifted his hand to his mask;
his hand: skin and knuckles and frailty. 

Someone humorously put frailty into the face;
The hand magnifies it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Language of Love: Tips from Old Masters

It’s fair to say they don’t write poems like they used to, love poems in particular. The days of unfazed openness in regard to sexuality are well gone. Who now would write a poem entitled ‘Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast’?
The 17th century poet, Robert Herrick, was a clergy-man and bachelor who said a lot more than his prayers.  
Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast 
Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white?
Or else a cherry (double graced)
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.  

John Donne, one of the greatest English poets, matches Herrick with this title

"On a Flea on his Mistress’s Bosom", and starts,  

“MADAM, that flea which crept between your breasts 
I envied, that there he should make his rest; 
The little creature’s fortune was so good 
That angels feed not on so precious food.”

I particularly  like his poetic take on the modern ‘get your kit off’;

from  "Elegies XX. To his Mistress Going to Bed" 

“ Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing. 
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopp’d there. 
Unlace yourself…………………………….”

and from  “Elegy XVIII: Love’s Progress”: 

"Her swelling lips; to which when we are come,
 We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,
 For they seem all: there sirens’ songs, and there
 Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;
 There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,
 The remora, her cleaving tongue doth dwell.
 These, and the glorious promontory, her chin
 O’erpast; and the strait Hellespont between
 The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,
 (Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)
 Succeeds a boundless sea, but that thine eye
 Some island moles may scattered there descry;
 And sailing towards her India, in that way
 Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay;
 Though thence the current be thy pilot made,
 Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed,
 Thou shalt upon another forest set,
 Where some do shipwreck, and no further get.
 When thou art there, consider what this chase
 Misspent by thy beginning at the face."

Holy moly!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Street Man

frost-forged face.
tarn-deep eyes. 
bog-cotton hair.
hail-shower man.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Loughcrew Cairns covered in snow Loughcrew, Co Meath
While Newgrange understandably draws  thousands of tourists from Dublin, I would highly recommend a one-day circuit that many visitors might not have heard too much about.
For a great mix of archaeology, history, scenic beauty and a little bit of magic too, I would suggest heading to Trim, to see the castle and take the wonderfully presented river walk; onward to Fore, a real hidden gem in the Irish countryside; come  back via Loughcrew, and if there's still light in the day, have a stroll up the Hill of Tara.
The Cairns at Sliabh na Caillí (Loughcrew)

It was weather that carried the Cailleach onto the hills,
a swirl of graphite anger from above the plains of Westmeath. 

Once over the summit of Carnbane West, she opened her apron to the earth
and all about resounded to the tumbling of tipped boulders; 

then again at Carnbane East and Sliabh Rua too. At the fourth hill,
she turned a moment towards me, and as her glance flashed she slipped. 

I saw brilliant trails from the whites of her eyes as she plummeted;
the instant she hit earth, her body was a smouldering oak.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chomsky at the U.N.

If political systems weren't, somehow, above the law; there would be a lot of politicians completing their circles in prison yards.

Noam Chomsky explains clearly how the U.S. breaks its own laws openly and repeatedly;  and, well, a lot of people die. It's the old story, if you commit crimes on a large enough scale, there's no sanction.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Linda Tirado

So here we are. “The richest one percent of the world’s population now controls 48.2 percent of global wealth, up from 46 percent last year, according to the most recent global wealth report issued by Credit Suisse, the Swiss-based financial services company.” Apparently, if this level of growth continues the 1% will own all the wealth in 23 years.
So here we are, with our burgeoning knowledge and education, declarations of human rights, constitutions, our politicians working assiduously, day and night, for the common good. This, along with walking on the moon and splitting the atom, is our achievement.
How extraordinary it is that we have underachieved to such a spectacular extent.
Listening to an interview on radio today, I was highly impressed with Linda Tirado’s clear-sighted analysis of the United States’ treatment of its poor (an analysis that applies universally, I would say).  Having direct experience of what she’s talking about, she cut quickly through shit to the reality, and with deft articulateness swept away common perceptions of the comfortable middle-classes (myself included). There was nothing new in what she said, but her clarity made me stop; I will have to reassess my own perceptions of those poorer than myself, and it is well past time for governments to intercede for the impossible situations the impoverished find themselves in.  

Today’s interview on ‘The Marian Finucane Show’ on RTE Radio 1:!rii=9%3A20667519%3A70%3A18%2D10%2D2014%3A

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Final Breath

Final Breath

      in memory of  Pearse Hutchinson

In that last moment your breath halted in your mouth;
the air teetered on  your tongue; on last taste perhaps.

Death flew across the room, your eyes followed it,
leaving us, exiting through then walls.

Vivaldi played on, 
emerged from behind your troubled breathing.

For that few moments,
baroque splendour was your breath condensing around us.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

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,
not left.