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)