Saturday, February 28, 2015

Were you going to write me a love-letter?

It's a golden rule, a poet should never rush a poem into public view. It's not unusual to think a piece  well done, (even a masterpiece if you've been on the town),  only to find, a few days later, that it's a pile of crap. Many poets have the urge, (like those who cannot  hold off gratification), to publish too soon; I'm prone to doing that myself. So here's a poem I've just written, and if there is no poem here, you will know that I' have fallen prey to the weakness, and have already removed it. 
Were you going to write me a love-letter? 
Did your fingers falter above the keys?
Or was there the cacophony of grid-lock on the page;
maybe there were lines of off duty taxis,
words refusing to carry love? 
At this juncture, I, in the past, have let my fingers
tap-dance away from a love-letter,
tap out a stammer,
the sentences refusing to form.


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.

Monday, February 23, 2015



In the morning she opens,

bay windows to the sun


and dances

on the brim of the day.


All day long flying,

jets for feet;


at night-time snuggles up,

a cockle shell with dreams.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trains in a Child's Night-time

  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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Waiting in the car

Rain Street  is probably 80% Main Street, Roscommon  and I'm a child waiting in the car while my mother is 'getting the messages'; 20% some Dublin street back in the 60's.

I've tried to catch the scene a number of times in different poems, but have never succeeded. There are differences between  then and now,  mainly in the lighting. Back then a fairly basic pub might have a bare 100 watt bulb lighting the bar, it gave a tea-coloured glow through the rain, a single customer might be hunched over a pint of Guinness. A barber's might have a neon strip light; through the window you would see the barber clipping away in hard enamel white.

And, of course, most parking was on the street, a street of small shops, so a number of shopkeepers could be watched going through their paces: the butcher in bloodied white, grocer in his  brown coat, the be-suited, hush-puppied draper. 

For a while the rippling reflections of  neon signs and street lights  would  engage a 10 year old, people flashed from doorway to doorway, collars up like Hollywood gangsters; as a local, I knew the cast, I knew the conversations, rain threw them into an altogether new focus. Later, however,  the fogged up windows reduced the view to a peep hole in the condensation, and boredom was never far behind that.

   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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Marrying the Sea

'Marrying the Sea', Declan O'Rourke's haunting ballad: a beautiful acapella rendition by Elaine O'Dea.

In a Bog Hole

The chill scenery of an Irish bog in Winter is unexpectedly moving. When the sky's artic colouring appears, reflected in a bog hole, and I see myself  in pristine sharpness, I am suddenly engulfed in melancholia.


laid out on water;
preserved to sharpness in  the December chill.

Fluid mosaic of sky and cloud,
Michael shivers like a flag.

Evening, extinguishing the bog cotton,
will find him alone,

treading visions  in this bog hole’s bottomless black.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Famine Scene Remembered


November, month of charcoal cloud
slung low to the earth;
labourers hunched double,
grubbing for the bright potatoes
that scuttle, like mice, back into the sodden soil.  

Scrabbling fingers chase each fugitive light
 with the desperation of the starving. 

I rest a moment on the spade,
my fingers on the shaft  
now rough with working the same soil;
my fingers with their DNA inside them.