Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crowd Control




        taut with anticipation, grabbing photographs of the crowd

        for their own special consideration. 


        at ease,  the satisfying  tug of leashes in their fists,

        the occasional pulling of a dog up short; 

        (an enthusiastic dog must learn to relish).


        boys who have the bristling love for smashing glass

        cooped up in their heads.  


       the passion for cleansing forever tugging

       and the stains of humanity spreading through the streets.

Trolls, Kings and Other Solitary Souls

Many years ago, while on a geology fieldtrip in Norway, I had an interesting experience that clarified for me the origin of those ever so popular trolls in the tourist shops there.
One day, while mapping in the mountains, I came into a very remote and lonely valley that had at the far end of it a single stone cottage. A strange sight in that remoteness, I walked towards it to investigate. But as I approached, I saw there was an old person bent over, working at something on the ground. I approached slowly and with growing apprehension. The person seemed totally unaware of me and continued at his or her task.
Being in such a wilderness, so remote and alone, all the possibilities of the old fairytales solidified in my mind. A childish fear flooded over me. I moved towards the forbidding spectre, heart in my mouth. It wasn’t until the last moment that I saw that it was a gnarled old tree.
As did Patrick Kavanagh in his ‘Christmas Childhood,’ one crisp moonlit Christmas morning, I saw the three kings travelling up the hills outside Roscommon. It was a magical Christmas sight, and I stopped to look at it for a long time.
Now I am looking out at some scattered hawthorns on the slopes of the hills above Barnesmore. They pitch themselves against the winter gales and flaying rain. They stand, rooted in boulder strewn, thin soil, crabbed old codgers with tobacco coloured dead bracken all about. On another day, when the mist is heavy, they bend into the wind and prepare to walk. For eons they have passed travelers on the road without a word, or maybe they have lisped some message that seemed to come from souls long since departed.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heaven or not, we are reborn

Padded out from a stand of sycamores,
confident, purposeful.
Stopped opposite the newly dug ridges
to listen for the lithe young collie.
Glanced behind, indecisive for a moment,
ambled on.
Loped past the gable where the dark-haired boy
kicks a football,
slipped through a hole in the hedge
onto the road.
the fox, stretched lifeless on the grass,
a cloud of flies at its eyes,
already stinking of resurrection.
Happy Christmas, by the way; see you on the  other side.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


We change,
time moves us  along.
Our loves change like trees,
like fires,
like buildings. 

They become our old books,


The catalogue lists fond memories,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Visceral Art

The best art sends you away carrying some of the mood the artist wanted to convey, but you  have to be an active participant; in the case below, you must imagine yourself in that confined, airless vault. 

A friend’s conversation on the German artist Hans Holbein sent me back to his work, in particular, ‘Dead Christ Entombed’.
Not the only artist to depict the dead Christ to extraordinary effect, (Mantegna’s brilliant ‘Dead Christ’ with its jaw-dropping perspective is an obvious example), however Holbein has gone for the horror of the real in a way that distinguishes it from the others.
The undignified image of our stripped God is usually softened with closed eyes, a coterie of mourners, a cloth that drapes down artistically. Not here. This God is stuck, eyes wide open, in a vault that is unbearably claustrophobic. His beard, stiff in rigor mortis, accentuating the lack of room, his mouth open as though death came in the effort to get one last breath from this sliver of space. No details spared, prominent  belly-button and bump of genitalia, discolouring wounds, the all to human anatomy.
The hand at the centre of the painting has the usually absent, but here deadly accurate, colour of bruising; the nail-hole like an eye, eyeballing the viewer. This is a man with all the shocking vulnerability that can be portrayed in an emaciated human body. 
If I was a painter, I would retire after painting that.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Achilles Heel



Sunday evening, Father in gold gilt

weaving words and incense

into a melange

of heavenalia.

Monday noon,

wavy hair, brush eyebrows

strolling common touch

down Goff Street.

Sunday evening, in gold gilt again;

my eyes snagged

on his odd socks

all through Benediction.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Weekend of Rain

Two days of torrential, flailing rain. Biblical levels, and more tomorrow. Sure, the scenery disappears, but in the city lights wriggle away from their sources, in doorways shadows become carnivorous.

     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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Gerhard Richter's Lesende (1994) is a beautiful study of the play of light on this young woman's profile. There is a beautiful peace in the work. It is poetry in light.

The sunlight on the back of your neck,
ear-lobes, hair;
the page-reflected glow onto your chin,
dimming upward towards your eyes;
all else, darkness around you.
If I’d never seen that you are beautiful;
that day, the light that chose to steal up behind you,
to settle on you  so gently, but dazzlingly;
that light would have been light enough
to reflect forever in my mind.