Wednesday, December 28, 2016

An Owl in my head

An idea from the animals represented on the bicorns worn by felos at carnaval in Galicia.

‘There is an owl in my head’
said Joseph. ‘I am wise,
wisest of all creatures’.

‘There is a tiger in my head’
said Paul. ‘I am  fierce,
all creatures fear me’.

‘A stag in mine’
said Thomas. ‘ I am majestic,
admired by all’.

‘My head is empty’
said Jim. ‘a space
for all creatures to come and go.’

Friday, December 23, 2016

Never Dreaming of There Because

is where I am.
Always here,

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How heavy is the weight of Vatican wealth?

Crosses in the cloakroom, please.

Were you going to write me a love-letter?

One of those  poems I come back to occasionally. It  changes each time:  the words, the  meaning and the atmosphere. Some poems defy you; that's good.

Were you going to write me a love-letter?

Did your fingers falter above the keys?
Was there the cacophony of grid-lock on the page,
lines of off-duty taxis:
words refusing to carry love?

At such a juncture, I, in the past, have let my fingers
tap-dance away from a love-letter,
tap a stammer,
morse to garble the unwritable truth.

Friday, December 16, 2016

What was the occasion?

It's 1908, Rathmines Town Hall is decked out in style. That July, the Summer Olympics were held in White City Stadium in White City, London.The Great Britain and Ireland team won 56 gold, 51 silver and 39 bronze medals. But I wonder can anyone explain why the Town Hall was wearing its finery?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rag Trees

Rag trees are, of course, less common now. The faith that dressed them for centuries is in rapid decline. It's that fact that gives them a poignancy that's quite different to the  poignancy they had in their  heyday. Then it was sheer number of requests or appeals that hard-pressed believers had for the Almighty.

Rag Tree

A thousand dancers for Patrick’s stone eyes:


each one a soul treading thin air.

A thousand clamours for Patrick’s stone ears:


each petition a gutt'ring flare.

Friday, December 9, 2016

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.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Gulls curdled out of the tide;
spume flew then settled.

I confessed at the top of my voice
to an ocean convulsed in its own troubles.

All of it disappeared in the spray and the tumult, 
then I sang.

And my voice danced away
over the strand.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Take it easy

To think of you in that bed,
twenty years on,
going the same way he did,
but without hope.

How do you close your eyes
to catch a night’s sleep?

Struggling for each breath,
(mouthfuls of air, for god’s sake!),
I said ‘Mam, stop working so hard’

Dying, and still forced to work.
‘Take it easy,
 take it easy.’

Her hold on my hand slackened,
her eyes fell to the side,
she took it easy,

That memory forces itself on me; even now, I sometimes wonder, did I speed her on her way?

Thursday, November 24, 2016


It was the time of Afton and Albany,
Joe O’Neill’s band and the Adelaides,
hay forks sharing pub windows
with Daz and Persil; the Smithwicks sign
and the Harp sign, half-ones of Guinness.

It was a time of pipe-smoking
beneath naked bulbs and neon strips,
the priest in his cassock,
Hillman Hunters, Ford Corsairs,
Wilkinson Swords and Fruit Gums.

Of scarved heads at mass, berets,
the Messenger and the Far East,
dress-makers and blacksmiths;
hollowed faces in the County Home,

yanks, spick and span, in the sitting room.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

On The Beach

When, at the end of the beach, I turned
to face that gleaming scimitar of strand,
the filigreed waves  hurdling landward,
the geode patterns beneath my feet,
a scythe of 12 oyster-catchers by the water,
their chevron markings perfect in that light,
I felt, suddenly, the glory of creation.

And, as I walked, I felt the completeness of my belonging,
 and my impermanence, like those scarves of sand blowing
ahead of the wind, and not at all sad for that,
and seeing too that beliefs are transitory,
that the earth will swallow all, and shine on
when all else has run its course.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Artur Widak's Photograpic Exhibition Highlighting The Refugees' Plight

 ‘The Path to Freedom:pictures illustrating the journey refugees are taking from 
 war-torn countries to Europe’ featuring the photographs of photojournalist 
 Artur Widak will be on display in Rathmines Library from November 17th  to 
 December 7th.
 The exhibition features some of Widak's most moving and thought-provoking 
 images,many of which have been highly acclaimed and have appeared in 
 publications such as The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Independent (UK), Le 
 Monde among many others . They portray, all too vividly, the hardships and 
 sadnesses that the Syrian refugees are enduring. It is impossible to view 
 these pictures and not be incensed at the ongoing inhumanity of it all. 

Widak will deliver a talk on his experiences at 6.30pm, Nov 17th in Rathmines 

Speaking of Roscommon, The New Roscommon Writing Award is coming up

Then and Now

Light cavorting on the stream,
choruses of flies on dung,
and the flush green of Roscommon fields.

Whole afternoons I would spend
watching minnows dart
beneath those smidereens of sunlight.

Larder to larder, cold flowing weed,
combed fresh opulence.
No trickery in a jam jar; dull brown they died.

This morning sitting in Dublin;
smidereens of sunlight played on the ceiling
and I remembered this.

and speaking of Roscommon:

The NEW ROSCOMMON WRITING AWARD 2016 is organised as part of the county’s literature development programme. It is funded by Roscommon County Council and The Arts Council, and supported by the Roscommon Herald and by Shannonside FM.

The winner will receive a monetary prize of €500 and will have their winning entry printed in the Roscommon Herald. It will also be broadcast on Shannonside FM. (Four runners-up will receive €50 each)

Closing date for entries is 30 November 2016

Enquiries to

Competition Rules
·         Entries, in English, on any theme, in any literary form, will be accepted.
·         The competition is open to anyone over 18. All entrants must have a connection with the county of Roscommon (born in, living in, currently working in, went to school in, etc).
·         Typed entries (handwritten entries cannot be accepted) must be no more than 500 words. Mark the number of words in your entry on the bottom of the page. Entries over the 500 word limit will be automatically disqualified. There is a limit of two entries per entrant.
·         Include your name, address and contact details, plus your connection to the county. Include these on a separate page, not on your entry. 
·         There is no entry fee. All entries must be received by 30 November 2016.
·         The competition will be adjudicated by Brian Leyden. The judge’s decision is final. 
·         Post your entry to: NEW ROSCOMMON WRITING AWARD 2016, Aras an Chontae, Roscommon Arts Office, Roscommon. You may also email your entry to: Title your email NEW ROSCOMMON WRITING AWARD 2016.
·         The names of the shortlisted writers will be announced in local media and online at
·         The awards ceremony will take place early in 2017, on a date and at a venue to be announced. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I asked Picasso what he did on September 6th, 1957 ̶ your birthday.

Just back from a few days in Barcelona where I visited the wonderful Museu Picasso. In particular, I enjoyed his Las Meninas Series. This series includes the subset of 9 paintings called The Pigeons which he started on Sept 6th 1957, before returning to Las Meninas on Sept 14th. Though very different in content, he always considered the 9 Pigeons paintings among the 58 Las Meninas Series; I think I know why.

The Pigeons, Picasso. Sept 6th, 1957

I asked Picasso what he did on September 6th, 1957  ̶   your birthday.

“I was working on Las Meninas. I had put an almost human face
on the Margarida Maria and there the ideas stalled.
On my balcony, pigeons emerged from fluffed up shapelessness.”

Out of the ocean into air,
into clanging space,
grabbing at the caul of light around you.

“I needed to resuscitate a sense of the absurd;
the pigeons twitched
with comic self-consciousness.”

Water’s membrane shut behind you,
things were sounding into being;
you were sounding into being.

“The round angled; the space faceted”, said Picasso. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Submissions, Deadlines, Votes and a little bit of Appalachian Goodness

2017 Strokestown International Poetry Festival Competitions
Closing date:  2nd December, 2016

·         The 2017 Strokestown International Poetry Festival Competitions are now open for entries. The closing date for the competitions has been brought forward, to facilitate the publication of a festival anthology in which poems from shortlisted entrants for the two main competitions, English and Irish, will feature alongside the work of the well known judges and other poets who will read at the 2017 festival. Maura Dooley and Paddy Bushe will judge the Strokestown International Poetry Prize for a poem in English, which carries a prize of €2000. Duais de hÍde, which carries a prize of €500 for a poem in Irish, will be judged by Cathal Ó Searcaigh. Shortlisted poets for each of these competitions will also be asked to read a selection of their poems as part of the festival, and will receive a reading fee of €200. The Percy French Prize for humorous poetry will be judged by Margaret Hickey, and the Roscommon Poets’ Prize by Jessamine O’Connor. For details, rules and entry forms see

Irish Poem of the Year’ 2016

·      There are 4 days left to vote for winner of The inaugural ‘Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards Irish Poem of the Year’ 2016. I am pleased to see Jane Clarke among the four short-listed poets.
You might like to read 4 finalists and vote for your winner. Here are the poems
and here's where to vote

       Avant Appal(achia)
       Submission Deadline

      A reminder from Sabne Raznik that the deadline for submissions to Issue 2 of Avant Appal(achia) ezine is November 30, 2016. They are looking for poetry, short stories, and visual art; your wildest, most experimental.  (Issue) 2 will go live on December 15, 2016. Details at

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Waiting for the One

Homo Sapiens

They were anxious to put as many genera between us and ape
as possible; so each new jaw-bone, each different skull,
each new femur became a new genus.
Gradually then, all these rungs were being discovered.

Then someone said " Hey, where’s the cut-off !"
No one knew, it hadn't been discovered,
or had but wasn't recognized.

So we're still waiting for him who'll come to announce:

"Hallelujah, this is The Bone,
 the One that'll divide the fossil record into b.b. and a.b.
(before and after bone).”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Farmland in Meath
Hill of Tara

                                               From up here, this landscape is a cubist composition ─
    a shattered windscreen.

                      Closer: traces of ancient earthworks ─
                                  pre-historic worm spirals beneath the skin.

                            Closer: tumuli, eyes fixed to the cosmos ─
birthmarks of science.

                     Closer: chevrons, spirals, sunbursts ─
birthmarks of art.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Climb

    As I watched,
a mother and child climbed
the steep summit of Croagh Patrick;
stopping, starting, stopping, starting.

While tourists were passing like traffic,
two flies, clinging to scree,
scrambled upward, pulling
the universe’s blue cloak tighter about them.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

He Fishes With Cormorants.

An idea from a beautiful documentary I saw many years  ago: 'He Dances for his Cormorants'.

He fishes with Cormorants

Man on a raft
tray wafer   ̶
a jabbering macaw  ̶

into the river.

rocks, teeth
witness all:

silver purses
leaping backwards,
their gullets full.

See YouTube clip at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Remembering Pearse Hutchinson

No Detail Too Small 

No detail too small, you balanced it on your pen.
Watchmaker with magnified eye,
you admired the exquisiteness in small things.

When a gentian is a match for the Matterhorn,
an everyday kindness is treasure, humility dazzles,
and universal courteousness is a longed for revolution.   

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Door hanging from its hinges,

breakfast things on the table,
newspapers neat in a corner,
armchair facing the television.

In the bedroom, make-up bottles,
4711, dresses in the wardrobe,
night-gown thrown onto the bed.

Calendar stopped: July 1984,
a pair of slippers still awaiting her feet;
feet  silent as air.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


One afternoon, long after, I call her.
I imagine the phone’s ring-tone
streaming through the air
of her sitting room;

above her writing desk,
wallets of holiday photos,
saucer of earrings,
a broken watch.

And now full sail over the carpet,
leaving behind
a mess of Sunday papers,
empty wine bottle on the couch.

Into the hall,
above floor-boards,
raincoat on the banister,
umbrella fallen onto the first step.

To the landing,
boxes of books,
the standard lamp forever
on its way to the bin.

My calling her: smoke
curling in a square of sunlight,
a cloud of silver smidgens
with nowhere to go.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Dog

A dog built around his snarling teeth   
demonstrates human instincts
when I cross his ground.
Glass stare, no, spikes from his face,
his crew cut spines speared,
snarl or smile, legs set in concrete:
stance consciousness.              
The considered setting of his growl:
natural resonance of nerves.
The chosen time for a step:
psychology of closing, removing space,
building a crescendo of presence.
Then the howling with muscle release:

snap of dogs, snap of men.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Final Breath
in memory of Pearse Hutchinson

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

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

Vivaldi played on,
emerged from behind  your troubled  breathing.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Not normal


I was born in a tree.

Before words rustled,
thoughts rustled.

Caught, netted in November; 
the leaves fallen,
I had my ten fingers fast around a branch. 

They felled the tree
rather than see me in it.

After that, they stuck their words into my mouth.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Where The Poetry Comes From

Fathomless blue;
Blue sky.

Two swallows proclaiming it
Are extravagant

Dancers in an empty ballroom.
A church bell chimes

Two, three, five o’clock;
No matter.

Tracing curves to unending time;
A route to south Africa ?

Fathomed true;
Blue sky.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Artur Widak Exhibition in Rathmines College's Culture Night Programme

Artur Widak  is a Polish photojournalist, currently based in Dublin. His striking images have been highly acclaimed and published internationally; publications include The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Independent (UK) and many more. This Friday, Sept 16th, Culture Night in Ireland, his moving and thought-provoking exhibition 'The Path to Freedom: pictures illustrating the journey refugees are taking from war-torn countries to Europe' can be seen in Rathmines Town Hall between 5 and 9pm.

Artur Widak and budding photographer

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Tide's High Blood Mark

                 (Before The Firing Squad)


            The sun's tide
            is licking me.



            In one eye-full I have examined every brick,
            seen the crack in that window,     
       `   the wasp on the flag
            and still felt the sun
            and heard the voice right down
            to a bubble on his vocal cords.                                        


            The sun travelled its 93 million miles.
            Threw my shadow against the bricks.
            My shadow stretched
            My shadow stretched
            My shadow stretched
            And the sun said
            That my shadow was as tall and slender
            As any wave that ever rose
            That ever rose out of the full tide
            Climbed and stretched its arms
            Over the bricks of this barracks wall.