Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Among the Ruins

If it was whole, Dunbrody Abbey would be beautiful. However, the ruin stands, like so many monastic ruins throughout  Ireland, a magnificently sculpted limestone outcrop in the middle of a field; majestic in its isolation and its remains; lichened to the colours of the Irish sky; colours that nature knows befit the Irish landscape .

If it was whole, all that it is would be before you. As it is, you must rebuild, refurbish, re-carve.  Here and there small ornamental flourishes survive in its stonework; imagination kicks in, but it is too great a task to restore all that wonderful ornamentation; enough to know that it was there. Searching out these small details becomes a treasure hunt.

If it was whole, the roof would exclude the sky and the light; the lancet windows would be of stained glass not of moving clouds, the floor would be darkly flagged, the recesses as black as caves. Today it is  a flood of  glorious daylight.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


The shape-shifter, Púca, in Irish mythology is a tricky guy. His moods vary hugely, from malevolent to mischevous, even, on occasion, to kindly. There is more than a suggestion that sightings and encounters with the Púca were alcohol induced. So, arriving home in the early hours with a variety of wounds on the body would, don't you know,  result from an unfortunate meeting with a puc goat on the  narrow road home.
There is however, in Púca's various guises, iconic images picked from the Irish landscape and  Irish lore. Though not of Irish origin, he, like so many immigrants over the centuries, became more Irish than the Irish themselves.
Here is Elaine Leigh's stunning 'Púca' which features in our collaborative work Above Ground Below Ground.


Gull I fly, spark from an anvil;
goat leaping, fraying rag.

Eagle swooping, slivered sunlight;
horse exhaling piston-jets of steam.

Hound darting, arrow-swift,
hare sentinel of the jewelled morning.

Lizard slithering tress down stone,
bull pounding bodhrán of the earth.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


A stream is sparkling. The notes are swirling. Eddies, cascades, runs, sprays; coloured pebbles flickering beneath; sunlight glinting off the surfaces: aqueous diamond, facets fluid.

That magnificent play of light into the eyes, tickling senses into pleasure even exultation, as near to breaking into a sprint as the spirit ever will.

The notes spill down the aural canals, trickle through the auditory nerves; speckled light, now fast now  slow; now curved, smooth as treacle; now splintering sparks from a bonfire.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Walking along the Grand Canal outside Dublin

Beyond The Twelfth Lock.

All the world was in a pool by the canal;
all the Autumn,
all the Summer turned peacock 
gazing at itself
quietly, still, face to the water.

Where I had seen the swans
flaming in Spring,
today I came on Summer, 
gold and beautiful,
about to die.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Damp and Drizzle.


Damp wet, wet, wet.

Grim drizzle

Leaning against the wall

All day.

If I could hum the mood

In your ear

You'd know what I mean;

You'd remember.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Representative of the Common Man?

I was listening, recently, to an interview in which an Irish businessman was outlining the necessity of capitalism. It was a familiar story: those who create wealth for all must have the reward of affluence to motivate their efforts. That wealth is then divvied up among all; he would acknowledge that there were basic entitlements at the lower end e.g. education, a home etc. His philosophy acknowledges that greed is a driver for humankind, and inequality is an inescapable aspect of it all. So be it.

Part of the reward for wealth, though, is the belonging to a class that can ‘afford’ privilege; privilege that permeates all facets of life, that is passed onto succeeding generations, deserving or not. Within a skip and a hop from that philosophy then, we have the divided society in which many are set for cannon fodder (or one of its peacetime guises) and others to be part of the elite who can enjoy uninterrupted comfort through the privations of others.

This, then, leads me to wonder how anyone can imagine that someone like Donald Trump can possibly be a suitable representative for the American in the street.

Margaret.     (d. 1961)
Child that played and skipped
and ran, 
climbed among the trees
when the adult was as far away
as death itself;

woman in a countryside
of old men and their wives
turning spidery;
rain and years
between herself and old age;

London: Irish skivvy, 
that rolling unrolling knot
of mop, bucket and woman 
paid with poverty for accepting

Spitalfields and squalor;
a dark coat, bark-rough face
beaten to a glower;
culprit and victim,
drink took them both.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When yellow was the perfect colour

Yellow has that unfortunate connotation in battle. But yellow is a warm light. And blazing gorse is the fullest vent of Summer's exuberance. A yellow rose on the verge of full bloom is the promise of just that. 

The Yellow Rose.
                for Alan Biddle (1952-1994).

When his eyes had shut for good
and his face was just a face
and conversation had slowed
to the ebb and flow of memories
speaking among themselves,
a small gesture recast the day.
She placed a yellow rose on his chest
over the picture of the Sacred Heart.
The gentleness of that moment;

the single rose: how well chosen;
how well she chose it.
His face changed, full of ease
as through all his illness,
but death had sculpted warmth away.
His eyes shut against us,
fingers tangled up in rosary beads;
I'll remember him alive
or remember the rose when he was dead.