Friday, December 29, 2017


After rubbing his hands vigorously,
Paul presented his right to the teacher,
who smashed the bamboo down on it,
then hit his knuckles on the upswing.

Each slap was met with a yelp of pain;
six in quick succession, and more almost daily;
more with each new year;
with each new teacher.

Paul was from a poor family,
the least academic in the class,
he left school early; was sent away;
he ended his life when it was supposed to begin.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

In This Mood

Sometimes,  perfect renderings of still life might signify a state of mind.

In this mood,

things become more defined, absolute, more themselves.
The silver sugar bowl is not just reflective,
but a collection of the objects around it.
The shadows between the soaking peas are as dark
and mysterious as those between trees in a forest;
scale is immaterial, the detail is precise.

Colours become experiences: I look into red,
as I’d search inside the flow a river; browns
take on the richness of mahogany,
a grain inside the colour, a dynamic.
I reach for the sugar and watch my hand, from mid-arm,
travelling over the table like a boat heading out to sea.

It seems that my eyes suck the energy that is in me;
build this crisp perception from my concrete,
leave me in darkness amongst the brilliance of things.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Song

I wrote this as a song a number of years ago. I wanted to write another Fairytale of New York............okay, okay, no harm trying or wishing. I gave it to a singer who insisted that it was a poem; I still see it as a song (albeit with an alternative beat) waiting for a melody.      

              Christmas Song

I remember frosted trees,
sugary sunlight on rotted leaves,
winter hedges crisp and still,
high above a blackbird’s trill.

And you with ice blue eyes
and brilliant smile
singing Silent Night and all the while
that Christmas was gone.

I remember frosted trees,
collecting cones for festive wreaths,
carols wafted on the air,
we stopped awhile to wonder where.

And you with ice blue eyes
and brilliant smile
singing Silent Night and all the while
that Christmas was gone.

I remember frosted trees,
crunching across the frozen fields,
two plaited trails that we made,
promise of  the life we’d braid.

And you with ice blue eyes
and brilliant smile
singing Silent Night and all the while
that Christmas was gone.

I remember frosted trees,
a bracelet made with holly beads,
I placed it in your hand,
said it would be our wedding band.

And you with ice blue eyes
and brilliant smile
singing Silent Night and all the while
that Christmas was gone.

            I remember frosted trees,
            how they’ve haunted me all these years;
            oh to have been half so wise
           I would have seen through your disguise.
And you with ice blue eyes
and brilliant smile
singing Silent Night and all the while
that Christmas was gone.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Visit Issue 4 of ​AvantAppal(achia)

Visit,  if only to read Gabriel Rosenstock's gorgeous submission. It's very fine; beautifully presented in Irish and English, it's  inspiring; the kind of poetry I'm always hoping to find. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Terrorist

I’m exploring a village in County Roscommon, a quaint little place
on the banks of the Shannon. I’m strolling around, trying to catch
the atmosphere like I’d try to catch a tan. It’s  Summer, there’s no traffic,  
a few boats on the river, some hall doors are open, the shops are quiet,
if a bee stirred that would be the height of it.

It doesn’t take long to get around the whole village.Countryside laps
to every backdoor, the church on its ground is silent  as a tombstone,
the Shannon drags itself painstakingly by, and the sun’s heat has settled itself down
among the clouds. In the fields the hay is saved, somewhere a cow is yawning;
and an old man drives past in a tractor, going three miles an hour.

I know this, because he is half way to the shop, when I decide to make a race of it.
There is quarter of a mile at most, straight road, and, walking, I’m already gaining
on him. He’s past half way, moving incredibly slowly. I’ve covered half the distance
 between us.  He’s three quarters way, I’m over half way.  I’m almost level, almost level
when I reach the shop.Later I discover, locals call him The Terrorist.

Armani stops at our house

The ethics around photography are more than a bit grainy. The professional photographer is one thing, often questionable, but at least, he/she would appear to have a reason to be there, but the amateur is a different ball-game.

This flashy customer caught my eye; privileged materially, and with very expensive camera, he gave himself license to pry.

Armani stops at our house

sunbathing on the verge,

surveyed from the wall.

grinning up a cuff,

stole granddad’s gappy smile.

snapping the moment shut,

stepped from the grass;

spat dust into our gateway.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

gentle as rain,
as petals,
as snow,


Monday, December 4, 2017

Failing Light

In the failing light of a November evening,
among the rotting leaves on a suburban path,
I remember you, digging the garden ridges, shaking out
the groundsel, tossing the stones under the hedge.

Great events in your kingdom were scurryings in the grass,
a thrush feeding on a worm, raindrops falling from the apple trees.
Far from inspectors and reports, you held sway over
the straightening of ridges, regiments of onions and lettuces.

With each passing year, you settle deeper into memory,
becoming ever more intangible, like these rotting leaves
that leave only their scent hanging in the dank November air;
after all this time, you have become more like a conversation 
                                                                                I never had.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Wind Claps The Slates

The wind claps the slates;
all night they are hooves running berserk,
all night the wind is inciting them;
all night.

At twenty past two and twenty past three
and twenty past four I am looking at you;
how I would love to have hooves to come
crashing through your sleep, to burst into
your solitude.

And there I would, for better or worse,
demolish the muzzled years with as much
violence as reverberates beneath iron shoes,
as  causes such a frenzy in stone that slates

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Granny in woollen cardigans, bespectacled,
smooth-cheeked, sitting at the stove end
of the kitchen table, stockings rolled down,
wanting the dog to lick the ulcers on her legs.

Cups of tea coming and going like seasons,
showers of sunlight canonizing her fitfully,
switching on the light of her soft white hair,
the wild rose that bloomed free in her face.

The comfortable plumpness of her body
always shaped to her generous curiosity;
her old voice gentle as seaweed on a wave,
chatting life back into the bones of the dead.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Viewing.

Dead: the colour of old cream,
his eyes shuttered shut;
so neat, besuited and slim,
the weight he lost dying.

They made a basket of his fingers
with a rosary spilling down;
everyone said he looked lovely,
but when I touched his face
it wasn’t him at all.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Some poems never get there. This one has been with me for nearly as long as the old man it's written about.
It's frustrating, but, then again, it's probably a good thing that certain accomplishments keep us grasping.


Evening light dozed on unwashed dishes;
old dust coated china plates;
the Sacred Heart, smoked and sagging,
looked down from a height;
a clock ticked like a jaded heart.

His face, at the table, jerked uncontrollably,
occasionally he choked on his tongue.
All that might be called life was in a biscuit box
in a press: letters, photographs, Christmas cards, postcards;
and a silver pocket-watch he got from his mother.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rivers Run

Rivers run over the land,
slivers of sky and light,
their spindly bodies flowing,
fish and ripples one,

Clamouring in the high places,
lisping in the  low;
spry in youth,
sedate in age;
always journeying to their end
to run again.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


A peninsula: shingle, cockle and barnacle shells, strips of desiccated wrack,
greened with sea-holly. The wooden cabin, though frequently lashed with spray,
was salted dry, and coloured somewhere between bone and limestone;
I lived there for five months before you came.

From the land our light seemed no more than a single candle burning;
the clothes on our line had the appearance of  rags,
and the smoke from our fire curled into the sky with a nonchalance
that suggested our daily struggles with lighting washed up timbers.

You’ll remember the shingle made walking difficult; with each step the stones rolled.
You said it sounded like the grinding of a mouth full of loose teeth; but, around the bay,
 a billion stones rolled thunderously with each beached wave;
and the  breeding terns came at us like boomerangs.

Nights: we were  unlit stars perhaps, but at one with the universe, free and alive
 in the unbroken expanse of shore, sea and sky; we had  space
 to be colossal, to exhilarate; and moonlight, our spotlight to roar songs into the cosmos,
to take the universe’s light into our eyes and exult in it.

Came the day of migration: wings outstretched, muscles fluid, necks craned to our separate
destinations; we, without backward glances, took to the air
with eyes big enough to countenance the curve of the earth, greedy enough to fly it;
and left our peninsula, a finger  pointing to somewhere .

Friday, November 3, 2017

As a chaos

As a chaos of jagged girders,
black against the sky,
looks like pain;
yet it makes a beautiful ugliness.

That day’s electrodes, bare and unprotected,
were waiting for me. From the moment I awoke,
nothing was ever going to halt
their run to me from that future.

I met my moment on the street;
it made jazz in my bones;
lifted me
oh, much higher than I can ever sing.

Sir, I said, these particles vibrate,
you hear them on a still night
and after that, you will always hear them.
They smash glass if you do not control it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Self-creating Fluidity in Nature

When dense enough,
murmuration or shoal,
a flow becomes a fluid,
all parts align, cluster and stream
according to physical  laws.

Living parts, starling or herring,
generate intra-forces  that govern
the whole, the system,
effecting dynamics  recognizable
throughout nature.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

She Leaves

She leaves
a country of mountain tops,
pencil points in nothing
and crosses on current arrows
to where the sun shines on a space.

look over the rails,
cheering ferries on the sea

of her worries  ̶  
or that is where she bobs  ̶
among all the sparklets
on the seatop.
And fears
scratch their fingernails
down the glass

she has left;
not left,
not left.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Growing Up

  Shortly you will trace lines,
  join the herds,
  leave a trail among the trails
  meandering over the hills.
  We are part of some eccentric’s
  I wish I could tell you more,
  my little love.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Life is glass

I fall, fuck up my face;
my arms and fingers
pouring blood
and I don’t even feel it.

Life is glass.
I discover that I can’t mind myself:
I can’t make the decisions
that protect me.

I meet my broken face in a mirror;
it accuses me.
I stare at it;
I stare at myself.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


The longer I am paddling this canoe:
the more distant my destination,
the less I am.

The less you see in me,
the less I see in me,
the more is light.

The more is light,
the less I dream,
the more all is dream.

Friday, October 13, 2017


When I reminisce about my childhood,
I am running with my schoolbag on my back;
exulting in the speed: one leg extended forward,
the other crooked at the knee,  foot in mid-air;
and a broad grin across my face, brimming happiness.
The church is in the background with a brilliantly coloured Calvary grotto,
and there’s the school and the Harrison Hall, all shining
against a cloudless azure sky.

And all of that is gone
as suddenly as a blizzard  strikes with the flick of a wrist. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Films in your face

I am watching the film in your face:
your enjoyment crinkling
at the corners of your eyes,
teeth catching your lower lip,
blood draining from the pressure,
draining back as soon.

Furrows on your forehead,
I am smiling at your absorption,
want to stub them out with my thumb
but you catch me looking
so I turn back to the screen
till your face is mine again.

The words on my lips
remain unsaid. A time may come
when, not having words,
I will wish I had spoken; a time
when love being tested, I could say,
I used to watch films in your face.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Literary Events this week/weekend in Roscommon and Leitrim

Late notice this, but not too late if you live in the north midlands or northwest. A very engaging two days of talks and readings entitled Irish Women in Literature. Speakers include Nuala O'Connor, Prof. Luke Gibbons, Professor Christine Kinealy, Jessamine O'Connor and others. Free readings, but booking necessary.

also this weekend in Carrick-on-Shannon

Irish Mountain Festival in Carrick -on-Shannon 6th - 8th Oct. 
Participants include celebrated American writer and folklorist Henry Glassie, King of the Castle author Eugene McCabe and Ireland Professor of Poetry Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin, novelist Pat McCabe, migrant rights campaigner Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and London Imam and sean-nós singer Muhammad Al-Hussaini  among the participants at the festival in Carrick-on-Shannon.Tickets €60/€40

The End of Love, A Chill Awakening


He, who covered my body

with snail-trails,

whose hands were wrack

swept over my skin,

kisses on my back

a colony of shell fish.

He, who would have crossed a mountain range

for an hour between my thighs

now crawls over me

with wizened passion.

Gutted of love,

he comes clawing,


and insults me with lies

that have made greater pincers

of his mouth than his hands.

What does he see in me ?

Meat to excite him,

his groper's desires,

even his fingertips betray him.

But no more,

the erotic becomes ugly,

decrepit manoeuvres disconnected

from their original meanings;

the touches stain you.

I have watched him slither from my gaze

a thousand times a night

while slipping the word love

from his vocabulary;

watched him develop this communication

of knives and forks.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I saw my brother

One day, after I was dead, I saw my brother.
He was talking to a neighbour over the wall;
I called out to him, but he didn’t hear; in truth his hearing was poor.
My anxiety rose; I called louder and louder. I could not move,
I was watching him, I was scanning his profile; and knowing what I know so well,
knew that this was no mirage nor dream, and so, my anxiety quickened.
It is almost impossible to describe the stress: so close, so immediate;
the blood boiling in the veins of my temples. It would not have been so intense
but he was my brother, and had there been fire between him and I, I would have persevered.
But I could not break outside myself, could not come one decibel nearer, even with that heartbreak.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Poem: An Image

Image© Matthew Gammon

Roscommon County Council are hosting an exhibition entitled, 'A Poem: An Image', in the Civic Offices in Roscommon which will is running until Oct 20th. It comprises 16 poems written in response to 16 images, and is definitely worth visiting.
My poem, Returning, was written in response to Matthew Gammon's moving and very evocative image shown above. 


Houses are funny: boxes really, boxes of memories,
even in decay,
even though the memories are peeling.
The walls, soaked with voices, breathing out their memories
which settle, a fine dust around you.

You, who entered, no longer here;
you, who is here, transfixed in this presence of the past;
an in-between place: you and spirits
and yourself that once was;
and it all settling, a fine dust around you.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Escalation 2017

You’re mad.
You’re nuts.
You’re mad.
You’re nuts.

That’s it, I’m going to kill you and everyone who knows you.
You can’t, cos I’m going to kill you and everyone who knows you first.

There I told you; you’re mad.
You’re nuts.
You’re mad.
You’re nuts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Light of Innocence

The lake: shape of a dress thrown haphazardly onto the ground.
One  evening late, all the people of the village came to divest
 themselves of their sins,  washed them into the lake,
which swallowing , simultaneously caught hold of the sky,
held it in a petrified grasp; sky that never had  a care.

Two swans, two mute glories, some distance apart;
two matches  frozen at the point of flaming  appeared on the water
at the precise moment of the immersion. People say
their plumage shone with unearthly brightness.  It is said in the village
that they appear every time a sinner  divests himself of his sin;
that the light is the light of innocence.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Memory of my Father

I have a memory of my father
sitting on a log in the shed,
reading the Sunday Independent
between the lawnmower and the garden tools;
it was his quiet  refuge.

I see him through the open door,
from across a narrow lawn newly mown;
bees are tracing zig-zag lines
between us;
and the lupins are in full bloom.

Summer stretched out over the fields and the railway line,
beyond the gates, out to the Shannon, and beyond;
but Summer is a precarious season.
I like lupins,
they look like Summer.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Brown Eyes

She had deep brown eyes;
I believe trout swam in their depths.
And I often spent an hour sitting there
with my feet disturbing their surfaces
like rain.

But the currents that stirred her
were much deeper.
They stirred the silt of years
far below,
far below my reflected face.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

3 photographs

This little scene in the grounds of a holy well caught my attention.You can almost hear her exclamation, "Holy God!" And, what's gas is, the rest of the family got good steady jobs in the Civil Service.

This signpost above a beach gives you a fifty fifty chance of  taking the right direction to somewhere.

And, this sign at a petrol station isn't unique; I mean I know what it's saying, but I don't think its saying what it means.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Green into Grey (full)

Green into Grey

When the clouds
Fell onto the hill with the trees,
And they were sinking,
I thought of you.

The still heads
Belied their stirrings in the murk,
They were swimming,
And I thought of you.

All day long,
Shadows mutely threading that depth,
And they were ghostly,
I thought of you.

When the sun
At last tore the mist from the trees
they were gleaming,
And I dreamt of you.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Green into Grey

When the clouds

Fell onto the hill with the trees

And they were sinking,


I thought of you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Trees keening winter nights away,
their wails woven into the wind;

heads of hair like seaweed taken from the strand,
flails knotted in insoluble puzzles.

Underground, roots twisting toward some source
shaped by memory;

trees like abandoned lovers,
scratching down the marble of night-time.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Don’t say too much

or you’ll give it away.

Peter Doig’s paintings are poetic; magical, mysterious, beautiful and different. Canoes and boats feature a lot, it's a good choice: figures isolated on the water,  going to God knows where,while the interface of water and air introduces the notion of an alternative world.

His six characters in ‘Figures in Red Boat’ are suspended between something horribly grotesque and perfect serenity, the explained and the unexplained, this world and some other. They look lost and it’s interesting that the figure on the left seems to be seated outside the boat. An exotic landscape is suggested in the background, but it might be mist; there is sunlight on the figures in a dim grey setting.

Was there a bloody accident, leaving six people somewhere beyond life? Is this a boat into the next world?

Mirage-like; ambiguous and disturbing, it leaves me wanting to write about it; but what? It’s quite brilliant.

Monday, August 21, 2017

I am weave

I am weave,
flows bare bones of the land,
roots, blood my stealth;

streams mountain hair,
hillsides’ ruminations,
meadow fantasies;

bleaches sunlight,
sugars earth,
rips the seas’ tides;

calls clockwork from branches,
buries bones in soil, drags days behind,
stirs the year.