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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Writer’s block

Nothing lands on this plain;
nothing moves
but its seeping emptiness.

Goggled pilot
high above
this snow-gagged wilderness,

loop or spin,
I leave no shadow;
the paper grins.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Swallows performed by Garonne

Elaine O'Dea's song Swallows performed by Elaine and Elisabeth, together Garonne.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Trees at the Rath*

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.

* Fairy ring, fort

Wednesday, August 2, 2017



When the starlings were the full of the sky,
we stood, rooted, gob-smacked,
exhilarated beyond words,
knowing that no air-show
nor any natural phenomenon ever compared.

Next morning I opened the back door
to find a knot of feathers on the ground,
a starling as far from flight as could be imagined,
as dull as the stone
that once blazed an arc across the heavens.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Cailleach and the Púca

The Cailleach* stole apples from her rival Bríde and stored them till they were rosy-cheeked merry. They were in this condition when the Cailleach’s goat found them; and soon after he, in similar condition, jumped clean over the fence, and went careering through the countryside.

When she went in search of her goat, the first man the Cailleach met along the road remarked that a rabbit had stopped him and winked. A second met a hound who asked the way to Shrule, while a third, dishevelled and breathless, said a horse offered him a lift home, and carried him two miles out of his way.

For a year she trawled the countryside, hearing stories of a rampaging shape-shifter, till at last, the night after Samhain, she came in sight of her own field where an old man, sitting on a rock, eating an apple, greeted her.

They chatted happily for an hour or two on matters as diverse as the husbandry of goats and the tastiness of apples. There was a white patch on his meg that drew her attention over and over; there was something about it. And suddenly she knew. Like lightening she sprang on him, but he was swift and rolled from beneath her; in an instant, a hound was bounding into the distance with the most almighty great leaps.

The chase engaged, Cailleach flinging stones that lodged on hilltops, the hound sometimes treading on them as they rolled under his paws. They circumvented the whole of Ireland in a matter of days, leaving the landscape re-shaped behind them. It never ends. Each November storms circle the land from Dingle to Derry, Dundalk to Ring in a never ending cycle, Samhain to Lá Bríde; the hound howling, the Cailleach hot on his tail, stealing light from the sky with her never-ending hail of stones.

You can verify this account if you wish. The stones at Killeen Cormac are among the stones she has thrown; the hound’s footprints are in a boulder on Brewel Hill. The apples the goat scattered are the orbs of energy often appearing, still scattered, in photographs. The Púca’s antics are known all over Ireland and many are still recorded by unfortunates walking quiet roads late at night. Puck Fair is the yearly commemoration of the shape-shifter Púca*. And those great circles over Ireland, seen nightly on weather forecasts from September to February, are the chase as seen from the moon.

The Cailleach is a Celtic deity, goddess of winter, also associated with earth formations, changing of the seasons, animals. She feature in many legends, in particular stories of her rivalry with Bríde, goddess of spring.
Púca (Phouka, Pooka) is a malevolent/mischievous/benevolent shapeshifter from Celtic folklore; a bringer of good, more often bad luck.