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.

Spirals, Turnings at Newgrange

The sun enters the passage;
I meet him on my way;
he touches my head
like water.

I emerge into day;
in the chamber
the sun dwells a moment
on my earlier impressions.

I return after the day
to elaborate my carving,
my spirals,
my perpetual turning.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Murmuration of Starlings


Starlings swarming,
flashing inward, ballooning outward,
spiralling, spilling silver-bellied,
undulating darkness and luminescence,
rolling white underside upwards,
spooling, imploding, swallowing, exploding,
millioning out over the roofs, ribboning up,
each a light bulb switching, flicking,
flickering into unison, condensing into a score,
a billowing script,
a symphony inscribing itself across the heavens.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A colon-wrenching verse

When the alphabet was blown from the branches
and commas were sitting bare,
a question mark swooped like an eagle
to carry one off to its lair.

My daughter released an exclamation mark
which got tangled up in her hair,
then a full stop arrived from out of the blue
to end the sordid affair. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Two lovers were

Two lovers were waves of a gentle sea,
one on the other:
two crests, three hollows
surging, rolling, breaking
in ecstatic unison
in the red-orange glow
of a setting sun
that once sat on their bedside table.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I was in a hawthorn,
trapped in its branches;
all arms, hands and fingers
prevailing on me not to struggle.

I was an exhibit in a jar,
ragged and shock-eyed,
praying for a passer-by
where ravens perch still for hours.

I was a storm-torn tatter
caught in another’s stitching;
my cries drifting into the air
nonchalant like dandelion seeds.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A small but not insignificant story of Dublin

I’m standing under a tree, out of a  shower,
and when it’s over, I stay there, under the tree.
A police car arrives, they’re wondering what I’m doing:
they’ve received a report ( I saw the people in the house opposite looking):
a man’s standing under a tree on Leinster Lane,
he’s wearing a “suspicious raincoat”.

Suspicious raincoat!
My Dad’s (God be good to him) white mack!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A dog called Goya

A dog called Goya.

That oh so normal expression
mired in what?

The morass
in which, everyday, I cannot find my legs

and ominous shadow
that lurks, always, beyond reach;

the equivocations
designed to drown.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


                                            The whole countryside’s afluster:

a tree is screaming,the meadows quivering,
boulders have clapped hands over their ears.

The word is that the stars have been burgled,
a stream’s stolen the silver,
and a cave, (whisper it), has swallowed the moon.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Goodbye You

If I look back, you will dwindle.
You standing on the pier,
waving from the harbour,

Goodbye you
from kiss to hand,
to harbour,

The wake widens
and ocean swallows
harbour, town,

SurVision: new online poetry magazine

SurVision, Issue 1, is now online. This new biannual poetry magazine will publish Irish and international neo-surrealist poetry in English. The editor, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, will consider work by unpublished as well as celebrated writers, and aims, very admirably, to keep the waiting time to no more than two months. It’s a generous read and the quality of the work is high.  Find Issue 1 at . Submissions for Issue 2 are currently being considered. 

Issue 3 of AvantAppal(achia) is now live: see Like Survision AvantAppal(achia) is open to international submissions in English.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fleas, nipples and an alternative to 'get your kit off'

The 17th century poet, Robert Herrick, clergy-man and bachelor, said a lot more than his prayers:

Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast 

Have ye beheld (with much delight)

A red rose peeping through a white?

Or else a cherry (double graced)

Within a lily? Centre placed?

Or ever marked the pretty beam

A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?

Or seen rich rubies blushing through

A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?

So like to this, nay all the rest,

Is each neat niplet of her breast.

John Donne, very smartly, uses a very small creature to address his not so tiny lust in 'On a Flea on his Mistress’s Bosom’, and starts,

“MADAM, that flea which crept between your breasts 

I envied, that there he should make his rest; 

The little creature’s fortune was so good 

That angels feed not on so precious food.”

I particularly  like his poetic take on the modern ‘get your kit off in 

Elegies XX. To his Mistress Going to Bed

“ Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glittering,        

But a far fairer world encompassing. 

Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear, 

That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopp’d there. 

Unlace yourself…………………………….”   

Now, would I have the nerve for this:    
Elegy XVIII: Love’s Progress

Her swelling lips; to which when we are come,
 We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,

 For they seem all: there sirens’ songs, and there

 Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;

 There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,

 The remora, her cleaving tongue doth dwell.

 These, and the glorious promontory, her chin

 O’erpast; and the strait Hellespont between

 The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,

 (Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)

 Succeeds a boundless sea, but that thine eye

 Some island moles may scattered there descry;

 And sailing towards her India, in that way

 Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay;

 Though thence the current be thy pilot made,

 Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed,

 Thou shalt upon another forest set,

 Where some do shipwreck, and no further get.

 When thou art there, consider what this chase

 Misspent by thy beginning at the face.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Running Away

I can't say for sure that I ever planned to run away as such, but, as a boy, I often thought about taking up permanent abode in my tree fort. It sounds very quaint now, closer to Tom Sawyer than to any child living today, but with a stash of crab apples, sorrel leaves and an occasional foray back to our kitchen to pinch some of my mother's rhubarb tart, I could do very nicely.
Tree fort was something of a misnomer; there was no fortification, but there was plenty of cover, and with a arsenal of stones and a catapult, I could defend my position indefinitely. And, as for composing a poem.......well that's just poetic license. 

Running Away

He ran in his Sunday clothes across Casey’s field, past Bully’s Acre, out over the line to the tree above the stream. Climbed it and sat all afternoon among the leaves’ shivery dampness, on frozen branches, under clouds bulging rain.

With crab-apples falling, dumbed time, to the grass below, he promised he’d stay there forever. Let them come, swarm beneath the tree, he’d not breathe; no matter how they called, he would not answer. He composed a poem:

There is a place for me
up among the branches
of an crab-appled lord,
ivy-draped; golden treasures
mix with stars of leaves.

There inside the elbow
with autumn breezes
close by shoulder,
quiet as an owl,
I long to be.

But two hours later, when the houses’ yellow windows were calling tea-time across the fields, sorrel leaves and crab apples were promising a particularly sour tomorrow; since he was very hungry, he went home. 

Monday, June 19, 2017



We were lovers;
now I'm off
and you're packed away;
you folded up small.

So with curving spine
and arms belting knees
tight under chin, I roll on;
a wheel from an accident.

Ahead there is space,
to wander in,
to kick up dust;
space where fires won't burn.