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.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Love Poem

What good is poetry

 if I cannot lay a path of moonlight
on waters I’ve so recently stirred with anger,

release blossoms into the air
to fly, butterflies around us,

pour the exaltation of larks into our glasses
 so we may  drink ourselves ecstatic,

play sunlight on the guitar
while reading the notes on the stream

fashion a hair-band from a rainbow
to give to you on the waves that find their rest in happiness,

funnel these wishes into the setting on your ring?
What good is poetry if I cannot say I love you?

Monday, June 12, 2017

The baby in the tree

The baby in the tree
is screaming.

High above the pathway
near the black tips
of the sycamore branches
he is gaping,
white membraned luminous.

How did he get there?

He blew there in the wind;
it took him
like a flag from his cot
till he was stretched
across the boughs
like the wings of a bat.

And who sees him?

I do;
all his hopeless writhing,
too high for the passerby.
And his screams:
too high,
too high for the passerby.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


As pipes catch the foxhunt and the whistle the blackbird, the bodhrán catches the sounds of country-life. A good bodhrán player plays like he's left the window open on life long ago.



Tick of spokes
Tap of bones
Swish of rushes
Slap of stones.

Needles flicking reel-rhythm,
Stitches mesmerized into obedience.

Scythe in the grass,
Shovel in the clay,
Flail on the corn,
Pitchfork hay.

Saturday, June 3, 2017


We take it for granted. And then comes dying, we stand around the bed watching the work that is breathing. And you think my father is dying and he must work; work harder than he has all his life. How merciless is death that makes you toil to pass through its gate.


Now my father's life
is breathing.
Heavy work.

He has already slipped away
to be alone
while we outside
mark every breath
like lap timers.

Now come the spaces:
a breath
is an isolated thing.

Finally one breath
arrives alone.

I feel a soul has left,

but just then
I see, so clearly,
it was hope

that slipped out of the room.