Tuesday, December 31, 2019

St Féichín's Warning

As hare whiskers taut, eyes bulging
he scours the mainland
in the grey hour of evening
when demons go searching for currency.

Sitting sentinel on day’s shore-line,
grabbing at the seen and the half-seen,
reining in phantasms,
deciphering the commotions of molecules,

he senses, suddenly, a juddering in the air
from around some looming presence 
– an approaching darkness, darker than night – 
and an ice-bolt hits him.

With the flesh creeping along his flanks,
he kicks back his hind legs
and bounds through the tussocks,
to the church in the hollow.

The bell’s baleful clonk, strange at this hour,
draws shadowy figures out of the night
into a bedraggled huddle
standing anxiously in the sanctuary of the church.

Féichín, with one last tug on the rope,
and hare’s wild gaze in his eyes,
turns to them gravely
to announce the arrival of Satan on Omey.

And on that ominous note, happy new year. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wonder at a City Pond

Mallards, water hens, swans; all round-bellied on the pond
or rotated 180, peaky-arsed upwards, delving for food.

Down there the arrow-headed, sleek-sided, taper-tailed
dart between beaks, hooks and gobble-jaws.

The magnificent refinement of bodies here at a city pond;
we strike the pavement to move along

as a flock of gulls, maybe fifty or sixty, swoop low over the water,
cutting the air; blades, slivers, silver clavicles.

I can't help feeling after the breakdown of the recent climate conference in Madrid, that it's time for us to insist through the ballot box that breakdowns are no longer acceptable, that representatives should be locked in until resolutions are found. It's gone too late, and too catastrophic to be accepting less.
And, as for those who don't accept climate change as a reality, we should insist on their participation; whether accepted or not, the implications are too great for anyone to be taking risks with our children's futures.
With the greatest hopes for enlightenment among our leaders, let's hope for a great 2020, as in vision and the new year. M

Sunday, December 22, 2019

On a clear moonlit night I fell asleep in a field
and dreamt I was sleeping there.

All night a terror of being vulnerable
stood just beyond the pool of my dreaming,

 immediately outside my defences,
even my waking.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

No People

The hunch-doubled thorns,
ingrown pantries
the moss-stone walls

The nettle-cracked doorway,
the cloud curtained windows

The stone-sheltered air
bumbled still,
the submerged garden ridges

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Canal Vision

In the dim light of a December evening
swans, bright as struck matches,
are gliding over the oarweed of traffic lights
on their way to Harold’s Cross Bridge.

Ghosts on winter’s dark glass,
blind to the world’s commotion,
they pass without trace,
blind even to their own beauty.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Market, Emily Square, 60's

pecking in the litter of clothes,
scarved heads bobbing
on the spume

for there were more coins than notes.

their uppers and stitch-work
bent this way and that,
fingers inserted to the toe

for they had more copper than silver.

back and back and back,
that incessant wrangling
over threadbare rewards

for their’s was then far less than plenty.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Crucifixion Scene

I’m struck by the basketry of bones containing the thorax;
that unexpected view of internal anatomy,
a map of pain.

I think of Frida Kahlo, the broken ionic column that supported her,
the deer struck with so many arrows,
all contained within her defiance.

And then I see that the bones are not containment,
they are radiant;
they radiate strength.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019



clouds of shifting



forever passing by.




always assumed

you were going somewhere.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Love Song

Here I am, grey haired and lonely,
singing out to sea in a voice that cannot compete
with the thunder of the tide;
yet still I persist, for nature has shaped me to it.

And if, by some unlikely chance, my song drew a mate,
she would almost certainly take umbrage,
be indignant at first sight;
but, as I’ve already pointed out, this is my only way of being.

So here I am, cursed to an activity
that degrading me, promises only further degradation;
churning out a song
that the waves themselves contrive to suppress.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Spent the night driving
my wheel-less car, light-less
to dawn’s road-less gravel.

Day, eventually projecting
itself in the round,
revealed the signposts,
all written in an unknown script.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Impressionist Poem

Ingots of light melt,
raft my bottle green worries
like water weed,
fill my eyes
with dizzying effervescence.

Break the seal of water,
unravel its fantasies;
the world is exhilaration;
see it
as water does.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Beyond Lace

She has just the dress, it’s short and floats
around her thighs but is tight at the waist.
She sees mens’ eyes on her when she wears it,
never acknowledges, but knows she has captivated  
them for a minute, maybe more: an electric shock
from brain to crotch after she has passed. 
She’ll put on the clear stockings with lace borders 
holding them snug around her upper thighs, that hand-like 
grip on her skin. She will leave her cunt unclothed 
under her dress, like breathing, a gag removed, sexy, 
herself, the way she knows she can be, is.

She will sit with her thighs crossed, the lace 
showing just beneath the hem of her dress,
her bare sex six inches above. How they would
strain to see beyond that lace, how their minds
would race with the faintest glimpse of her bare
flesh exposed for a moment with the re-crossing 
of her legs, the smallest shift of her body.

A drop lingers before falling from a leaf. Collecting
water from the blade, it quivers but holds, holds and 
holds till one molecule arrives that is too much to hold.
She knows about anticipation, how the infinitesimally 
small movement can turn a man’s mind, she has 
watched the drops and she has watched the men.

She will sit and talk and hold her drink between thumb
and forefinger as though it was a trinket.
She will allow her dress to rise to the place where
the sliver of her skin will tighten the mens’ penises; 
she will be chatty and smiling, occasionally shifting her 
thighs, looking into the men’s faces with charming 
nonchalance. Her eroticism brushing lightly against all
the exchanges of the evening, she will be utterly seduced
by her own sexiness.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Discovery

Many years after he had died,
I found the smell of my father’s office in his briefcase.
Pipe-smoke, cigarettes, pencil-parings, paper;
not just his office but part of himself
still in existence after all this time.

When I was small I would ask to sit there, beside him,
in the heat, the smoke, that mixture of smells. 
He would say if you’re quiet; I would promise
until, minutes later, I talked too much or stirred too much
and, well, I was ejected.

I opened the case to an assemblage of atoms 
unique to my childhood,to the sixties even, 
put there by my father and now dissipating 
like an art treasure in the sunlight,
the last of my father turning to nothing.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Great I






Next week these will be on the lawn. Package them and send to the greatest president ever. Write him that his position is great, but he is snow; same as snow everywhere.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

My Advice This November Day

Don’t be too fond of owning,  my little love,
As you fly;
Your mother’s concertina has had many owners
And there’ll be many more.

Let your head be full of the magic of flying
And happiness will be yours;
Be light as a leaf  among the millions,
Such exhilaration.

This flight is your life, darling,
Unique, incredible, finite.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Hat on a Man.

A man donned a hat that shaded his eyes;
in consequence he was never the same man again.

Through whatever shadows he walked, light or dark,
he was hidden within his own shade, and knew it.

From then on people remarked on the man that nobody knew;
and he was forced to comply.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

St Feichín Takes His Followers To Omey

Continuing adventures of St Feichín of Omey:

St Feichín Takes His Followers To Omey

Feichín in the wooded Glen of Fore
declared that men must shun trees,
‘for’, said he, ‘sinners thrive where rain
does not flay the hides of men.’

 ‘Let us go to Omey where trees have shrivelled to stone,
where thorns are the sea driven ahead of wild winds
and skies of  gorse will lash our backs.
Let us go far from trees who throw their shade on our repentance.’

So they built their monastery on the island
where the winds rode in on the dragons of the ocean,
where the rains fell incessantly, nails, even out of  a clear winter’s night
and their ears rang with the booming of souls drowning in eternity.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Whale Song

When I was young
night cleared away the countryside;
there was nothing till morning.

Sometimes a dog barked;
barked into the void;
that bark carried forever.

When I hear whale song,
I hear the void;
I hear childhood terror.


Torn from their place,
bunches of blood-vessels;
roses up-rooted
soon blown.

Up-rooted for their ground;
left lying
fade quicky; up-rooted
blown roses.

knows its ground, left rooted;
dries quickly
torn from that place.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Encroaching onto the landscape

In leisure

                     Forgetful of the Gods




How those soul-sodden fields must detest us

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


The beach was a flood of  sunlight.
We, alone on that long stretch of strand, a dozed
to the clock of the tide marking afternoon time,
sibilance rolling into sonorousness with each wave’s passing.

I remember you walked along the water’s edge,
your white cotton dress a fishing net for the sun
and you were dazzling.

When today I hear a tide’s clamour resounding around a bay,
hear each wave’s commotion echoing into the distance,
and consider the millions of stones turning over,
the endlessness of that beauty strikes hard

against that momentary vision of you,
dressed in light,
playing on the edge of eternity
as the tide drummed an afternoon’s hours away.

Sunday, October 27, 2019


the blossoms,
elegant little ballerinas,
red as rowan,
bright as Christmas.

August, the bushes
luxuriant along the roadside,
filled with the baritone
drone of a thousand bees.

One blossom, torn
through the sepals,
erupts on the tongue
with the sweetness of honey.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Green into Grey

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

Those still heads
Belied their stirrings in the murk;
They were swimming,
I was thinking of you.

All day long
Shadows mutely threading that depth,
And they were ghostly,
I was remembering.

Then, when the sun
At last tore the mist from the trees
They were gleaming,
And I dreamt of you.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The After-Mass Men

Remember those figures by the church wall 
Sculpted in after-mass conversations:
Blather-tattooed men
That hung there by their jackets;
Museums with pockets,
Pockets full of knives, pipes and matches.

Stone men:
Pre-Christians defiling Sabbaths
With their Saturday conversations.
Coats would be wrapped against them
As though they were sudden showers of hail.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Only Once Since.

in memory of my mother

When, on an April afternoon,
the countryside was bathed
in pristine  sunlight
And the fields were roaring their green
And the sky above was shifting along
with the most breath-taking speed,
I saw you on the river
And you were happiness
Complete and utter.

I recognized you
Because you would have known that was the way
To send the message.
And, there and then, both of us knew
You would never 
 send another.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Poems Are Past.

The poems are past;
goodnight, au revoir.

And life, handed over like a cheque;
good luck, all the best.

Still: an adjective for a man ?
Still ?

Think of rain, bucketing down,
sunshine caught in its strings;

that's how I think of you:
a rainstorm in June; gentle subversive .

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Angel and St Feichín

Readers of my blog will be getting familiar with St Feichín by now; I, myself, have taken a great fondness to this 7th century Irish saint. 

He’s got all the powers of a super-hero without the noise of contemporary technology around him; he’s the perfect, early Christian, Jedi master. But better than that, he had all the wonderful traits: abstinent, pleasant, charitable, powerful, emaciated, just-worded, honest, pious, rich in sense, godly, affectionate, discreet, opportune, wise, prayerful………………………………………………..( from a medieval document via a seventeenth century rewriting); yet he was wonderfully contrary, when called back to confront St Ciaran, he walked backwards so as not to look him in the face. And, guess what, he died from a plague, he himself called down.

So here's my version of his call to convert the pagans of Omey.

The Angel and St Feichín

One night a very large bird settled on the roof of the cell in which St Feichín was sleeping; this event occurred at Easdara in the present day County Sligo.

Still there at dawn, the brilliance of the early sun reflecting off its magnificent plumage caused a crowd to gather. And as the morning progressed the crowd swelled further, to such a size, in fact, that their tumult distracted the saint who was at the time in a transport brought on by the deepest meditation. And so, it was not with little annoyance that he emerged from his hut to inquire as to why such a large crowd had gathered in that spot.

When the extraordinary bird saw Feichín, it started up a jabbering that amazed all those who were there. Feichín, for his part, recognizing the bird as a gannet, and knowing that they never travelled so far inland, moved closer to listen and soon found himself conversing in a language, the like of which he had no previous knowledge.

All marvelled at the bird: its gleaming white plumage, the extent of its wings whose span was greater than the width of the cell, the fierce grey eyes which never ventured from the saint’s face, its insistent natter.

The conversation continued for two hours; an engagement between man and bird that had the mouths of all present gaping like the black caves in the hills to the south. Never once were they deflected by the milling of the crowd around them nor stop to wet their throats nor, even once, did the flow of their communication wane.

And then, quite suddenly, around noon, to the amazement of all, the gannet rose with a great pumping of its wings, followed by Feichín who rose from the ground like a leaf gathered up in a gale. Into the sky, side by side, growing smaller and smaller, eventually two black dots like stars that went out, the gannet and Feichín disappeared into the clouds travelling in a southwest direction.

All those that gathered fell to their knees and, as one voice, emitted a howling that was partly extolment of the greatness of God and Feichín, partly lamentation at the taking of their saint.

But it was that same day that Feichín landed on the brightly flowered sward of Omey, and it is since that day that the people of Omey have their faces turned to the one God.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Flight Mechanism

I found a bird
a pair of wings,
still feathered,
on an axis of miniature bones.

Only yesterday,
this anatomical array
imparted the capability of flight.

Head, legs, belly
I found it,
like a daVinci investigation,
a perfect isolation of the relevant parts.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Life, trains you choose

Life, trains you choose:
hop on, hop off, forget to;
and still no matter how many
you take, you’re only ever in
one carriage,
only ever in the one you’re in.

We could string this out, couldn’t we:
long-distance, short-distance, circle lines;
the country singers have done it all already;
it does strike me though,
the more trains you take,
the less direction you have.

Berry Picking

On a windy day I could hear the conversations speeding through the phone wires:
Roscommon to Dublin, Roscommon to Galway, the Dublin express thrumming through.
I would stand below them,  listening, waiting for one word to fall, mercury-drop perfect,
down past the briars, dog roses, blackthorns, elders, into the can of the young boy’s ear.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


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 .

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Inheriting The Land.

  Emigration seems to be a never-ending feature of Irish life. This poem  is rooted in the Ireland of my childhood.  The boat then had the effect a little death for those left behind.

Inheriting The Land.

Here the sea is no more than a sigh in a shell,
conversations speed past, pole high, Dublin to Galway
and music is the wind whistling beneath a door.
Slightness describes Summer's step,
stonework its skies; a little light drips
from its edges but it's falling from a miser's hand.
Across the fields the church, within its necklace
of dead congregations, is a rusty hinge;
a place filled with a century's stillness.
And the ivy-choked trees lean closer together
like old men guessing at each others' words.

If you were to fly over these patchwork hills,
along the hedgerows and through the lightless haggarts,
you'd never meet a soul. The old farmers are sitting
in their twilight kitchens, their families standing
on the mantelpiece in the other room that's never used
with faces tanned beneath American skies.
Only the din of crows seeps into that silence;
crows more numerous than leaves on the sycamores,
always bickering, hogging the light,
building their cities, staking their inheritance.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Biblical Truth

Don’t look to a rich man to loosen anyone’s chains;
wealth has seldom been amassed with empathy for the impoverished.
Crumbs from the rich man’s table are still the staple;
it’s as it’s always been: easier for a camel to get though the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Plenty Jazz No Poetry

All the words  rushing,
propelling themselves, toppling over each other
like water through a sluice,
conveying no meaning
beyond their own chaotic flow.

Stand there with a bucket refusing to fill;
the words raining out,
ricochetting with that uncontainable energy
away from shape
like iron filings defying a magnet.

Where What

I am in a place I don’t recognize.
There is a country that has left me.

I don’t have a compass.
And if I did I do not believe it would find

There is no point in yelling
this far out to sea.
Besides, I appear to have lost my voice.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Heartlands Writers Event Cancelled

Unfortunately ‘The Heartlands Writers’ event due to take place this Saturday, 14th Sept, has had to be cancelled.  I am hopeful that one or more literary events will take its place  in  the coming year. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Reminder: Workshops and Readings in Roscommon


A celebration of writers from the Hidden Heartlands with an afternoon of masterclass workshops followed by an evening’s miscellany of words and music in Roscommon Arts Centre.

2pm: Registration
2.15pm – 3pm: Readings and Workshop Introductions.
3.15pm – 5pm: Workshops

The Arts of Metaphor: Acclaimed poet Jane Clarke will look at the role of metaphor in creative writing. Participants are invited to come with a favourite poem or a few lines of prose where they find the metaphor/s exciting, intriguing or moving.
Write On: Author Brian Leyden will bring his expertise to guide and encourage participants to write with a fresh eye, a clearer sense of personal style, and a new confidence.
Sculpting a Poem from the Rough Block: Michael O’Dea, poet and teacher of creative writing, will facilitate writers in the fining of their work and follows the complete process of a writing a poem.

7pm – 8.30pm: Literary Miscellany.  Enjoy a series of readings from Jane, Brian and Michael interspersed with musical interludes.

SATURDAY 14th SEPTEMBER | €15 Workshops | €15 Literary Miscellany | €25 Workshops & Literary Miscellany

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Me Today

My brain is on a pole approximately 80cm from my head;
there’s a dull ache in its place, and my thoughts are crossing the gap
                         at greatly reduced speeds.

My eyes are transmitting from a station on a nearby hill;
everything is drawn with broad black outline, so each object is more its shape
                                                                                   than itself.

My ears, however, are firmly in their place, and appear to have evolved
to the point that I am aware of collisions in the remotest regions of the universe;
            this, to me, is particularly unsettling.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


Dusty light falling through the trees,
their apple-laden branches,
settling on the tall grass, thriving nettles,
is sealing the orchard in a kind of torpor.

The fat apples, awaiting the picking that will not come,
avow, as light the darkness around it,
our transience:
time and purpose.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

We pray for the monks on High Island

High island pitching tossing, appearing disappearing,
in the dragon waves angered, now awake, risen from their silent deep.
I saw its sail, Féichín’s church rising falling through the flailing rain,
and him, a cross, arms extended; eyes, ovals of pain, elongated upwards;
mouth, grotesque black hollow gouged deep in weathered shale.
We prayed for them: six monks floundering in the ocean’s thrashing jaws;
that the weight of their sins would not drag them to their deaths;
that the light of God would shine and the saint would climb, extend his hands,
a rope, pull the others from the cleansing rage; that the light would split the sky,
send Lucifer’s demons  scurrying out beyond the margins of the sea.

Monday, August 26, 2019


I am here, I remind myself slightly drunken.
I am; but I am not the same I am.
I look inside this evening to find the change;
I look inside the corners, the furniture,
And  am decided that the change is
The wish to search.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reading AT The Edge

Reading AT The Edge  this Tuesday, 27th August, in the Johnston Library, Cavan will be poets: Jessamine O’Connor from Roscommon, Glen Wilson from Fermanagh, Jackie O’Gormon  from Athlone and Cavan's new writer in residence, Anthony J Quinn.  There will be an open mic after the readings.  It's the latest in a series which has been featuring excellent readers for a number of years now thanks to the support of Cavan Arts Office . The event is at 6.30pm.