Standoff by the stream

Standoff by the stream

Blueprint for the first Irish Western movie

For Abigail and her hero(n)

Baby in a buggy, her wee fingers
firmly grab a gun.
In lack of a Cattleman Stetson she eyes
her opponent from under a fire-coloured

fringe. All tense and with every fibre
of her being she expects the heron to turn
about in an instant, to give her hell and lead
if she falters pulling the trigger,

but the feathered foe keeps standing
on the edge of the stream, back turned
to girl and world, all eyes for himself

in the ever-passing wetness trying
to remember what it was he let fall
into the Royal Canal: fish or revolver.

(Published in Live Encounters Poetry and Writing June 2020, May 22, 2020)

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Habits of spring

Habits of spring

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Habits of spring

(after Aime Cesaire)

I inhabit a grey pullover claiming
              I’m a pyromaniac.
I inhabit a childhood scar that blurs my vision.
I inhabit a house with bookshelf walls,
I inhabit a bathtub neither filled with the water of lies
               nor with Thoreau’s tonic of wildness.
I inhabit a thirst for the written thought.
I inhabit a cocktail cabinet cave supplied with nibbles,
               spare batteries, writing utensils.
I inhabit a street where neighbours change slowly.
I inhabit a cat’s eye searching the sky for birds
               and the ground for flowers of early spring.


What is there in habits I observe in the mirror
               that inhabits my hall and which I,
               in turn, inhabit too? When sun shoots
               white rays on untrodden asphalt
               and a night fox, spotted on the bottom steps
               of the south end of Ha’penny Bridge, stops
               for the camera or because, lacking pockets,
               she can’t procure the means to cross –
never mind, she inhabits the city.

Habitats or cities – it can all be set afire
               by a torch reaching for my thatched roof
               or a pen signing an eviction notice.
               Burning bookshelves belch smoke
               blurring my vision while I sit
               in my bathtub writing down my thinking,
               spare batteries crackle, hiss and send out
               sparks informing neighbours
               about another slow change.
Birds inhabiting the sky in search for a cat,
               green shoots grow from charred books
               and ashes – a slow change.
A habit of spring.

(Published in erbacce 62, June 20, 2020)

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The shipping forecast

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The shipping forecast


Shannon, Fastnet, Malin, Irish Sea:
offshore, heavy gales at first,
good, occasionally moderate maritime weather
conditions later, transmitting fishermen
onto land, signing up for a quick one in
Falcarragh, Doolin, Glengarriff;
mainly fair in the beginning, then loosing
their national identity by Friday.

Ballinamore, Roosky, Oughterard, free
from heaving and hauling of nets, increasing foam
on stout seas rising, pissed, pay washed away
to publicans. Loading of social systems not expected
to come on trawlers or in life vests, but pinstripes
via Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, motor yachts.


(Published in Live Encounters Poetry and Writing June 2020, May 22, 2020)

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Gaps

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Gaps

(after Francis Harvey’s ‘Gates’)


They don’t like gates in Donegal;
all they are good for is

to lean on, to take a rest, and for a while stare
at gaps in clouds or between hills,

between layered stone walls,
and, at a closer look, blades of long grass.

Gaps where spaces
open before you –

birds and men and sheep
at any given time pass through.

Sometimes for the first time, sometimes
for the last time –

for the gates of heaven
when what is left on the summits

or in the water on the rocks are only
bleached bones.




(Published in Live Encounters Poetry and Writing June 2020, May 22, 2020)

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All those masks

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All those masks


There you were who you wanted to be,
back here you wear the mask of homeland
at the regular table and family dinners;

a workman’s mask once you enter a bus taking you
to the nine-to-five. Put on so often and long
it sometimes seems like capital-R Reality

instead of just another facet.
Below those layers lie deep-pore hills and valleys
another surface; skin-tarpaulin covering

thoughts you barely dare speak to yourself.
You hardly ever lift that cover,
not even when you’re on your own at your desk,

seeing in a paperweight cut glass crystal
all those masks –
the multifaceted faces you deserve to be.



(Published in Live Encounters Poetry and Writing June 2020, May 22, 2020)

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The shapes of words within us

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The shapes of words within us


Premature bushes lure spring birds
with a promise of future homes
before January wind and wet lash down
through no leafage. We witness

the demise, walled-in safely
in our four-walls-fortress
not quite like Europa and Taurus;
from the fire smouldering out a shadow

reaches over as if to shed darkness.
In our garden birdsong lapses
into silence like our crying speech
falls as if to fail. Storm beats around

the shapes of words within us, messages
we have unlearned to convey. We are a dream
interrupted by contempt for drowning strangers,
too self-righteous to catch up with ourselves.

We will carry their portraits
on our retina, will get used to not living
with them, to poetry as only a handful of
words dropped onto a page.


(Published in The Wild Word, In the Blink of an Eye edition, April 2020)

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When silence wakes him

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When silence wakes him

Seventy years on this inhospitable land
and strands not meant for beachcombing, sunbathing,
or meeting a lass, secretly, on a blue moon night;

low drystone walls, a two-room cottage, small fields
mucked with seaweed year after year: an ascetic life
wrested from nature, from barren summits and glens.

Sometimes he wakes to the silence of no wife and children
breathing softly under his roof, only interrupted
by an occasional rush of waves and the gale.

Coast life can wear out a man –
silence wears out nothing if what is left
is an ear-shaped shell washed ashore by the tide.

(Published in North West Words 13, April 26, 2020)

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Pandemic haiku

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Pandemic haiku

Try to stick it out                                                                                                                                The way stalks stick it out in spring                                                                                           Green meadows grow still

 

(Published in Covidioms/Poetry NI, April 30, 2020)

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Fire over Dun Aengus

Fire over Dun Aengus

I remember gorse growing
rank along the east coast railway
and the sky full of fire over Dun Aengus
on a mild Atlantic afternoon in spring
when we hastened over
coarse gravely ground, uphill,
to see the sunset from that old ring
of stones on Inis Mór;
when the isle seemed authentic
despite our presence.

(Published in The High Window, September 5, 2020)

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Curating the silence

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Curating the silence

Icy puddles reflected a low, orange afternoon sun when I entered the woods,
horses had been out and about earlier treading

on frozen ground. On a slope in the fields it was almost silent –
the birds’ chirp got disturbed by humming

from a nearby autobahn only. I thought of how to curate the silence;
my breath started blooming in the cold

as the sun sank behind a distant, disused powerplant I could spot
through undergrowth. Rain set in startling

mud-brown puddles and ending all reflection there
had ever been. I sought

shelter, but what I found were fungi growing
on mouldered wood

and in-trodden foliage of a bygone autumn. At the end of the teens
of the twenty-first century

I can no longer fool myself into believing nature
to mirror the goodness of being.

(Published in The High Window, September 5, 2020)

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