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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To profess love

To profess love

Gone, the red brick                                                                                                                 pavement on Grafton Street –                                                                                                      gone.

Yet, the sombre corners                                                                                                             around Four Courts still                                                                                                                      in place.

English ghosts behind the red                                                                                                      brick facades edge off as a modern                                                                                              haste takes over.

There is still that seedy elegance                                                                                         MacNeice was writing,                                                                                                              scoffing and sneering about.

The Liffey brown and grey                                                                                                               and the sky’s the latter too –                                                                                                            too often.

Days are not soft to forget –                                                                                                         tough enough to remember the bullets                                                                                            in Clonee, the Liberties, Drumcondra,

vermin pushed through side lanes                                                                                                    to the precinct. Still there is time                                                                                                     for thought –

by trade and by free will,                                                                                                                  and I stroll around with a smile                                                                                                        on my lips to find

her heritage remains. Georgian                                                                                                 Dublin still stands still –                                                                                                                   red brick upon brick.

 

(Published in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine, July 30, 2019)

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Child

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Child

Wind in the leaves is the lilt                                                                                                                of lullabies half-recalled underwater.

Time leaves ever more traces                                                                                                              of her tiny feet on your body.

Willow cascading down gives over                                                                                                    its grief and tears to the river

the way you have tried over                                                                                                             and over again for years on end.

Child stretches, reaches up for your hand                                                                                 every day at the embankment

but cannot connect through surface                                                                                        tension separating streambed and father.

 

(Published in ROPES Literary Journal, Issue 28, July 1, 2020)

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DUIR, Inchiquin Valley

DUIR, Inchiquin Valley

(for John Walsh)

 

Silence is part of the enterprise                                                                                         sometimes. It is a space to grow,                                                                                                 space to be, my pace dictated

by the world around. That crown of mine                                                                              slightly tilted in the wind, I stand                                                                                              firmly rooted looking down through hawthorn hedges

and over machine-baled fields –                                                                                                     dry hay rolls arranged in scented rows.                                                                                         My view from here a journey

into everywhere and to an abandoned cottage                                                                                at the wayside where a blacksmith                                                                                             shoed horses many circles of growth ago.

The ghost of a way of life lies                                                                                                           like a shadow on the land.                                                                                                                But sometimes sky clears; here

rhythms are much slower, only an occasional flick                                                                        of swallows. All my friends come                                                                                                       to welcome me home at dusk,

their chirping telling which colour was the sun.                                                                     While they gather in my shadow, I suck life                                                                                  out of meadow and wood glade soil.

I have witnessed the joy, the screams,                                                                                            the kisses and cuts – M + S – ,                                                                                                        and the growling of a feral mother cat and wind

rock me to sleep. I dream of tomorrow:                                                                                another mute journey into the green and blue.                                                                     Silence is part of the enterprise.

 

(Published in Fly on the Wall Magazine, ‘Identity’ issue, April 10, 2020)

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