When there’s a crisis

There’s always a couple of leaders competing for affection:

The one in splendid garb

praises the survivors for surviving.

assures them they are loved, admired, revered,

tells them they’re a magnificent example to others

says this over and over:

‘because of you, we have hope

because of you,

we will be stronger than ever.’

II

The one in the crumpled suit

Praises the survivors for surviving,

Warns them their war isn’t over

The worst is yet to come

unless we fight to the death

unless we look into the eyes of the enemy

steadfastly renew, recover, and rebuild

before it is too late.

and cries

‘Now is the time for action,

not relaxation,

no patting each other on the back.

We must turn the tide.’

You cannot lock me down

I see the stars,

You cannot lock me down.

I spy the sky,

You cannot lock me down.

I think my way

You cannot lock me down.

I dream my world,

You cannot shut my imagination into kilometres.

I travel the universe, by day and by night

I fly over mountains and oceans, cities and streams

I am out and about

Working where I have always worked

In the office of hearts

Sweeping leaves from your way

W

Writing my laws

Without restraint

You cannot lock me down.

Midnight

The dog wants to go out

The cat is staying in

The kettle’s growing cold

The birthday’s story told.

Underneath the fruit bowl,

Or was it in the fridge

Perhaps beside the oven

There’s probably a coven.

In the middle of the night

There are stars burning bright

And cobwebs do their work

For spiders home to lurk.

The dog’s come in again,

The cat’s gone out to hunt.

After slumber has sped past

There’ll be tea for breakfast.

I am a ghost

an alien

an unidentified flying object.

I believe in me.

I am a miracle,

a transfiguration,

an apparition,

I believe in me.

I am salvation

resurrection

an assumption

I believe in me.

Have I introduced you to the ghost that came to live in Cork before the flood?

The one who settled down …

The one who will come again …

Quality Assurance

No self-respecting poet would ever write the words ‘quality assurance’ in a poem
unless the poem was designed to win an award from the health and safety officer.

Only a desperate composer of verse would droop their pen down into such stale ink
and think they might get away with being mistaken for an ironic metaphoric genius.

‘Quality’ is for beginners in poetry – an abstract expression that begs to stir the soul
to life, without breathing a syllable with guts or garters, and delights people asleep.

As for ‘Assurance’, rhyming with insurance, half -rhyme to insouciance, indifference
personified, the word doesn’t even dance, or dalliance, eat ants, glance or entrance.

However, put them together, send them on a date, engage them, marry the buckoes
– that way lies a turd of a turgid teaser, the type elephants lay for hyenas to admire.

I should shave more often

It’s not good enough to say to myself

“I have soft stubble … No one cares … It’s my hair …”

I can do better.

Every time I excuse myself I nurture a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t I?

“It doesn’t matter” means it doesn’t matter to me what others see, what they suspect, or even what they imagine.

Whom do I remind you of?

Whom do I look like?

Whom do you take me for?

The trouble with being curious is that your curiosity is limited only by your imagination.

“What do I look like under stubble?”

If I asked an average abstract painter that question, what average abstract answer would I get?

How would it differ from the answer you’d have given if I’d asked you this morning over coffee on a Zoom Meeting?

If a balloon loses air in a toy room before the party starts, does it make much of a difference to the adults?

It’s not good enough to say to myself

It doesn’t matter any more.”

70 lines for 70 years

Paul O’Mahony reads his poem.

The year I was born was good,

it rained, the sun shone,

and there was snow on the peaks of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

The following year was bad

though earthworms flourished, corn crakes called,

and more books were sold than ever in the history of humanity.

In nineteen hundred and fifty two,

I escaped the threat of extreme unction.

The Quiet Man was found Waiting For Godot

Another journey towards maturity and posterity.

II

Remember Christmas

Miracle of life and death

A butterfly flapped.

III

Mary Oliver wrote “You don’t have to be good

My parents showed “It’s best to live the way you should

Conscience was a fashionable word,

Contrition was the world,

Confession insisted upon.

Surrounded by Holy Water fonts,

it was a miracle I grew up in Limerick

among books.

In those days, someone had to match Christmas cards with envelopes.

IV

I remember meeting Picasso’s woman.

– perhaps that was Dublin –

I’m sure she had three heads.

Five heads flowed along the banks of the Shannon

Frank the Wisdom, Patricia the Joy, David the Magnificence, Deirdre the Talent

Peter the Intelligence.

Siblings under one roof

Chislers

V

Resurection is
much more attractive than birth.
Rising from the dead.

Recovery is
a form of absolution
– a revolting cry

Recognition is
a quintessence that collides
while opening eyes

I stand on the shoulders of great mothers and grand fathers

The example

The permission

The encouragements

This is for you to consider.

“It’s your eternity”.

Chapters of dialogue alongside the AGA in the kitchen

– like a primary school for the rest of my days.

VI

There were Nurses marching outside the maternity ward of Bart’s Hospital, as he was born.

An amniocentesis in Homerton Hospital.

A whirlpool for my head

The nurse from Manilla crushed under the weight of a fainting father to be.

Moleskines

Filaments for the chronicle

So many fragments to stitch together.

VII

Let’s celebrate the glory days of life
No matter where the gold and silver lie
and put aside those thurd’rous hours of strife
until they shed fresh light upon our cries.
It’s time to paint with colourful design
To decorate our home and dress the bed
In case this tide flows out and we decline
Beyond the spit of smiles and slump misread.
It’s Fall, when leaves turn brown and drift away
A season to renew the bridge we built
Back in the days we loved the wind that swayed
The leaves of barley on the field of quilt.
There’s no magic will disguise the mystery
Of how to grow without complicity.

So there, dear friends, are lines composed to mark the twist in the road

into maturity, without undue humility.

I had my cake and ate it too

Today.

After walking by the lake & tall hills by Gougane Barra this afternoon, I came home to a cake.

A cake deserves a photograph, or a painting – especially when it’s as magnificent as this one.

Especially when it’s handmade by someone who’s dearer to me than the confection is sweet.

She spent a goodly proportion of the day in the supermarket & kitchen – and cleaned up after herself – which I have often not done.

I had half an eye on England v Belgium when she visited my sofa, and asked if I would really like a candle for every year of what I call my maturity.

I almost took pity on her.

“Of course I’d love that.”

And so it was that when my two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren & two dogs joined us in the kitchen (via Zoom), there were candles lit.

Imagine trying to light that number of short candles on top of this cake. Imagine three of us with flaming matches, and melting wax trickling on to the icing.

Etched into memory, never to be forgotten until my memory muscle has grown too limp to last.

Joy, fun & glee. How fortunate I am to have such company to love.

I travelled to Africa today

Ghana and Mali.

When I was a child in Limerick my imagination didn’t stretch to Africa.

It never crossed my mind that I would go to Accra in Ghana or Bamako in Mali.

But I knew the name Timbuktu, the city that’s Tombouctou in French.

It never crossed my mind that Timbuktu in Mali might be twinned with Hay-on-Wye in the Black Mountains. That’s Wales.

My father collected National Geographic Magazines. I got the impression there were photographs of African people, animals, rivers, mountains, trees, and skies in every issue. The pull-out maps were big.

I had coffee in West Africa yesterday. I brought with me the best wishes of the people of Glanmire.

Two countries “bridging the gap” they said. You could see it happening in front you as you were drawn into the conversations.

Space travel on Earth.

(written on Saturday)

613,200 is my special number

613,200 or thereabouts. As a Greek tongue uttered,

“Being exact is superficial – and misses the point.”

For example, there is always something singular about a droplet of acid – especially when it’s deoxyribonucleic.

And when I said there were 31 days in my ‘birthday’ this year, I trusted you wouldn’t take the news literally.

As suspected, I’m a bit of a codjer – a seanamadán.

“To play with words is to tickle your imagination” – as Socrates’s mother said, the day he made the Brazilian team.

The poetry of numbers is infinite and tangential to the main stream. That’s why particles of verse – those that pass the litmus test – prove to be a promising investment during pandemonia.

What a demon of a number that has been – at times.

It’s the conundrum that’s a treat to understand, I imagine.

On the seventh day

On the seventh day of his birthday, Paul kept going in a direction he couldn’t fathom.

The virus followed him, keen to sneak through his protective efforts.

He couldn’t shake her off his trail.

Even while he was eating meringue, vanilla ice cream, and black berry compote, on Princes Street, outside Nash 19, she was still pursuing his cells.

Paul wore a black mask. He was beginning to find some masked women attractive – as if his imagination had life left in it.

The elastic was stretched. The Americano so slow to appear he decided to leave without it. He went to buy an AeroPress.

Meanwhile, a pleasant man was replacing the screen on Paul’s iPhone 7.

‘How do I know the virus isn’t in my cell phone?’

Paul was used to talking to himself.

Music cures

Poetry is music to me.

Meaning that every poem is a melody. It has its major chords, and minor key.

Tonality

Syncopation

Rhythm

When I approach a poem, I get ready to read it aloud. If there are people nearby, I move away.

I want to taste the words, phrases, and punctuation as they’re uttered I want to feel the flow.

The syllables are like notes from a piano. Words are chords. Lines like bars.

Adagio,

Andante

Apassionato

The great poems have many movements.

They cure me of bad habits.

On the third day

There was still something to admire

Leaves yellowing

Moistened grass

An apple

holding fast to a Worcester tree.

The cat sleeping

Footballers from Mayfield

Hockey players in Garryduff

Jack Russells yapping on a sideline.

Red wine running out

Cabbage in curry

A sliver of Cheddar

Coconut milk from a tin.

Rice

Reheated & plonked on a plate.

On the third day,

There was morning and evening.

I don’t like myself this morning

I will own-up here. Give you the full facts (assuming there is such a thing as as fact).

After looking at WhatsApp, reading one message, and sending an audio reply …

After looking at emails that came in overnight, deleting all but one, and replying ‘ok’ …

I read the headline. The first paragraph. The headline, the news.

It sank in quickly.

I don’t admire the person I met in the kitchen this morning. I’m not proud of myself, my feelings, nor my thoughts.

I confess I had an evil mind. May my mother (RIP) forgive me. I must take responsibility for the flood of emotions I welcomed.

There was nothing noble about my hopes. Nothing honourable about my wishes. Nothing generous for breakfast.

Once upon a time, I wished my mother would break a leg, and be confined to bed for six weeks. I wished her no pain. All I wanted was for her to be incapacitated – so I and my friends could be free to enjoy ourselves without her rules hanging over us.

I may not like the person I am today, but it’s the second day of my birthday month.

A day to celebrate.