Reading’s for Dunces

“Take you head out of that book

and come in here and watch Netflix with us.

I’m fed up with you wasting your time reading.”

“I have the right to read”.

“See, there you are with your empty head

full of drivel.

There’s a lot more education in Love Island

than in your Pride & Prejudice.

It’s time you took in more love than that high falutin sex

in carriages and grand houses.”

“I want to learn to read.”

“Tis how to slouch proper on a sofa you need young lady.”

“Why do I have to watch all those stupid serials on Amazon Prime?”

“Because it’s good preparation for life. Imagine what sort of a life you’d have

if you did nothing but read. You’d be company for no one.”

“But I love books.”

“Will you cop yourself on child.

Disney Plus is the future.

Reading is for writers.

Television is for interesting people.”

“Like you Mam?”

“Why not. At least it got me a couch … “

The Haystack in the Kitchen

When you eat sponge cake at ten minutes to midnight,

and rain clatters on the roof above your dinner table,

and the French mustard pot seems wrapt in conversation with black peppercorns and pink salt,

you might as well drink the mug of tea while it’s hot enough to warm your tummy.

Otherwise those pens on the counter, alongside the scribbled page of names you meant to invite to Clubhouse, might accuse you of neglect.

I ran out of drinking water.

Thirst, dry mouth, swallowing hard against the draining of the light,

that used to support my fetish for

mammy’s food before bed.

There’s a learning opportunity in a haystack, even when you can’t find a pitchfork

and your calling is to notice things out of place.

Titles are recommended

I met a poet on my way to the toilet,

a stubbly fellow on his way to the kitchen.

He looked as if he’d seen a tiger upstairs

in the master bedroom.

I wasn’t long sitting down, staring at wallpaper,

when a knock came to the door.

‘Is there anyone there?’

There was a blink in one eye

while I ruminated.

You can imagine whatever you like.

It was the poet’s voice that disturbed me.

The fingers stained with verse turned off the light

and it was dark as pitch.

You can imagine the tiger at work,

minding his business.

Hiccups in Japan

(in memory & gratitude to Liz Strauss)

I got the hiccups in Japan
over an eggplant
on the sofa.

There was a Toast Master in the kitchen
filleting tuna on a cutting board
made from an olive tree.

The dry Martini drinker from next door
scratching his stubble
with the point of a lead pencil.

Underneath the host’s stiletto
you’d have seen an ant
on its last legs.

In the middle of a hiccup
I dropped a bottle of whiskey
on the tail of my cat.

That saved the glass from shattering
all over Japan
and drowning the Emperor in spirit.

It’s the stories you tell yourself
that save your life
from passing by.

The Night that Covid Came

Awake with fire in my throat,

sure Gehenna had come.

Larynx burnt,

voicebox wrapt in lava,

glued to sheets in dread,

as if this was the call from Eternity.


Whenever the monster had been raised in conversation,

I whispered lowly

‘This night won’t fall on me.’

How dare this hour call out my time,

now mattered more than all the dreams:

it was the death of a Promised Land,

abandoned in Grendel’s mother’s cave.


Surely such a fall from grace

could not be vested in Santa’s wake?

How can I tell the others

Christmas has perished?

My seat on the train is booked,

the Covid carriage locked,

and no return ticket.


Mouthfuls of water from an ensuite tap,

saltless gargling,

undiluted phlegm burning.

Nightmare of Dresden, Hiroshima. 


It’s no good fighting this gift.

Prometheus

Restrictions

Constrictions

Afflictions

Pending

Unending

Crescendoing

Prometheus would make a fuss – wouldn’t put up with such a nervous line.

Prometheus would make a fire – wouldn’t restrain humans from prior thought.

Prometheus would dig for clay – wouldn’t wait for authority’s say so.

Super Spreader

laying on his hands

hugging the hearts

tweeting the news

blowing the trumpet

waffling the wind

spreading infection

unmasking character

pointing the finger

firing the truth

building a wall

denying the Covid

spreading infection

calling on Christ

arming the multitude

declaring he’s godsent

claiming recovery

spitting on the House

spreading infection

never washing his feet

sneezing on Senate

claiming victory

craving the birdies

cheating with eagles

spreading infection

appointing the foolish

insulting the veterans

despising John Cain

coughing up sputum

vomiting on media

spreading infection

spouting his sins

covering his tracks

refusing confession

avoiding the penance

withdrawing the climate

proud of his life

spreading infection

welcoming contagion

crowd-sourcing the virus

never paying his debts

breaking his promises

leading the lemmings

spreading infection

never washing his hands

defending the guns

praying for fraud

accepting the bribes

offering Hell on Earth

spreading infection like wildfire.

fertilising confusion

formenting mistrust

misconstruing misery

planting the pain

persisting with insults

infecting the nation

Super-spreader of suffering.

Imagine you’re at war

Imagine you’re at war
Remember what it’s like
Imagine there’s the enemy
Bloody sacrifice
A terrifying mess.

Imagine all the dead
Remember fields of pain
Imagine parents fighting
Bloody sacrifice
A frightening mess.

Covid is friendly
She won’t bite you
Let’s all carry on
We’re sure to pull through
An alarming mess.


Victory’s coming
around the corner.
You’re free to roam
and welcome home
A terrible mess

This isn’t a war
no amputations
no one will starve
barely privations
A hideous mess.

We’re in this together
You can do what you like
Drink yourself silly
There’s a ceasefire agreed
surely Covid won’t mess

Imagine great shopping
Remember to kiss
Be sure to hug
with love in our time
A New Year mess.

Imagine we’re at peace
Remember what it was like
Imagine there’s no enemy
No self-isolation
Resurrection’s a mess.

No need to fear
The vaccine’s here
Careless, Carefree
A seismic shift
Such a bloody mess.

Let’s open the pubs
the churches and all
All Ireland Abú
Feck off you virus
Don’t mess with us.

You do not have to be Maggie

You do not have to be Maggie

You do not have to serve humanity

with the same energy

that resurrects the spirit of many

– as mana fed the wandering people.

You do not have to co-operate

with those who share your values

as Maggie has shown in her way

for all our glory.

You can be the better part of you.

You can reach deep

into your childlike love of loving families

and draw from your well.

Let Maggie live in your heart today,

and let the rising sun

bring your talent over the horizon.

I am sorry too

[Written in response to ‘I am sorry‘ by Vinette Hoffman-Jackson]

I am sorry
I passed you by,
as if you were invisible, 
and impossible to befriend.

I’m sorry
I didn’t cross the road,
ask your name,
and offer to share your load.

I am sorry
I sat in the same room,
sipped my tea, 
crunched my gingersnaps
and didn’t offer to fill your cup. 

I’m sorry
I never looked back
over centuries
before you were a slave
transported for the sake of my ancestors’ wealth.

I am sorry
I forgot to pay attention
to your ancestors,
to your colour, to your sweat,
hunger,
pain,
loss,
anger
children,
chains,
your Strange Fruit.

I’m sorry
I drank the poison,
as if it was cod liver oil.

Madiba crossed the road.
I shall never forget.
The only penance I can offer you
Solidarity.
I am sorry.

_____________________

[Note: Vinette Hoffman-Jackson’s ‘I am sorry‘ is from her collection ‘Through Two Black Eyes’, published by YouCaxton Publications 2020. ISBN 9781913425463.]

When I was growing up…

[This poem is a “call-to-action”. My intention is to persuade readers (you) to stop what they’re thinking, feeling, imagining & doing – for at least 60 seconds.

During that brief interruption, I hope readers (you) & listeners will ask themselves “When did I grow up?” and “Have I grown up?” and “When will I grow up?”

That’s the purpose of this poem.

There’s more to it than that.

When I Was Growing Up‘ is a prod. It’s an effort to influence people (you) to go further than asking themselves questions. Secretly, there’s the ambition to get people (you) to change their lives. But that’s a campaign. That’s the Book.]

___________________

I nearly forgot: I write with one reader in mind. She’s never visited my blog. I don’t expect her to read any of my posts until long after she’s grown up.

You do not have to be right

You do not have to bear Mary Oliver’s lines on your shoulders

and squirm in deference to the Wild Geese.

It’s up to you to make your own goodness work for you

in the same way a bird of prey decides on its right moment to strike,

just as a cobra knows it does not have to visit venom on every passer-by.

You are authorised to be you.

Your God has made you the writer you are

– no matter whether you glow with pride

or hide with embarrassed sigh

– no matter whether your mother was over-bearing or underwhelming,

your father sarcastic or kind.

You do not have to be right at prayer or confession.

no neutrino too stout.

No atomic particle is bound to be accurate.

Mr Immediate Past President, for example,

you do not have to be dim.

Your light will fade,

your voice box fail,

your hair fall out

– in the end –

no matter how hard you try

to own the game,

to cook the books,

to fire the world.

As you’ve always known,

you do not have to be right or good

to succeed at being you.

Witness the berberis,

poison ivy,

and your face in the mirror.

Could you imagine …?

yourself as a …

yourself doing …

yourself being …

yourself in a stew like …

yourself on cloud Number …

yourself riding a hurricane towards …

yourself swimming across to the other side of the argument

yourself staying silent in the company of people you wish admired you

[With special thanks to Morag Mathieson & Jean Gamester]

Practising

What is life

if it isn’t practice?

What’s the point
of doing anything

if it isn’t practise.

Who doesn’t live in hope of tomorrow?

Who doesn’t know in their underpants

that there may not be a tomorrow,

that this may be the final moment?

My mother used to say “we know not the day nor the hour’

She liberated me from the tyrany of Heaven, the necessity of a future

for which I could not practise.

There is only practice,

forget that and you are lost in the miasma of a moment.

This is not the poem,

this is a rehearsal,

this is practice for the poem,

the poem that speaks for itself

after you are gone

and have given up your vocation

to do your best practice

in case you won’t get a second chance

Limbo

As a mark of respect for the much maligned & misunderstood former President of the United States, DJ Trump, there is a rumour circulating in Cork that the Roman Catholic Church is going to bring back Limbo as a resting place for him after the loans on his golf courses are called in.

Meanwhile Mr Trump is quarantined in his White House eating hamburgers, drinking coke and playing PacMan.

He goes out a few times a week to hit a few balls, claim mulligans and mark his own card with the best score he can remember.

DJ has been seen hearing confessions from his staff that they are all accepting commissions from Random House, HarperCollins and Mickey Mouse Publications.

As penance, DJ has been giving 75% of them two weeks bed & breakfast with Ruby Giuliani.

To the other 25% he has been pointing the finger and reading from a teleprompter: “You’re fired or hired, I don’t give a damn, you don’t matter to me. I always knew you were a no-good skunk.”

The Bishop of Rome has said :

“Amen. Omnia Trumpus divisa est in tres partes – Idioticus, Imbacilacus, Delusionacus Maximus”

Let us rejoice that we have not relinquished Limbo

That Saint Michael won’t be forced to turn this desiccated soul away from the Gates of Everlasting Salvation

That the souls of the faithful departed in the waiting room we know as Purgatory won’t be tormented any more than they are

That Lucifer and his ballot-rigging fake news mongering hoards may be undisturbed in their eternal misery

In nomine matris et patris et trumpist

Let the games begin.”