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.]

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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.”

There is a time

You have to get out of the orange armchair

No matter how comfortable your bottom feels.

It’ll be grand to stand up and move away from the Masters

Maybe it’s time for tea or another glass of Bordeaux

At least the exercise will help you decide

Whether another square of mint chocolate is worth the taste

Doubts are common, uncertainties rife

There’s no guarantee you’ll be more comfortable over a boiling kettle.

A black cat wants attention as he scratches behind my head

Puma’s food is in the room with the washing machine and screwdrivers

The dog looks asleep, breathing like a metronome. He’s easy to watch.

Louis hasn’t had a run all day. I wonder how he’ll be in the morning.

There’s no time to count, no seconds to add or subtract

There’s time to be negotiated, time to dwell on how the odds are stacked.

The President wants a Mulligan

The President claims a Mulligan

His ball is in the rough.

The President demands a Mulligan

His ball’s gone out of bounds.

The President has threatened Mulligan

His ball is lost

(in the wilderness of ground under repair).

He set his sights on an Albatross,

he’d even have claimed an Eagle,

but the longer he stood with his mates on the tee

the more false his handicap grew.

The President stuttered

The President muttered

The President uttered

“This game’s been fixed, this fourball’s unfair
I’ve been gazumped for sure.
I’ll mark your card, I’ll sign my own
I’m President of this Club,
that all that matters to me.

Oh Captain, I’m Captain, My fearless trip is done,
My ship has weather’d every rack, the prize I’m owed is won.
The House is near, the cheers I hear, the people all exulting,
My eyes are red and basking true , my Trumpets bright and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O my bleeding drops of red,
See on the deck those cheaters lie,
with obscene fools and dead.

I am your Ryder Cup,
Born true to win and sup,

With flags and faith
Bells, bouquets, wreaths and scathe

I’ve played the better golf,
I even own the course,
and built the TV towers.

Exalt my Partners
Decry the other side
To Hell with their merriment
Their game’s forever spent.

I’ll play on
through night and day
through dawn & dusk
to the bitter end

Until all the Links are broken,
Courses strewn with rakes & flagsticks,
Greenkeeper’s gone
begging for another apprenticeship.

I’ll play on
I’m the winner
I don’t need an opponent
I don’t even need golf clubs
I am that good
Your mind’s too slim
Your heart’s a virus.

The Royal & Ancient game was never better
than when I built the course
and wrote the Rules,
than when my handicap was Gaga
and on my crown was MAGA.

The President still swings his club, his caddie gone
His ball is running out.
He’s on his knees
Praying for a Mulligan.

There were no elections

Beowulf was not elected.

When Jesus became a god, there were no elections

No mail-in ballots

No counts

When Shakespeare wrote The Tempest

and Sappho canoodled with Aphrodite,

When Milton was in Paradise,

and Wordsworth having Intimations of Immortality,

you didn’t have a vote.

I was in Florida

I was in Florida four years ago

on my sofa

watching the sixty seven counties tick,

a map turning red.

An uncomfortable seat that drove me to bed

convinced America might be hung before I woke.

The sofa is uncomfortable again.

This time I’m in Pennsylvania

waiting for a ride to Minnesota

breathing Texas.

Waiting for Godot

waiting for the music of the future.

Post Mortem

Imagine having a post-mortem on your birthday …

exegesis

digging into

excavating

the archeology of life

findings

mapping the lifescape

mining the lapses

misunderstanding the stone

hieroglyphics

burial chambers

Growing up among

berberis, hawthorn, briars

cabbages and chickens

Living with

memories, mountains and memorials

to failures.

Glory be to Paul the Failure

In the Beginning was the Bang

when the whiskey bottle slipped

from his fingers onto tiles.

And the Smell was with Father and Mother until beyond Lent.

Born to be bewitched, bothered and blind

As if Genesis was transcribed into the Jungle where we’re born to find

the map of the maze that is to come to

You,

Everyman and Everywoman,

Humanity,

animals that have a good night’s sleep,

speak over breakfast,

slave all day,

skimp on sex

and suffer

organically.

Never an autopsy

No suspects

Natural causes

A birthday deceased

and laid to rest with honours,

Pardons

Prose.

Women

Amen.

It’s too late

to turn the clock back

The hour has passed

into the past.

You’ve lost

your turn to protest

against the party of time.

Go march for release

of the sixty minutes

you’ve incarcerated.

The liberation of time

depends upon more than you invested

when you had wind behind you.

Let there be no more ticking hands

nor tick-tocking cuckoos

not shadows cast on dials.

Let’s push the right hand forward

and squeeze a dribble out

from behind the prologue that is past.

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.