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 …


digging into


the archeology of life


mapping the lifescape

mining the lapses

misunderstanding the stone


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


Everyman and Everywoman,


animals that have a good night’s sleep,

speak over breakfast,

slave all day,

skimp on sex

and suffer


Never an autopsy

No suspects

Natural causes

A birthday deceased

and laid to rest with honours,





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.’


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


Writing my laws

Without restraint

You cannot lock me down.


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


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.


Remember Christmas

Miracle of life and death

A butterfly flapped.


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.


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



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.


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.


Filaments for the chronicle

So many fragments to stitch together.


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.