A fistful of stories

 

A fistful of stories

The journey began in a January made cold by depression.
Two secrets lay with pressure at the heart of a new year:
We were to have a baby, and it too soon to reveal,
too early to celebrate, but not to seal the drink.
Profound gloom gripped my every artery, flowed
freely from a well of loneliness that never dried.
The shadowside returned and taken over
robbing me of capacity to uncork joy of girl or boy.

Unfit for work that month, my memory let pass each day
without recording the slightest smile: what was worthwhile
in the time? How was the pregnancy to be seen
with energy? How was the man to rise to the occasion,
when what was at stake was for a lifetime?
Fearfully, un-tearfully, I slipped back to work in February.
Five weeks before I screamed without sound,
before I burst without breaking.

I threw a self on the mercy of my beloved.
She held me, firm throughout March. The doctors too.
Together we broke the news on phone to family:
we were expecting a baby. It was our greatest joy.
We wished for another surprise, called it Itsy,
Beyond gender, we took the scan,
made an altar by the bedside. It was still
freezing. But the thaw began and never let up.

In Seville, there are little girls in long dresses
striding along narrow streets in the old Jewish quarter.
Vibrant yellow, flourishing pink, you’d think
a bunker of golfers had come to admire the Spring.
I’d begun to sing a melody only I could hear,
while unflown tears grew dry. Back
from the rack, a training manager again, I began
“A diary for Itsy” – before the rising of the birds.

Dawn broke, sunlight across the Moravian Church.
across the road Blossom Cottage bloomed, our wee treasure sprouted.
Her conception celebrated in song, verse and sandcastles.
I remembered Kilkee, picnics by the sea, periwinkles,
short bent pins scooping slimey shellfish out.
Cobblers in the Pollock Holes, Rackets and swimming in salt.
Piece by piece, I painted warm colours all over my childhood.
Unknown to me, I was getting ready to go home.

June came, the air of redundancy
re-discovery of Jimmy Webb, uncovering
David Whyte, and poppies by the road to Oxford.
I sat with Marie while ducks played past Flag Iris.
We talked of generations and making fun in Cork.
We imagined what the stork would bring.
There was time to sing when July arrived:
two job offers for Edel, a ticket to move.

Grace flooded out onto the Royal United Hospital maternity bed,
Thirteen hours and thirty minutes after the first contraction.
Violetta her middle name, and she wide awake.
For her sake I’d dipped into “The Bloke’s Guide to Pregnancy”
swatted-up on nappy re-cycling, bought a Stokke Sleepi.
She blew away the luxury of sleep, fed her way into our lives.
fragile bundle of need we had to feed. Sluggardly,
the puzzling for patterns predominated. Grace made her space.

I left the job and went to work with my two wonderful women,
slipping easily from Bristol city buses to domesticity,
revelling in the art of slinging her up the Cotswold Way,
or round the Circus, up Milsom Street, even past the Crescent.
There was Cork waiting with harbour, taking newcomers
into Douglas. The present is a strange land, and I’m ill-prepared,
an innocent abroad in native hands,
ready to stand on my head to fit in suburban woods.

There goes the year, you know it well.
It had a fistful of stories to tell.

16 Stations of the Cross

 


16 Stations of the Cross

The ground too rough, the shards so sharp,
tyres of wheelchair can’t make it round,
nor legs of those who only strain to push.

I
Thorned and roped, a man
accepts his mortality
condemned to stations

II
Shoulders made for Cross
bones of feet and straining palms,
Salvation’s burden

III
The first fall on stone
eyes open, lips dry, prelude
– this is the real thing

IV
Mother of mothers
I sucked your love for comfort,
come, again, again

V
Cyrene Simon
strong stranger with a mission
another always

VI
Veronica loves,
wets hem for almighty face,
the man feminine

VII
Stumble and tumble
slump on your face example
– will you rise again?

VIII
Jerusalem mourns
the women lead, still men howl
all community

[There are green hats here,
youngsters of Ireland,
the kind Dev thought he knew.
I’m an old warrior
used to seeing contradictions, labyrinths,
in love with generations of confusion
– these are my stations.]

IX
Three times Jesus crashed
head first, splinters in torn back
– will you ever rise?

X
Strip that body bare
show off those ribs of Adam
– tortured is our life? 

XI
Is that iron sharpened?
that nail hammered through his bone ?
– we must make this hurt

XII
Die the dead hero
give up your ego, expire
– only one way through

[The man in the blue shirt
holds out a cup of water.
Mother sips dehydration away,
rest before here Saviour,
the Father reads the last prayers.]

XIII
Pull him down, I say
follow orders, my letter
– there are hearts ripping

XIV
We have a spare tomb
let’s shut him into deep dark

clandestine caverns

XV
Let’s get up early
be there before the birds sing
– always Mary knows

XVI
I see the flesh whole
I sense the soul united
– Resurrection lives 

______________________

(Lourdes, June 2010)

This is pure cliché

This is pure cliché,

dappled wicker,

stone lit, shadows firm,

warmth of evening song,

comings and goings,

Spanish movements through the bar,

Bombay going down,

Schweppes on ice,

already a little pissed

– Martini Basarana Tanqueray

Ballantines Bacardi Beefeater

Zoco Drambuie Calisay

100 Pipers Ron Barcelo

Jack Daniels Cointreau –

even the Cutty Sark is too much

now company’s gone

and “Prohibido Fumar” reigns

supreme behind the counter

– what price a coffee now?

 

 

[Galicia August 2010]

A moment

 

The coffee’s bitter here,

beans dark, roasted hard,

flavour for waking up

– I see Cezanne on the wall,

a fire extinguisher,

a smoke-free zone,

even water can’t soften the taste,

exploration calls,

echo of earlier conversation,

poplars wave, leaves flash,

sunlight shortening shadows

under apple trees.

A bronzed girl hangs her jacket

on the back of a chair.

 

(Galicia 6 August 2010)

I will drink sugar

 

I will drink sugar,
pour stars of glucose
onto a tea spoon,
sprinkle refined grains
on a surface of Galician
Espresso.

I will cherish the remainder
lingering in this sachet,
wet pad of forefinger
– licking softly –
before cleaning the counter.
I like to flick fallen sweet.

I will go back to my hotel room,
leave behind a night sky.
There’s Venus there,
Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn
reflected from sapphire bottle
Gin.

(August 2010)

____________________

Tomaré azúcar,

Echar estrellas de glucosa

A una cucharadita,

Espolvoreando granos refinados

En la superficie del café exprés

Gallego.

 

Gozaré del resto

Quedando en el sobre,

Almohadilla de dedo

-lamiendo suavemente-

Antes de limpiar la mesa

Me gusta chasquear dulce caído.

 

Regresaré a la habitación del hotel

Dejando el cielo de noche

Allí esta Venus allá,

Mercurio, Marte, Júpiter, Saturno

Reflejados en la botella de color zafiro

De Gin.

(Translation by a good friend who isn't a poet 2017)

The Seaweed Lorry

 

The seaweed lorry

How long have I driven a seaweed lorry to Roundstone
past fuchsia and montbretia?
How long has the wife practised acupuncture,
the daughter dried dulse?
You’d wonder as you pitchfork the algae,
watch strips slip off, litter the lane.

They can take their time,
wait their turn to pass,
I have many more journeys in me,
many more days leading hearse and caravan.
They can all take their turn,
why should they pass?

I’ve driven this way too long now to be forced off it,
seen their urgent béasa,
refused to be edged off my bóthar.
There were houses full
– not enough rooms for the children –
before there weren’t children for the rooms.

I’ve seen them all off,
I’ve still gone back for more seaweed.

_________________________

Image by Jonathan Wilkins