The Pope is on His Way

(Chapter I – draft)

Pope Francis is coming to Ireland,
knickers are in a twist.

Coming to pray
Coming as planned
Arriving to bless
Landing to confess
the sins of the faithful
the sins of a hierarchy,
families concelebrate.

Repentance
Benediction
Crucifixion
Restitution
The children defiled,
the mothers condemned,
infants stolen, like birds eggs, blown away abroad.

Christ’s vicar on Earth,
the man from Rome,
History man
Encyclical man
Ex cathedra man
Transubstantiation man
The head of the clan
Father of all children
Head of the State of Original Sin.

Yellow and white,
Immaculate robe,
Conception of the Word
Sentenced to mortal coil
– like the snakes Patrick drove
into an everlasting sea.

Whom shall the Hurt see?
Broken Shattered
Splintered Torn
Reverend Mother Mary Magdalen
Brother Francis on the shoulders of Goliath,
Disciples of John Charles McQuaid.

Francis knows
We paid our dues
We sacrificed our flesh and blood
We gave our sons and daughters to the cloth
We confessed
We took our penance
We made good confessions,
and we took Extreme Unction.

In other words,
We supported you
We consecrated you
We elevated you
We assumed
you would lead us into the Kingdom,
past Peter,
through the gates,
bathed with a holy spirit.

Instead,
The bastardisation of love,
projection of affection,
sublimation of copulation,
birth control by unnatural rhythm
– Unnatural Inclinations

Welcome the Man
whoever you be,
Expose the Man to tears
Strip back the cant,
Roman chant
We know where you’re coming from,
Where will you hang your hat?

For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory
for now.
Amen

Am I the only one?

1.

I was killed at school.

The bullets hit me somewhere

in the eye, ear, nose & throat,

maybe through my heart.

I didn’t feel a thing

pierce my umbilical pipeline.

I guess my mother’s blood gushed.

Maybe she hadn’t decided what she’d do with me.

All that ammunition …

Cartridges for crucifixions

Explosions of extreme unction

A Hell of Heaven

I imagine the bard broken.

I was gone within a heartbeat, snuffed out.

Was I the only one?

2.

I was elected at home.

The votes cost me

a bank balance weighed with wishes.

I keep eyes, ears, nostrils, speeches primed.

I feel throbbing hearts,

invocations of investors …

shareholders sighing like furnace …

I am a political animal,

I stand to attention for the last post

in association with my brothers-in-arms,

with every voter who craves the right to shoot,

to the grave.

I’ve earned the money to pursue the sins of the Senate,

the hustings of the House.

I’ve paid the price

Am I the only one?

3.

I am the gun that shot the child

in many places.

I have an owner.

A kind, gentle, considerate, generous, careful citizen.

An emotionally retarded, psychotic, neglected, deprived, abused, vengeful

collector of beauties.

My barrel gleams.

I am an automatic obliterator,

my owner is a dead shot,

proud, defender of the faith of our fathers,

responsible,

lover of fire & brimstone.

I love my owner.

Am I the only one?

_________________

(17 February 2018 – in honour of 17 humans massacred in Florida – 14 students + 3 faculty members)

Martin Luther King

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

I wish that I could sing
a song so strong
your dream would seemGcPwvo98NRgoMKk1ndyLpeyJ

to have returned to life
on streets
where blackbirds thrill
and arms are bent
against the ring of a call to prayer.

You sit on the right side of an angel’s wing

You rise with horned larks
across farmlands, prairies, deserts, and golf courses.

I have a song
that waits to be sung
the day a choir is born
surrounded by mixed fruits,
blackcurrants, redberries, dark chocolates, and meringues.

Martin Luther King
you’ve never slept,
always an eye forever,
a tooth ready for the call,
ready for the Promised Land.

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

Buried duck

 

Buried Duck

It was Seamus to put me up to it.
He was like that, always egging me on,
slipping out of it when we were found out.

It took two of us to corner the bird,
hold the head, steady the pumping feet,
ducks have stronger necks than five year olds expect.

We had the quiet for it,
mother gone to town.

If we were quick, we could bury it.
There was sand in the shed, wet sand
against the wall, a dark corner,
a resting place for feathers.

Seamus dug the hole, scooped back a grave
with bony fingers.
He was a doctor even then.

Our duck might have been going back to nest
as we piled sand, heavier and heavier.
We were both in it.

He was the one who covered the head, pushed the neck under.
Honest, he was the last one to see the wild eye disappear
under the weight of our mound.

He was the last one to touch the duck alive.

I saw the buried bird lose its head,
piled deadening sand on top.
I wanted to make sure…
never thought she’d miss her duck,
there were other things to do.

But Seamus had to let it out, had to be found out, had to point the finger,
young innocent, led astray.
He loved being the baby.

When mother shoved her arm into the grave, she wasn’t long there,
her elbow never got wet.

She pulled her duck out,
alive.

Poets don’t write in a vacuum 

Poets don’t live in a vacuum.

Poetry is not written in a vacuum.

There is always a context, a social context, and always a biography.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of this blog. Here I publish some of my poetry.

I started sharing some poems here in 2006.

Then the poems were put in a context.  They were displayed in a context because, at the same time, I wrote about my experience of coming back to Ireland from the UK.  I wrote blog-posts about what it was like to have an infant daughter.  I expressed my take on several political issues.

The poems were never displayed in a vacuum.

It’s bothered me now.  Since I relaunched “From Bath to Cork with baby Grace”  [in its second form] the poems have been published without any context.

There’s no writing here about big social issues. I don’t write about my family, nor about housework, golf, podcasting, social media, nor my paid work.

You meet the poems as you would meet them in a poetry book.

And I don’t think this good enough.

I think readers are very interested in the context of a poem – as reflected in the other things the poet is doing in her or his life – how the poet sees things, how the poet reports on what is noticed.

I think readers of poetry – like everybody else-  are more & more curious about what goes on behind the scenes – in the behaviour, mind, emotions and imaginations of writers.

Also I may be enriched by writing about the “world”. I use that world to symbolise the Universe – as I’m capable or motivated to communicate about it.  Even communicate with myself about it.

So I’ve made a decision.   [I’m going to sleep on it.]

I’m going to add prose on this blog.

I’m going to write freely on any topic under the sun that interests me on the particular day I sit down to write.  They may be disconnected sentences. Pieces may be highly structured.  There might be a short story – even a vignette. Probably not a novella.

I may rant.

But above all, it will be me. It’ll be my take on something that’s much bigger than me.

[Reader’s can skip all that prose, or quasi- poetic stuff, if they’re not interested.]

The poems will be obvious. It’ll mean there’ll be more stuff here than before.

It’ll mean I can also put up photographs with very little commentary.  Many people are visual – rather than text lovers. The visual imagination  – or the imaginations of visual people –  is every bit as valuable as the imaginations of those who approach the world with preference for sound or text.

There’s a way in which it’ll do me good to write prose. There’s a possibility it’ll help me feel some issues I write about are vital enough to be encapsulated & addressed in poetry.

I’m going to sleep on this now.

For me, this is a very big issue.  Perhaps I’m I’m going to break & remake the character of this blog.

But it feels like the right thing to do.

However, you never know what a good sleep can do to a right thing.

You just came to me

You just came to  me

To Mike Hegarty in his haven
 (with acknowledgement to Seamus Heaney)

Pig-sty to cattle track, anemones to fountain-pen,
you sat in yellowed armchair, among psychiatric alumni,
released into a fighting street-scape,
where burnt-out cars took place of bicycles.
Your warrior-self listened to every voice
with the greeting of a saint
who wrote with a sun-lit plume.

Prince of the messengers,
carrier of connections,
pointing companions around wild flowers,
through the thicket of everyday life,
out into a clearing, ever shadowed,
ever dappled,
your painterly hand ever active,

you spoke of trees in a family field,
the feed from bonamhs that licked your fingertips,
the rub of the beast that reminded you of animated conversations,
the rough warm blanket into which you were born.
You walked every inch of the lane that led from farm-house,
past copulating ragwort, to a table strewn with words
drawn together for the sake of safe passage.

In that armchair, you smiled through dark-rimmed spectacles,
turned a tongue around considered thoughts
that vied for voice.
In a flash, you held back
eager sperm-like phrases
in favour of a diamond-eyed glint,
before you spoke the timbre of imagined rest.

I wondered who you were in that evening circle –
just as I wonder now.
You just came to me –
as if I were high in a mountain stream, surrounded by parakeets,
and the echo of flowers talking to the wind –
as if you put a hand in the pocket of your overcoat,
and produced a map for me to read.

_________________________

Written in memory and honour 
of my friend Mike Hegarty.  
Inspired by "To Mick Joyce in Heaven" 
by Seamus Heaney 
- to be found in "District and Circle" 
- first read on Friday 18 May 2007 in Adare.

The city of London 

The City of London 

Cocktail-shaker for the World
Bridge-builder, fortune-maker
City of greetings, grime and grit
City of tongues
City of preachers, teachers and elephants
City of wars
City of screams and exhibitionists
City of Empire
City of fires, plague and drawing rooms
City of parks, love-makers, trouble-makers, heart-breakers, imperial, ethereal, thirst-slakers, pace-makers, peace-wakers
City of dogs, cats, rats, scavengers and paintbrushes
City of players, symphonic stayers, hyperbolic cares
City of ruins
City of wounds, marches and prayers
City of bubbles, stock-takers
City of pain, disdain, refrain
City of shoes, falafel, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, peppercorns, cardamom, chillies and curls
City of deaths, debts, resurrections, assumptions
City of refugees
City of the poor
City of the sword
City of slaves, waves, graves, sails
Race-gobblers
City of the clock
City of time and charts
City of natural history, kings, queens, nobility, futility
City of the blitz and bliss and bits
City of the Underground and flight
City of hiding places, stones, Sherlock Holmes
City of reinventions
City of anonymous burdens
Melody-makers, sacrifices
City of the heat and the Crystal Palace
Harbinger of malice
Brain of the Serpentine
City of masons, Livingstone, Gladstone, earthworms, sculptures, sepulchres, sceptics
City of songs and eavesdroppers, towers, bowers, superpowers and sour grapes
City of the chrysalis
Storyteller, seducer of words, fountain pens, notebooks, fish and chips, pie and mash.

City of fountains and ships
City of truth, city of factions, city of the Heath, city of smog, city of the Frost Fair
River banker, clangors, Doppelgangers,
City of joy
City of birth, mirth, thirst,
the witty first city
pitiful playground
foundation of the nation
creation and gestation
pregnant
City of the parties
City of the Open Mind
Martinis
Broad cocktail-shaker for the World.

————–

(Inspired by Carl Sandburg’s poem about Chicago)

 

Reunited

I left the house of my reincarnation
before the swallows returned
the year they cancelled the Grand National.

I walked out the door
before dawn disappeared, drove through a dream
as if in a dismal draft of corked Dolcetto.

I pitched my leaky tent in Wiltshire
’til forced out by a wife’s thirst
for regeneration.

Winter hardened the road I travelled
as I wished to wallow like a pig
in the hot mud Bladud found.

I sailed back to the Province of my birth
in a ferry beset by bleeding ballast,
into the storm of a tiger’s saliva

whipped by Irish bankers, Roman bishops,
windy politicians and uncivil servants.
The rant of ravaged youths, refugees from famine,
coursed through my bloodstream, out my throat
and stained my pen.

I wrote resurrection out of my will.

until I flew to the city of surprised eyes,
composer’s minds,
mouthful feasts

until I sat opposite my child in Southark
speaking of the Golan, green with cotton,
forgetting Masada and the Dead Sea

and lived to swim again
among dreadlocks, hijabs, sidecurls, pale people
and more

until at last I greet myself
arriving at my own house
in my own skin

and we smile again
reunited over broken bread
and the words of one imagination.

Beware 47 year old men

img_1050

Beware 47 year old men

They drop like squashed flies
slowly recover into another guise
barely half the size

frail on their feet
after years of fierce pursuit, no heat,
cold comfort from their beat.

Beware 47 year old men

They’ve seen it all before
second and third hand, expecting to soar
past open doors

firm in their pride
locked into a harsh and bitter guide
anger waiting to ride.

Beware 47 year old men

who’ve worked hard
for the reward of a faceless guard
set against anything marred.

Those men fight with flawed spirits
bolstered up on rivets
held together for lovers’ visits.

Beware 47 year old men
I should know, should know again
and again how we topple then.

47 year old men, stand up
slow down and humbly sup,
gather your treasures before they leave the cup.

November 1997

Loving you 

h-heyerlein-199082-1

Loving you 

Loving you

does teach me

day by day

how deep the blocks to love

within me lie.

Loving you

is worth all

mistakes and blind

stupidity

born on my weakest side.

Loving you

is changing me

bringing out

twin creatures :

one dying to bond

the other to be safe.

Oh to be wrapped with you.

November 1997
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