There are too many books

Once upon a time, the Earth was cold.
There were no books.
In a twinkle of time,
the multitudes grew hot
with opinions, options, and paradigms.
there are too many books for you,
and there is global warming.

Books broke the back of the Word,
scribes begat scribblers,
illuminated manuscripts gave birth to maps,
travellers told tales of other words and worlds,
and now
there are too many books born and buried,
too many stories circulating.

Go into your local bookshop
on O’Connell Street by the Shannon River.
Indigestion guaranteed.
The only medicine a microscope
to browse the molecules of wisdom
that revolve in a particle of your imagination.

You are sharing the heated earth
with marks, words, phrases, lines, paragraphs, pages, chapters, volumes
– numbers incalculable –
like stars crying out for attention,
as if minute lights might shine your path,
as if the affection of your orbit
was craved by mysteries of an expanding multiverse.

There are too many stars for you to follow,
too many stories.
You will burn yourself into a black hole
if you consume all the particles in your local bookshop,
all the wisdom crammed on shelves
arranged for your salvation.

In the beginning was the Word.
They procreated the earth,
the world,
the matter that matters,
the sunlight that burns through fog,
and longs to peter out
before the books return to rest.

The way verse is written.

Light as a feather that fails

to excite the hippopotamus

in my mind’s eye,

Blind as a bat that breaks

whenever it strikes out

in my baseball bowl

So do the words

through my tongue

Into the microphone

Of my desire.

Green with damp,

Drizzled down

the neck of the verse.

Weathered the space

between gestation,


and dimples.

The way a dung beetle

saves civilised & uncivilised



High as a kite that soars,

slips and slides on a draught of thin air.

Low as a blow from a black bird,

from a messenger

that delivers tidings,

from your mother’s,

mother’s mouth?

She had her own microphone,

her own mouthpiece,

her paragraphs.

Light and blind,

High and low

Hippopotamus and hippopotami.

It’s the way verse is written.

Engaging Humour

In case

you think I’m being funny,

I wrote to the Easter Bunny

asking for the egg I forgot,

and you know what I got?

It was too big to eat,

hardly much of a treat.

I gave half to the cat,

who’s already too fat

and a chunk to the dog

as we went for a jog.

So when we met the vet,

she was cross as you get.

I said I was sorry,

She said not to worry

– today.

That’s all I have written.

The chocolate’s hidden,

until after the speech

when you won’t hear me preach

Friends, Romans, Toastmasters,

lend me your tears …

I never wanted

to excite the cat,

bother the dog,

get a pain in my tummy,

trying to be funny

chasing the bunny


but I’ve started this Path

before running a bath.

I’d love a matchmaker

to help this icebreaker


without any more fuss

come across humorous …

I am a disaster,

in search of a plaster

to cover my mouth

so I don’t need to shout

cover up what I said

so spare you the dread

you’ll fall from your chair

and mutter a prayer

‘We all did love him once

not without cause

if only he’d pause

and stop being a dunce.

As for the rumour

he’s given to humour,

You can pull my leg

about the Easter Egg.

Even write to the bunny

you think I’m not funny.

A Good Friday

I bet you Confucius said 

every day is a good day

or did I read it was on Rumi’s  mind

that “every day’s a day for the good life“?


The local s

Legionnaire peeled off his armour

“They pierced him, 

I saw the nails driven in.

The whipping drew blood,

so did the thorns.

And it was good while it lasted.

Some good guy propped him up 

after he kept on falling down the hill. 

‘Twas good sport

– crucifixions are good for the spirits.”

The brother in the toilet woke,

sat up, sloshed back red wine.

“I loved the way the blood dripped down

‘Twas was a good Friday,

a very good Friday,

well worth remembering.

Even the clouds were black with thunder.”

“So good to hear him chatting with Gestas and Dismas,

vagabonds and vagrants.

A good guy,  suffering fools,

off to have a good long nightfall.

I hear he he promised them a good long heaven

before he kicked his bucket…”

“I heard it said he died for a good cause,

and his crucifixion was a good day for all the people.

Wasn’t it good that at least a smattering of tears believed him? …

swear he saw their grief as good…”

“They certainly didn’t believe he was a good sacrifice to the gods. 

‘Tis a good thing for them they thought him good…”

“What a bloody good Friday,

a good send-off. 

Imagine living your life  looking forward to the good life…”

“There were good-looking women there

having a good cry,


while the centurion stabbed him with a good sharp spear,

a sight to behold, 

a sight to be told

on one of the best good Fridays…”

The lads got pissed that night.

Maybe it was Confucius and Rumi who said

“suffering’s good for the soul

on a good Friday.”

Things could be worse

I could be much worse.

Stranded in Cork Airport,

eating sausages

and potato cakes,

dried white pudding

and fried bacon slices,

chilled orange juice

with Americano by Nescafé.

A disaster of a flight to Manchester,

a swollen little throbbing toe,

a lame gait.

I could be much worse.

I could be frozen in Ukraine,

maimed in Ukraine,

my home destroyed in Ukraine.

Parched , starved, wounded, blind, deaf,

I could be a nightmare

walking from gutter through ice & mud,

past unmilked cows,

crippled donkeys,

chickens ready for wolves,

wet with weather that would drown an earthworm,

excremental trudge to the border


“Saturn Devouring His Son Peter”,

and some hope of at least an annual salvation.

I could be “The Scream”

on a bus from Mariupol,

from the shipyard in Mykolayiv,

leaving Freedom Square in Kharkiv,

I could be the last scream left living in Kyiv,

Lviv to Poland, to Germany,

into Rumania, Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia

– children lifeless behind me,

my lover lost.

I could be much worse.

I could be pulling the trigger

that’s dispatching the missile

into that apartment block,

and only leave a legless cat alive

to drown in blood.

I could be commanding my officers

to annihilate the opposition,

to obliterate all living humans

that stand in our way,

to invade the land of independence

and putrefy the landscape with tyranny.

I could be much worse.

I could be Vladimir Putin’s mother,

keening my infant’s fall from grace.

I could be stranded with Dante in the Kremlin,

in the dark Earth

where there is no peaceful place

⁃ except the grave.

I could be much worse.

The Snow Thundered In

The snow thundered in

Rolled across the border between sleep and wake


Conquering the ground

Until every centimetre was covered with the colour of the white invasion.

There was no resisting her.

And all winter, this has been predicted.

All February we have been warned

We had no proof

until now.

The snow has spoken

The snow was ready

The snow has fallen.

The earthworms



I will wash my teeth again this year

I will wash my teeth again this year,
shower away the scent of salty sweat.

I’ll shave the stubble from my chin
and trim the hairs within my nostrils short.

I’ll cut my nails, keep eyebrows in their place,
suck out the wax that blocks my straining ears.

I’ll dry the feet, prevent a pungent smell.
All this I swear to do before year end.

Surely you spent some years subtracting time
from work to carry out such rituals?

You must be committed to keep so clean,
you use the latest market-leading brands.

It’s clarity of mind and purity
of purpose that secretes consistency.

A face that comes by night

A face that comes by night to grant you love
is strong enough to fool the flow of dreams.
“Awake you sleeping passion, true Foxglove.”
Disguised friend with magic eyes, it streams.
Let me expose the trickery before
more young, inattentive, beguiled sweethearts
turn sour and lose the joy of what’s in store
provided neither welcome taste of tarts.
There is another way to lift the loss
that absent satisfaction brings to bed.
The scent of lover’s pillow, sweet as moss,
will rouse the flow of memories instead.
Resist temptation’s guile throughout your years,
alive, alone, awake, and sigh no tears.

Putting 2021 to bed

Dear 2021,
I will write you out of my life.
I’ll erase you.
That’s what you’ve been good for
– practicing the art of expunging,
– an excremental year.

I will forget you
just as I have forgotten
sins of omission,
unsuccessful resurrections
and heaven on earth.

You had the goodwill of surviving relatives to contend with,
You’re a year infested with anti-vaxxers,
shadows remembered

January, grim god of beginnings,
all you were good for were continuings.
More infections than genuflections, some said.
Others uttered “we talked about COVID more than we prayed to any god”.

Years ago, it was Occupy Wall Street,
this year it was un-occupy offices,
un-attend water coolers,
empty canteens,
beware public houses
silence confession boxes,
cashless commerce,
“click & collect” your dose.

March, war god of misgivings,
you plundered Cheltenham, St. Patrick’s Day, and Spring.
Months blurred into labyrinths of advice,
conglomerations of congregations in conflagration.
2021, a confluence of administered vaccinations,
a mess.

It was my brother’s birthday in March, my wife’s in April,
what did we do together?

There was another “We”, without which you would have been too cruel to bear,
drawn from the highways and byways,
from landscapes and mindscapes,
collaborating continents of voices that spoke volumes
with respect for diversity of origin, accent and colour.

I remember golfers practicing their conversations.

I remember contests of conjunctives,
alliterations of ailments,
hyperbolic hyphens,
all the grammar of generations grown on service to others.

I remember the election I lost
and consoling myself
with the conviction that it was well worth
the risk of embarrassment.

I remember the summer of contentment,
when three days in Lahinch was a feast
for Founders Day.
When the certificate arrived,
it was placed between two showjumpers
– because I’ve been living with leg on and leg off,
tack to be cleaned,
boots to be polished,
numnahs and socks
and not once did I hear the farrier fit shoes.

Oh yes,
it’s been a year of desolation,
un-attended funerals,
cancelled operations
and the Health Service Executive
cajoling porters
carrying the burden
of woe-begotten branches of “test & trace”
home visitors and the protocols.

We had a North-South traffic jam,
an all-Ireland festival of futile hints
that one day in our lifetime,
the four green fields will be fertilised by similar slurry,
sustainable signatories to one constitution
celebrated in a land
where the common cold didn’t sneeze.

Toastmasters thrived
while others died.
If it hadn’t been for Zoom,
I’d have been a zombie,
zestless, zigzagging from Netflix to the Premier League,
paraOlympics to Prime or Disney
aching for Bambi’s mother,
Mother Jones or the Mothers of Invention.

It was a year for nostalgic initiatives,
“Let’s go play in the garden”
“Let’s go pray for a visit”
“Let’s find our way to forgive
those who refuse to worship at the altar of compliance,
the tabernacle of conformity
the monstrance of hibernation.”

If it wasn’t for words,
I’d have lost my capacity for breath.

If it wasn’t for commas,
I’d have squandered the opportunity for chancing my arm.

If it wasn’t for sentences,
I’d have lost my freedom to mix metaphors

How many operations were postponed?
Marriages postponed?
Lovers postponed?
For goodness sake,
how much sexual intercourse was postponed or sexted?
A virtual year,
a virtuous cheer,
certainly queer.

And, as I quicken to your end,
you morph
Omni Cromnivirus Maximus,
you token turd,
you blind bigot,
you sour-faced, singularly persistent,
bastard of bad faith.

I plant spineless pions
to punctuate your particles
with Pi times your pronounciating pronouns,
Gibberish, Gomorrah,

May you perish,
and reincarnate the bodies of the departed
as whole paragraphs of poetry.
May you accompany Dante
from the wood,
like a wandering proposal,
pitched to posterity.


I was with them when they arrived
to give birth.
All they wanted was a miracle.

The rest of us were parched & starved.
All we wanted was 

peace on earth.

They could have done with a midwife or two.

Johnsie, Matty , Martin and Daniel,
sure shepherds are only good for staring

-and celebrating after miracles.

Your Festival For Friends

[specially for members of Toastmasters International in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales & beyond]

adventure into the unknown,
Elf on your shelf,
advent friends.

A time for rejoicing:
let us hold hands in harmony,
let’s stand side-by-side in solidarity,
let’s speak of Ralph C Smedley’s chesnut stuffing,
his legacy
for everyday connectivity.

There is a season …
Turn, turn, turn
and a time to every purpose in Toastmasters
a time to try,
a time to try,
a time to triumph,
a timer by your side.

let there be Grammar,
guttural, graceful grammar,
linguistic tightrope walking
past lazy language,
unkempt utterances
savage sentences.
Let your inner Grammarian prod you
from slovenly, sleepy mouthfuls.
This is the season for rejoicing, rhyme and rhetoric.

Each to your way:

Make meaningful the content of your desire.
You are a meaning-making-master
a lowercase distinguished Toastmaster,
You deserve this advent,
this good story,
this Promise of
Integrity for Inspiration,
Respect for Resilience,
Service for Solace,
Excellence for Eccentricity.

May Ralph be Santa to your sleigh,
crammed full of presents,
and presence on your stage,
your landscape,
your speachathon,
the speachathon of your mind.

May the love of leaders that lead with love
fill up your heart this year to come.

Call out this Festival from COVID,
unmask the pain within,
ring out the joy we comrades sing,
make merry when you can
and serve humanity lashings of trifle.

Ring in this season of reindeers,
ridiculous renditions of poetry and song,

With love to you all


Wake up with life in mind – blank verse in dust

It’s never been an easy ride to place

a photograph exactly where it ought to be.

Opinions clash, hypotheses contest the wind

before the taste of breakfast turns to memory,

and dust.

Witness the ease that trickles through your base

and turns a little sour, as morning drifts

apart. Is there not spice to whet your appetite

for war and peace? Is there no more sunshine

around the sound of jays and rooks and doves,

and dust?

Behold English Setter on banks prepared for fish

that jump before lunchtime for flies not moths,

a dog that saved my life with eyes he fixed so firm,

until compelled to sit and drools, and I to smile

through dust.

There’s no ending in sight or sound, no door

locked down, nor ice too cold to strip a breath of air

from lungs on fire. Who cut the brambles back,

murdered the blackberries, and left the path undressed?

Awake with life in mind, unheart me now before the rain,

you gods of sleep, come do your best, sustain

this chimera of dust.


I’ve heard the master say

He had a favourite shot

the best one in his bag.

He dares to whisper the name

Toastmasters for Golf.

We are Toastmasters of today

we are Toastmasters for tomorrow.

I’ve heard the master say.


I have landed in the bunker

my ball’s gone out of bounds

My buggy has a broken wheel

My swing’s gone off the boil,

my ground’s under repair.

There’s a fairway somewhere,

it lies in greener grass.

I’m terrified of shanking,

I’m sure I’ll top the ball.

because I’m an ordinary leader

who stands upon the tee

out there every day.

in your community,

I’ve heard the master say.

I’m no more afraid of public speaking

than of playing a fresh-air shot.

I’ll feast my eye upon the ball

upon my words in flight

“It’s all a game of golf”,

I hear the Toastmaster say

– from concrete fears to metaphors

– from nightmares to the promised land.

I’ll practise my swing

until the rainbow’s end.

I’ll practise my voice

in solidarity with friends.


Let’s not squander time in fear,

let’s not hide away our talents,

let me be my best.

I heard the master say.

Ralph C Smedley used his wedge,

and built a club house fair.

Ralph C had days he missed his cup

Of this you can be sure,

but he never, ever, gave up.


Your leader in the zone,

on the eighteenth hole

he knew he’d done his best

he smiled to friends all round the course.

Ralph knew the putt was long,

from when he wore short trousers,

he dreamt of saving lives

he dreamt of players growing strong.

He’d dreamt there would be a hole-in-one

for YOU.

His inner core


His outer layer


His clubs were called to


In the dream of


I’ve heard the master say.



“Follow your way” by blavandmaster is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You don’t have to agree

You don’t have to agree with me,
or your father.
You don’t even have to agree
with the gods.

The proof lies in your rebellion
against the power of the authority
that would lord over you
– if you let it.

You don’t have to agree with these few words
or what you imagine they mean
for your own good
– the only good you’ll ever have.

You don’t have to accept

You don’t have to accept
the sun in the morning.
You don’t have to accept
the stars at night.

You don’t have to accept
the scars of words
uttered in your direction.
You don’t even have to attend
the funeral of hopes you used to embrace,

nor love the company
of those who profess to love you,
of those who crave to care,
of those that breathe your name.

You don’t have to accept.

You don’t have to pay

You don’t have to pay attention
to wagtails, butterflies and magpies
in your garden
nor the song of newts, frogs and moths
– symphonic bedfellows.

You don’t have to pay attention
to the call of those who claim
to need your time,
nor the screech of mates, pals and kin
– major keys, minor discords.

You don’t have to attend,
to be present,
to what matters most
to you.

You have your way

You have the power to forget,
the right to deny.

You have the honour to refuse,
the right to be blind.

You have the breath to be echt,
the right to find

your way.

Full Stop

[dedicated to the revival of writing]

When your pen’s been dry and paper blank,

when the ashes of your fire refused to light,

when you smelled the blossom and found no fragrance,

when you walked the streets and hummed no melody of thought,

when the Virus left you cold, too safe to care,

you’ve been doing research.

You’ve let the song of birds sink in.

You’ve let the sight of butterflies thrill your garden.

You’ve let the taste of tepid tea touch you.

When the temperature of conversations escapes your notice,

your pen is standing by, your paper clean

Full stop.

Twixt Sleep and Sleep

In hours twixt sleep and sleep

the breakfast

the lunch,

the dinner

and tea.

The dressing-gown, cereal, coffee, shower, shave, conditioner, moisturiser, deodorant, and socks.

From grumpy eyes to Elysian whim…

From walking the dog to stroking the cat,

and back again…

From negotiations with housework to a ceasefire over washing-up…

Labour without laughter

Marketing without melody.

Did the postman deserve that bark?

Did the car drink too much petrol, on the road to Moanbaun Woods?

The family, the family, the family

the WhatsApp…

Where have all the contracts gone?

Remember the Burning Bush?


Agony in the garden

Resurrections and assumptions


And all in the twinkling

twixt sleep and sleep.

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.