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

resurrection

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.

II

Remember Christmas

Miracle of life and death

A butterfly flapped.

III

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.

IV

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

Chislers

V

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.

VI

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.

Moleskines

Filaments for the chronicle

So many fragments to stitch together.

VII

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.

I had my cake and ate it too

Today.

After walking by the lake & tall hills by Gougane Barra this afternoon, I came home to a cake.

A cake deserves a photograph, or a painting – especially when it’s as magnificent as this one.

Especially when it’s handmade by someone who’s dearer to me than the confection is sweet.

She spent a goodly proportion of the day in the supermarket & kitchen – and cleaned up after herself – which I have often not done.

I had half an eye on England v Belgium when she visited my sofa, and asked if I would really like a candle for every year of what I call my maturity.

I almost took pity on her.

“Of course I’d love that.”

And so it was that when my two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren & two dogs joined us in the kitchen (via Zoom), there were candles lit.

Imagine trying to light that number of short candles on top of this cake. Imagine three of us with flaming matches, and melting wax trickling on to the icing.

Etched into memory, never to be forgotten until my memory muscle has grown too limp to last.

Joy, fun & glee. How fortunate I am to have such company to love.

I travelled to Africa today

Ghana and Mali.

When I was a child in Limerick my imagination didn’t stretch to Africa.

It never crossed my mind that I would go to Accra in Ghana or Bamako in Mali.

But I knew the name Timbuktu, the city that’s Tombouctou in French.

It never crossed my mind that Timbuktu in Mali might be twinned with Hay-on-Wye in the Black Mountains. That’s Wales.

My father collected National Geographic Magazines. I got the impression there were photographs of African people, animals, rivers, mountains, trees, and skies in every issue. The pull-out maps were big.

I had coffee in West Africa yesterday. I brought with me the best wishes of the people of Glanmire.

Two countries “bridging the gap” they said. You could see it happening in front you as you were drawn into the conversations.

Space travel on Earth.

(written on Saturday)

613,200 is my special number

613,200 or thereabouts. As a Greek tongue uttered,

“Being exact is superficial – and misses the point.”

For example, there is always something singular about a droplet of acid – especially when it’s deoxyribonucleic.

And when I said there were 31 days in my ‘birthday’ this year, I trusted you wouldn’t take the news literally.

As suspected, I’m a bit of a codjer – a seanamadán.

“To play with words is to tickle your imagination” – as Socrates’s mother said, the day he made the Brazilian team.

The poetry of numbers is infinite and tangential to the main stream. That’s why particles of verse – those that pass the litmus test – prove to be a promising investment during pandemonia.

What a demon of a number that has been – at times.

It’s the conundrum that’s a treat to understand, I imagine.

On the seventh day

On the seventh day of his birthday, Paul kept going in a direction he couldn’t fathom.

The virus followed him, keen to sneak through his protective efforts.

He couldn’t shake her off his trail.

Even while he was eating meringue, vanilla ice cream, and black berry compote, on Princes Street, outside Nash 19, she was still pursuing his cells.

Paul wore a black mask. He was beginning to find some masked women attractive – as if his imagination had life left in it.

The elastic was stretched. The Americano so slow to appear he decided to leave without it. He went to buy an AeroPress.

Meanwhile, a pleasant man was replacing the screen on Paul’s iPhone 7.

‘How do I know the virus isn’t in my cell phone?’

Paul was used to talking to himself.

Music cures

Poetry is music to me.

Meaning that every poem is a melody. It has its major chords, and minor key.

Tonality

Syncopation

Rhythm

When I approach a poem, I get ready to read it aloud. If there are people nearby, I move away.

I want to taste the words, phrases, and punctuation as they’re uttered I want to feel the flow.

The syllables are like notes from a piano. Words are chords. Lines like bars.

Adagio,

Andante

Apassionato

The great poems have many movements.

They cure me of bad habits.

On the third day

There was still something to admire

Leaves yellowing

Moistened grass

An apple

holding fast to a Worcester tree.

The cat sleeping

Footballers from Mayfield

Hockey players in Garryduff

Jack Russells yapping on a sideline.

Red wine running out

Cabbage in curry

A sliver of Cheddar

Coconut milk from a tin.

Rice

Reheated & plonked on a plate.

On the third day,

There was morning and evening.

I don’t like myself this morning

I will own-up here. Give you the full facts (assuming there is such a thing as as fact).

After looking at WhatsApp, reading one message, and sending an audio reply …

After looking at emails that came in overnight, deleting all but one, and replying ‘ok’ …

I read the headline. The first paragraph. The headline, the news.

It sank in quickly.

I don’t admire the person I met in the kitchen this morning. I’m not proud of myself, my feelings, nor my thoughts.

I confess I had an evil mind. May my mother (RIP) forgive me. I must take responsibility for the flood of emotions I welcomed.

There was nothing noble about my hopes. Nothing honourable about my wishes. Nothing generous for breakfast.

Once upon a time, I wished my mother would break a leg, and be confined to bed for six weeks. I wished her no pain. All I wanted was for her to be incapacitated – so I and my friends could be free to enjoy ourselves without her rules hanging over us.

I may not like the person I am today, but it’s the second day of my birthday month.

A day to celebrate.

The 31 day birthday

He was overdue. A home birth. A first-born. His poor mother, she never complained nor forgot.

The centre of their universe, it took him months to realise there was more than one universe, because, in common with all infants, he began life on the outside feeling nothing but his instinctive desires. It never crossed his mind that there was an other.

He was only wanting.

From North Circular Road in Limerick to 13 Waterloo Road in Dublin to 54 FitzJohn’s Avenue & 10 Gayhurst Road in London to Bradford-upon-Avon in Wiltshire to Bath – and today in Cork.

You haven’t changed much” resonated – as he contemplated in the kitchen he shared with dog, cat, wife & daughter.

You’ve saught attention all your life. You’ll go to your grave (or cremation) still seeking even more attention.

He swallowed tea from a mug decorated with a rooster. It was tepid by now.

The blueberries on top of his moist muesli – fat, firm and fruity.

It was 1st of October 2020, a day to celebrate his ongoing maturity. “Others haven’t survived. Thank goodness some of us have.

Already he’d treated himself to a slow getting-out-of-bed. A bit of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, RTE News, BBC News, and Social Audio.

A shower, shave, and fresh underpants – it was a day for distinctive action. He had a personality worth appreciating, and ruminating on.

However, he was shocked when he entered the kitchen. So wrapped up in himself that it never crossed his mind that anyone would take him seriously.

I was half-joking when I said this October was my birthday month.”

The person who’d sent the tall plant – that sat on the cream tiles – had blown him away, lifted him up, and left him blinking.

Is it plastic or growing? For me or my wife?” – as he fingered the giant variegated leaves, and stalks.

He ripped open the blue envelop.

Happy Birthday You Silver Fox” the card announced. ‘

There’s nothing to say

An empty mind, an empty space, nothing pushing to hatch. This is when I should write. One letter after the other, as if each was one step after the last one. It only takes one letter to keep going.

Thinking there’s nothing to say is a good way of stopping myself saying anything. Writing is the problem – words flow easily enough from my mouth.

Maybe I should speak into this laptop?

Maybe I should go get a notebook – a Moleskine. For years notebooks have been my companions. Often I’ve felt half dressed without one.

Which is worse? A notebook without a pen – or a pen without a notebook, napkin, back of an envelop, fag packet, a tablecloth. (I remember proposing marriage in a restaurant where I wrote the verse on a paper place mat.)

When will the apple fall from the tree?

When’s the time to put the green parasol away in the green shed?

Where have the small birds gone?

There are always questions, when there is nothing to say.

Connections fail

Most connections fail. The contact ends. Broken intentions, disconnections abound.

“She put the phone down on me.”

“He didn’t reply to my letter.”

“My smoke signal went unanswered.”

“I lost your number.”

“I got lost.”

“The carrier pigeon met a hawk.”

“There was an hurricane, an earthquake, a volcano – and I forgot.”

“The tsunami sundered our prospects.”

Today I became unconnected. I lost it. One moment I was in full flight, rapport growing by the nano-second, smiles igniting all round the room.

And then she dropped me. Cut me dead. Zoomed off with her friends. Not so much as a funeral.

I tried to get back in touch with her. But nothing worked.

I thought we had a good thing going.

That’ll teach me to take her for granted.

When I reflect on my life

which is a dangerous occupation, I notice too much. Especially too much time lost. For example, this morning Roger Overall and I were scheduled to record the Business Jazz podcast from 09:30. As usual, every Friday morning, I was running a few minutes late.

Intent on catching up, making up for lost time, I hurried onto Zoom. Laptop booting up while I joined the meeting via iphone7. A man with two joining devices.

A man with no sound. The smart phone was quick, as usual. The MacBookPro slow, as usual.

Here’s how the time of my life, both of our lives, was squandered.

Silence. I couldn’t hear Roger. He couldn’t hear me. We were reduced to text messages. You can’t record a podcast via text. (Poor effort at humour)

Eventually, we recorded the podcast via Skype.

How much time was stolen from us by that unwelcome gift of silence? (Perhaps I am a better person for the unpleasant experience?). But it was a horrid time – so horrid I dare not remember, or calculate, how much of my life was squandered.

This is a theme of my return to blogging: remembrance of lost time. A la recherche du temps perdu – remembering Proust – and the time I was able to speak French well enough to converse (never well enough to be subtle with it).

The time I pause here – the time in between sentences, phrases, and even words – is purposeful. Gathering energy, clarity, and alacrity – that’s time well invested.

The time of my life.