Which is more unpleasant?

Which is more unpleasant

an Americano without body

a meal without taste

an apple rotten to the core

a woman who’s never cried

a man afraid to try

a child you can’t distract

a secret smashed to smithereens

a dream turned sour

a faith unfounded

howls of slaughtered daisies

weeping willows in drought

the last gasp of an olive tree

a whale beached on barnacles

the last dodo dying in chains

an island of plastic reproducing

a dog that will not walk

a cat that cannot purr

an elephant on crutches

fifteen years of carbuncles

sixteen decades in a black hole

seventeen centuries without a change in the weather.

Catholic ethos in our schools

It’s hard to recall my last Confession
and whether I finished my penance.
I went to Mass at Xmas.

Is it still a sin to sleep
with my best friend’s husband?
I know Limbo’s dead,  is Purgatory still alive?

We are a Catholic country.

I believe in God.
I used to like the Crucifixion,
but I really love Easter Eggs.

A Catholic ethos for my child
is what I want. I send a few Christmas cards,
the price of stamps is way too high.

We are a Catholic country.

I never need a Bible,
there’s one on a shelf next to the dictionary.
How would I know it’s Old or New?

I don’t have an elephant’s memory,
but I do know an elephant’s trunk
cannot extinguish the Devil’s flames.

I believe in miracles,
I believe Jesus walked on water,
I believe in the Last Day,
in eternal salvation,
in Heaven and Hell.

We are all Christians
whether we know it or not.
It’s bad manners to talk about my faith.

This is a Catholic country.

I want my child’s First Holy Communion,
with lots of money, and a fancy party.
We both deserve new shoes.

A Catholic ethos in our schools
keeps children safe and saintly.
I’ll fight to the death to keep it alive.

What happens at home
stays at home.
It’s none of your business.

What is it like to be a man?

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 16.26.48

What is it like to be a man?
the painter asked.

Is it the stubble that grows on your face?
Is it the underpants and trousers you wear to work,
the brogues you pull over your socks,
the wombless life you live.

What is it like to resemble a man?
the painter asked.

To talk like a man,
to eat like one of the lads,
to have male blood in your veins,
and the wombless way you walk.

What is it like to feel a man?
the painter asked.

To feel grown up,
to shut your mouth when entranced,
to be silent when dismayed,
to keep secrets from your best friend,
and mature in an eggless, wombless existence,

the painter asked.



Where would we be without mothers?

If all our mothers disappeared from Earth

If our young women never again gave birth

There’d be no more elephants born

No afterbirth to consume

No eggs to hatch

No more pups, kittens, cubs, kids, calves, colts, fillies, foals, porcupettes, lambs, duckling, keets, cygnets, poults, pufflings, goslings, eaglets, efts, tadpoles, codling, smolts, spats, spiderlings, wrigglers, chicks, hatchlings, joeys, toadlets, snakelets, antlings, leverets, kits, eyases,  shoats, farrow, ephyrae, squeakers, pinkies, nymphs, elvers, squabs, hoglets, wormlets, fawns, fingerlings,




The rain was downpouring on Monday evening.

Cork city centre was dark at 7pm because black clouds hung low. No one was outside on Oliver Plunkett Street.

I certainly wasn’t. I was warm and snug in the Hi-B, halfway into a pint of Guinness. Myself in the corner next to a couple who were leaning into each other.

I can’t resist eavesdropping. A habit from childhood.

Why have I never told you you have wonderful teeth?”

Thinking about it “could anyone resist listening in to that?

She said nothing at first, as if she’d misheard.

Your teeth are precious.

I saw him cross his ankles & tuck his legs under the seat. He pulled back from her eyes smiling.

How do you mean … precious?

They sparkle, so white. I’ve never seen teeth like them.

In all my fifty plus years paying wrapt attention to the intimacy & frivolity of others, I’d never seen anyone woo anyone by complementing their teeth.

It reminded me of the teeth poems I’d written when I was working for the National Trust.

The cleaner who changes her toothbrush 47 times a year…

The father who manages on two brushes a year…

Sounds like you fancy my teeth?

That’s not all he fancies, I said to myself.

The attraction that lasted


I fell in love with the nose that nuzzled near the nape of my neck,

her fingertips touched mine on Baggot Street bridge that night in May.

We walked with electricity between us.

I talked to myself about the way she spoke through lips I longed to lick.

You could say I was attracted to the ambiguity of her personality, the style with which she tickled my boxers.


I grew familiar with her nose.

The fingers lost their tips.

When the Sun came up, the electric light dimmed.

I got used to talking to her.

The summer sun sank below the mountains, below the plain, lost from sight.


The Fall moon peeped from behind clouds, drawing the tide, going and coming.

Every Night, Dawn, Morning, Day, Afternoon, Dusk, Evening,

every Cycle of Life.

she came to me, to the house of my youth, slipped into me with an ocean wave,

flickering, feasting, flowing.

I married her blue eyes,

and we all lived lively ever after.