The poem read by the poet

She came – like a story – into words
from roots planted deep in the womb of her mother’s mystery.

She came – like a foal – from that womb,
a filly full of windswept curls.

She crawled on kitchen floors – between legs of chairs –
until she stood steady and strode past barricades and cant.

She rode her way into her biography
on ponies that foostered – she put manners on their stride.

She carries the weight of her imagination on her back
every morning – on her way to school.

Are you awake?


“Is anyone awake?” said the man in his kitchen.

Is there anybody out there

whose eyes, however brittle, are awake?

Is there anyone there for me?

Is there anyone I can’t see?


What about the people across the ocean?

What about the people across the land?

What about the people by the lakeside,

are they all sleeping?

When will they wake?

When will they rise?

Like Lazarus, or like their sleeping dog?


Yes, who are these people

who are awake and are not speaking?

Are they there for me?

Do they have any way to see the difference they make,

the meanings they build,

the hours they swill?


It’s time for tea,

the kettle, she boils.

The bag has been thrown in.

My cup is not empty.

The chemistry is about to begin.


Who is asleep?

If you are asleep, may you be woken.

If you are awake, may you sleep.

You may be in the dark
ears perked
listening for the commas

There may be wax
waiting to soften and fall

Are you still?
your eyes locked?
doorway rusted overnight

When will you ever earn

the flowers in your ears?

Graveyards are singing,

welcome the sound of dawning insight,

clasp the stave of whispering shadow.

Enter the Beast

She’s crossing muddy waters (song lyrics)

[In honour of Robbin T Milne, painter]

Hang up, hang up

Your summer brushes,

Your daytime rushes

Your morning blushes

Hang up, hang up

She’s crossing muddy waters

Going out on the tide

She is crossing muddy waters

Heading for the other side

Because she has to earn her living

Needs more food to keep her going

The paint, it doesn’t come free

Her paintings don’t grow on trees

Hang up, hang up

Those summer brushes,

Your daytime rushes

Those morning blushes

Hang up, hang up

She’s crossing muddy waters

Hanging out upon the sand

She’s crossing muddy waters

She knows you’ll understand

Because her shoes have all worn thin

And her makeup’s all run dry

You know she’ll never win

Until she can afford to cry.

Hang up, hang up

Your summer brushes,

Your daytime rushes

Your morning blushes

Hang up, hang up

She’s crossing muddy waters

Wading through a cotton field

She’s crossing muddy waters

She’ll never ever yield

Because her eyes are losing light

The glass cracked and out of date

You’ll see her virtigo

And always running late

Hang up, hang up

Those summer brushes,

Those daytime rushes

Those morning blushes

Hang up, hang up …

Did Wordsworth capture daffodils?

Did Wordsworth capture daffodils the way bees in my garden capture nectar?

Did DaVinci capture Mona Lisa’s smile the way black birds capture earthworms?

Did Rodin capture the Gates of Hell like Elton John captured Candles in the Wind?

Was Abelard accurate when he said Heloise captured his heart?

And what about Dante’s Beatrice – was anyone captured?

Did my lover capture me?

Have I captured my love?

The way my earthworms capture …

The way Ansel Adams captured Yesemone

And Walt Whitman captured America.

Have you captured anything recently?

A poem in my pocket

I have a poem in my pocket called itch.

It doesn’t have a name, and it certainly doesn’t have a first or last line.

For all I know it might be an epic, or an epigram.

I don’t know when it’s going to come out, when it will reveal its proclivities, what it’ll mean to my grandchildren.

If it collapses, I don’t know how I will feel.

If it turns into a cancer, I don’t know what I’ll do about it.

I don’t think there is a cure – but there might be a remission.

Louis is an English Setter, probably failed his training as a gundog.

Someone gave him to a rescue centre in Cork. All he wants is attention.

He’s a bit of an itch.

He might be the hero of the poem.

My father

My father was a lion.

When he was napping,

I relaxed into hitting golf balls

over the house,

with a wedge.

When he woke up,

he drank Bewley’s coffee

in the kitchen,

in front of the Aga.

He’d been shot with a bullet

in the left shinbone

by a sniper,

from the roof of Cleve’s Factory,

across the Shannon River

in 1921.

My father didn’t limp,

he wore brown brogues,

grey socks, and an Omega.

He was born before Fathers’ Day.

When I was young,

every day was mother’s day:

she wrote the rules,

he approved.

His drawing room game was chess,

his golf game twice a week,

followed by hands of forty-five.

I was his caddie.

He paid two and six pence,

and a bottle of orange lemonade.

Dad was a Chopin man

with straight-back hair,

his forehead marked

from the day a surgeon

drilled into his scull,

and he lost his sense of taste.

He shaved with a cut-throat,

wore cuff-links

and turned shirt collars

in the old days,

before I was born.

His scapular was Franciscan,

from the Third Order.

He insisted on accurate light readings

for family photographs,

his Leika was slow.

Dublin was “the Big Smoke”

where he bought pipes.

What was the name of the plug tobacco?

He recited “Dangerous Dan McGrew”,

“The Hound of Heaven”

and decades of the Rosary.

My father was a Pioneer,

drove a Ford Capri

for a year,

carried cash to the Munster & Leinster,

and ate tripe on Fridays.

My father, carnivore,

carved the meat.

He made sure

we all got second helpings.