Autobiographies

Autobiographies

I drank coffee over bacon and cheese
writing autobiography,
as easy to swallow as Rapunzel and Guinness.

The woman in a cream suit
shook gold earrings and munched
waffles from Idaho
soaked in organic maple syrup
with her mouth open

reminded me of my mother,
Paul, close your mouth when you’re eating.

I read the wine list
in the mirror
behind my back.
That was as difficult to do
as swallowing cod liver oil neat.

How many autobiographies live unwritten
within this life,
under the surface,
scratching for release
from Purgatory?

Am I lost in Dante’s wood,
or sunshine?
Is this Idaho real,
or escaping on the page,
a fleeting fairy tale?

I couldn’t catch her name.

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)

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.

After the concession

After the concession

A black bird sits on a telephone line,

suspended between wooden poles

aged by water.

This is no day for tears,

no moment for regrets,

no time for tearing-out hair.

There are other black birds

and a seagull catching light

over the Northside.

There is a hill to descend

a twisting road

past cars

and fading disintegrating leaves.

There’s even sun in my eyes.

It’s easier to say nothing,

to notice the knot,

to register the wish

to lock the toilet door

and simply sit.

Oh yes, there’s reason to be thoughtful,

there’s always reason to reflect,

looking at clouds heavy with mist.

There’s always a will to inaction,

a will to ossify.

Black bird statues

behind a crooked spire,

the one with the lightening rod on top.

The off-licence shut,

the graffiti craves attention,

I see Aer Lingus was looking for my vote

‘smart makes the right choice

for Stateside flights this winter’.

The wounded leopard must go back for more food,

the thirsting camel must trek on,

the beehive must protect and cherish

and guard their queen,

even when forced to swarm.

This is no day for tears,

it’s a day my mother did her best to prepare me for,

and my father knew would come.

Remember Job is more than one man,

and black birds are ever present

whenever there’s a breath to be drawn.

___________________

 

The thrush has gone away 

The thrush has gone away.

At the very least, the brown wings

have not returned

to weigh down on the branch of the blossom tree.

The rose that rambles over the trellis

is abandoned 

and vulnerable to the vagaries of wind.

At least when the feeding mother lets her weight

bear down on the thorns

there is some stability,

some attention holding the structure.

This may not be a heavy hand, or even a reliable hand,

but it’s like a listening ear, an attentive embrace of the neck,

a something that relieves the waving flowers

of having to stand on their own.

It doesn’t have to be that thrush,

a wagtail caress would be sufficient comfort

to remind my rose

it is never truly alone.

A note to my mother – August 2006

Dear Mum

If I simply say ‘you’re the best mum I’ve ever had‘,
you’ll know I’m in touch with previous lives.

But you’ll deserve it – because you brought us up
to think and duel with words, and look beyond

to the next time when I shouldn’t be late, or break
House Rules, lest you and I would give and take

for hours and hours – so I would learn and yearn
to be my own person – as is your way.

A man I looked at twice

A man I looked at twice

I saw a man that reminded me of another,
grey bristles conjured up a face
I’d forgotten.

The forgotten put me in mind of the father
I’d lost, and that deathbed
brought back to life

the mother of my best friend
as she lay wasting
and the nurse checked the cathedra

made in a country where I’d visited
the Pied Piper’s adopted home
and fell asleep

in a single bed over which a portrait
of Saint Aloysius hung, next to the holy water font
replenished by an unknown agency.

 

___________________

Note:

I self-published the first version of this poem on my blog in January 2006