Wednesday, 13 June 2018

My Father Said

‘You’ll never miss the water till the well runs dry’
Me father said; now he’s dead,
And she said Goodbye!
When you turn down the radio at eleven
She started reading at seven,but
Not even in the house; ask why.
How come you can’t see her back when she leaves?
Only her face and front
And that top that she bought in Dunnes,
Gone to that big shiny aeroplane
Never had ambitions to go down the drain
She liked ‘Spotted Dick’ and penny buns.
Longest legs I ever saw from ground to ceiling rising
Going everywhere and nowhere baby
Sometime walk back maybe, perhaps.
She said I was a total absolute ballhooks
With not a chance of changin’
Nobody perfect; maybe Chinese or Japs?
She’s gone but still here wreckin’ my distracted head,
Musk scent of her still in the bed
She’s here even though she went.
It was time; she needed the space and the place
And Emma’s grace; my father said
‘You always see better value when your money is spent.
Now we talk every day, sun and hay, and she says ‘whatsUp’
Nothing at this end, same good story
Of me and the Jap and buttery bread.
To know what she’s feelin’ or thinkin’ or wantin’,
Maybe my father was right a long time ago
‘girls are like dolls for playing with' he said.



Friday, 6 April 2018

The Why and the Wherefore.

Where is the pass over the mountain
That leads to Tír Na nÓg?
Is it found only in dreams?
Faery dreams, those friendly sisters
Hand in hand on their journey
To the meeting of the seven streams.
How many feathers are needed
To balance a bone on the scales?
The bare bone of hope and despair,
Why follow those poor misguided fools
Who cast their nets in stagnant pools?
And never a fish find there.
How many leaves of the sycamore
Does the wind count at dusk
Before he settles to sleep,
Is it better by times not to have the words
To say what would wound
And kindly counsel keep.
A blind man sees well enough in slumber
Silence conveys better meaning
To those who know the secret signs.
The wasteful unimportance of life
A wounded creature among the complete
Great oak strangled by serpentine vines.
Are the moon and oceans Siamese twins
And the land and sea blood brothers
Do wild geese fly in blue formation?
Is the crusader welcome home?
Might wars end if men refused to fight?
Would we join this conversation? 

Will a clock survive on just a tick?
Is forgetting and not wanting
To remember one and the same,
Is life a matter of inconvenience?
Like boiling eggs in a barrel
Or merely a pointless foolish game.

Daisy on Fiddler’s Green.

Making for different horizons today
My head and feet
Steps and questions in tandem
Yet ‘never the twain shall meet’
Until I lie on my shadow
When I enter the narrow house
Steered by collared myrmidons
Of outstretched paw and tenant mouse.
I pondered the passions of life
Enacted in rhyme and song
As the music of Munster
Lilting from O’Gara’s tongue.
How to stall the cry of conscience;
Realization cannot be outrun,
Death is a maker of widows
As true as the dial to the sun.
The false pride of principle struck me
Regularity and virtue not my lot
I live in a house of calm calamity
Forget me but forgive me not.
Whispers of fancy, phantoms of hope
Walked with me through perilous gap
The work of buried hands, buried faces,
Hope survives on a crumb and a scrap.
Consider mercy side-lined by justice
Justice ignored by law,
Priests who preach but never suffer
Do branches know the bite of the saw?
Love is a limited substance
The slow burning out of a dying fire
Disappointment married to expectation
The dropping of ripe fruit, the end of desire.

If we exist, then not exist,
What’s the point of it all?
If death means extinction it is nothing!
Nothing but echoing rise and fall.
To achieve long life is to ignore its passing
But for the mirror; time never seen,
Passing as the mist on the mountain
Or the daisy on Fiddlers Green.



Thursday, 4 January 2018

In my mother's house

In dirt of blue-grey modelling clay
Where Sapien is Homo and happy is gay
That’s where the sergeant’s son tottered to walk
With mother of headline, ruler and chalk.
Overarching boughs of green, cloisters of the lane,
Divided sparse fields, every mearing a drain.
With fences of thorn, of black and of haw,
And ruts in those lanes that sun never saw.
That’s where I would leave, come back to settle,
At one with the lakelander, heron and nettle.
Rutted lanes and lost lanes, blending in stride,
On penance-path to school, drinking pool beside.
Monica and Rosaline, conspired to spoil,
Margaret was the silent one,
Sometimes when he wasn’t awake
I played with father’s hidden gun.
Mother aped her own face in all,
To look at; there was only the brighter side,
For schools inspectors, richer neighbours,
And gaping gaps built by divide.

My father was hardly a father at all
I still don’t know what a father was,
His answer to why things were as they were
The always same; because, because.
We were holy in a pious way
Hymns and psalms were always sung,
And chanted like the Hairy Christians
When Angelus bell stuck out her tongue.
All our prayers were mechanical
Like the singing of ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’
Before the throw-in at Bishops Park
The players mouthing like goldfish green.
She taught me numbers one by one
An abacus made from her beads,
She said ‘the world survives on mouthfuls
And mouthfuls come from seeds’. 

In the lane I counted her fingers,
I counted from thumb to ten,
A finger for every year of my life,
Never counted her fingers again

(Dedicated to John McGahern, the greatest wordsmith of them all!)


Brendan the Navvy

Dante of Florence mined for inspiration
Was content to trawl in another nation
For his plot and players in his Comedy Divine,
A legend now; a man then, Brendan the Navvy
Preaching and teaching, building, no compass
No trowel, no level or vertical line.
Christian parents, Finnlugh and Cara,
Cousins of valour; Niall of the Nine,
From Tralee of the Kingdom, bound for another,
With sandals and staff he travelled the land,
Called fourteen companions of heart and of hand
Surveyed the Atlantic with Erc, druid brother.
In 551 he mounted the waves riding a scallop-shell boat,
An Arc by design on damp willow bough
Lashed to the weatherproof skin of a goat.
The signal of sun, the power of the moon,
Newfoundland first, Bahamas and further,
A miracle kept the Curragh afloat.

They brave, refereed a rare confrontation
A fight to the death between pussy and shark
While Florida beckoned on Western shore,
Festivus decreed Mississippi too wide
Land of Promise; mirage of the haughty and vain,
High time and tide for Aran once more.
Eight leagues to the west of sultry Gomera
Brendan found his island on Tuesday I’m told
On Tuesday at fifteen or twenty past ten,
He found a lost island, he lost a found island,
I wonder if that land is low land or highland,
By noontime on Wednesday he lost it again.

(dedicated to Brendan the Navigator, who drew the maps for Christopher Columbus.)