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Monday, 30 October 2017

Ambition


 

Solid is the dream of a shadow
Sometimes we hunger for an unimportant word
Earth is the bottom rung of paradise
Hopes are as sermons never heard.
 
Life is a limbo where nothing is defined
Cuckoos and priests; free homes, no wives,
The simple deed of a simple man
Can cause convulsions in other lives.
 
In a race of lifelong borrowers
Jews are needed and know where to go,
Can you stop the hurl of an avalanche
By grabbing a handful of snow?
 
A vicious circle of unsatisfied longings
The lariat binding struggling desire,
Islands bound in oceans blanket,
A spark resentful of father fire.
 
Eternal life the always dream
Of those who never posted a will,
Hardy summed it up with his words,
‘That sportsman time but rears his brood to kill’.
 
All things seek what they can never have
Blood flows both ways, in and out of heart,
All striving is futile in ever shifting time,
Life and death; ever just one breath apart.

 

 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Dust to Dust


Into the arms of her neighbours
The great mother oak fell in Newcastle Wood,
Six weeks they waked the stricken one,
She clung to her roots as long as she could.
The red squirrel squinted and sipped from the brook,
Higher destinies; his to overlook.
 
Her red ripened body of fungus and sweat
Dismissed civilization not even skin deep,
Her dowry a mixture of hope and regret
Dark dirt and bark stile; only willows may weep,
The haggard bony bosom her stolid remains
Her cousins filling gaps in country lanes.
 
Circumstance took me aside to view the fatal fall
And marvel at the mystery of her revolving face,
The scent was as old turf across Roscommon wall,
Nature has no mercy; neither honour nor disgrace.
Surrounding sounds were curious, muted as the strain
Of a curates galloping whisper of his Office in the rain.
 
Her secrets are all vanished now, never to return,
The wills and wonts of what will be called by a dying moon
Never meant for sawmill but in suns bright grate to burn,
And become again that acorn, dancing to seasons’ tune.
Life often changes her dress but her body is still the same
Better to topple in splendour than shrivel up in shame.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Passing Through



I slithered into this blind world in March,
They gave me a name on Paddy’s Day,
My mother always liked me dearly,
My old man; I couldn’t say.
 
Like a Dalmatian, all spots and bounce
Or a vulture with an old man’s neck
They displayed me to the visitors,
At the christening he gave the priest a cheque.
 
The priest was replaced by another collar
After I started National School,
He needed the sins of altar boys
To cause the grind and grin and drool.
 
I finished school as I started,
Promise was my middle name,
We were lower middle, no class at all,
Get work! Find a job! That was the game.
 
The Civil Service was my lot,
All you had to do was lick-arse and mime,
‘A permanent, pensionable, respectable job’
Mother said; what a waste of time.
 
Got the car, bought a house, a clatter of bairns,
Drank porter, told lies, survived at a push,
Mixed up the cousins; fact and fiction,
Slowed down in a fearful rush.
 
A Grandad now, maybe not so grand,
Pillar of society; never the ambition,
Or role-model to another generation,
Go my own way, my path to perdition.
 
To play out my role in peace or in pieces,
Is there ever an option, a choice?
I was never inclined to join in the chorus
Tone-deaf, but still my own voice.
 
Now is simply a bagful of memories,
Distorted by pale moon and gullible sun,
This world is long on shortcomings,
I have been and remain merely one.



 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Hardy Man


 
I chanced upon him on the high bank of Frome
Not far from home, he seemed more than a little sad.
I said “what ails thee Tom, what makes thee frown?”
“I’m pining for what all men miss, what I never had”,
He continued, “too often we try to hold on
To what is already lost, follow path of illusion,
The cost of new sensations from old experience
When friendly overture is cast as intrusion.
 
We stumbled together in fairer weather
In a rectory in March on Cornwall’s north coast,
The last and greatest grief, that of anticipation,
Ere I won the heart of Emma, all else was lost.
Fancy and reason are uneasy bedfellows
Logic can be chopped as freely as logs,
When the sun settles down we believe it will rise
In Budmouth and Hintock or Egdon Heath bogs.
 
A shorter than bid-for time-frame of joy
Despair and regret in constant disguise
Rambles and rumblings, pleasure and hope
She loved with deaf ears, I loved with blind eyes.
Rose coloured cows seldom deliver the richest
Of cream that floats, the lightest of freight,
She whispered in Paris she floated with spirits,
I built her asylum, Max Gate.
 
I invented my own world to live in and dwell
Through Tess and Jude Fawley and Henchard I spoke,
Springrove, Eustacia and ‘Reddleman’ Venn,
Winterborne, Sue Bridehead and Gabriel Oak.
I brought back the Kingdom of Cedric of Wessex
And gave it new villages, cities and towns,
Christminster, Casterbridge, still Sleeping Green,
Oxwell, Port Bredy and Longpuddle Downs. 

Soon I will follow my Emma to Stinsford’s
St. Michaels where she waits at peace now at last,
We were wrong for each other from outset,
Decisions ban choices, in present and past.
Now you know young man why I’m so despondent
Why I might seem so aloof and apart,
I ask myself ‘what if we never tarried’.
I might not have carried a stone for my heart”.


Dedicated to Thomas Hardy,
a time-torn man.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Random Remedies.



 

The complex nature of simplicity underlines
The failure of illusion or real,
The words spoken before the story
Are as spokes in any spinning wheel.
Threads which draw spirits together
Can be tough or tensile as spider silk
Love, unrequited, spurns every offer,
Sour cream disowns cousin; sour milk.
 
Soul repining after lost illusion
A futile farce still sought widely after
Worldly debts, yet ghosts of intention,
Outstanding despite hollow laughter.
The sulky sun still rests on his chin
On horizons, waiting sister moon,
At that stagnant hour, betwixt and between
When harmony wobbles out of tune.
 
The weather-stained clock on the old town hall
Shows little interest in time,
Or the antics of sin in his secondary view,
No arrest, no conviction, no crime.
And the man who owned all the purses
Walked by, never tripping on stalk or stone,
Pupil of Shylock, controller of strings,
What’s theirs is mine, mine alone.

No view of landscape by lantern,
No measure of soul by the eyes,
Welcome not gauged by the smiling,
Sorrow; no friend of goodbyes.
During the telling of secrets
Canthus stretching from bridge to cheek-bone
Taking thought for a leisurely ramble,
Thought prefers to travel alone.

Slow water builds crystals on branches and steel,
Death sometimes forecasts his fatal intent,
Still truth and lies will quarrel forever
And lawyers will ever invent.
Rainbows are heralds of fortune today,
Forthcoming; but melt at the tenderest touch,
And fate never measures her winnings,
Happiness withered by such and by such.
 
 
 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Angling on the Inny

( from Wordsworth's 'poems on the naming of places')

William Wordsworth

Close to the spot where with my rod and line
angling beside the margin of the lake,
Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance
a bed of water in the woods did wake.

The spot was made by nature for herself,
this glade of water and this one green field,
And if a man should plant his cottage near
a cloistered place, of refuge, shade and shield.

In that perennial shade of unencumbered floor
a single beech tree grew and on the fork
a thrush's nest conspicuously built,
Sentry on a tranquil spot, a solitary stork.

From the remotest outskirts of the grove
a few sheep, stragglers from some mountain flock
sought protection from the nipping blast
in playgrounds of their youth, on footloose rock.

Full many an hour here did I lose,
Well worn the track, unwearied and alone,
Muttering the verses which I muttered first
on blooming heath, my couch and mine alone.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Seasons.


Prodigal went for a walk in the woods this morning and once again after three score and five years noticed the gradual, almost imperceptible, change in the hue and presentation of the face of the countryside. The infinitesimally slow greening of the complexion of nature. I suppose it must be true that the seasons measure all movement.

Time for a comment on ‘Seasons’.

 
Seasons

 
Seasons, reasons for surviving,
Staying aliving, living through it all.
Spring is springing, wings are winging,
Rutting, strutting, nature’s call.
Blossoms peeping, acorns sleeping
Leather jackets buttoned tight,
Fleeces gambolling, foxes rambling,
Daytime stretching into night.

Pairing time, despairing time,
Eggshell smashed at toe of tree
Bull a-bellow, daffodil yellow
Next to black on back of bee.
Apple blossom mixed with cherry
Hind in waiting, past commotion,
Pheromones flying, all directions,
Rising sap in every notion.

 
Spring tide wades in sea of summer
Fish so skyward they might fly
Colour and stripe replacing green
Corn and barley stretching high.
Sun ballooning, young maid swooning
Scenting changes in her stretch,
Vacations ruling calendar
Frisbees in the throw and fetch.

Light shirts, short frocks, power boats
Darting forth like dragon flies
Learning not from copy books
No jumpers, socks; no scarves or ties.
Visit cousins down or upstate
Duty calls and family bonds
Grandad rocking on the porch
Skaters flit in pleasant ponds.

 
Apples ripen, jump from boughs
Into trampolines of grass
Worms and wasps and greedy jays
Take plenteous breakfast as they pass.
Potatoes climb up through the clay
Abandoning their mother stalk
Mother goose in grand parade
Takes her children for a walk.

Stihl saws buzzing in the woods
Logs of birch and pitching pine,
New mown hay and wheat asmell
Grapes snipped from umbilical vine.
Gathering nuts and haws and sloes
Flavour for the winter gin
Pumpkins, berries black and blue
Stain the lips like blatant sin.

 
Winter steals in, sobbing, sighing,
Ochre stained and yellow dyed
Life is waning, soon the dying.
Brown carpet on the country side.
Lean time, mean time, passing time
In hollows, huddles, soggy drains,
Frost and fog, ice and snow
Frequent; those distracting rains.

Christmas stories, Redbreast, robins,
Mistletoe and ivy strung,
Service at the place of worship
Parson begging, carols sung.
Time of patience, time of waiting
Sometimes hunger, often pain
Still we peek around the corner
Spring will soon be here again.



Monday, 20 February 2017

Time the Destroyer.


Dion Boucicault
‘Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.’

If you kill time, you injure eternity.

You can’t kill time; you can only spend it unwisely.

These are among my favourite quotes about that timeless subject, time. What is time and who controls it? What does time mean for each of us and how do we measure it? The Prodigal will try to describe time in layman’s terms as that is the only qualification he has for this task. What to give as a title to this attempt to describe the impossible. Death is the leveller so time must be the destroyer. That’ll do.

Time the Destroyer.

Yesterday’s cloud is today’s muddy water
Yesterday’s love is today’s lovely daughter.
Yesterday’s green is today’s flower blue
Yesterday’s dream today has come  true

I stand here a jester having tried for a king
The budgie had pedigree; just couldn’t sing
My crew went to college; I forked out the money
But the neighbours flew off with the milk and the honey.

They said I was handsome, just look at me now,
A profile like parchment, crooked drills for a brow.
I longed for a castle so stately and grave
I sleep in the corner of troglodytes cave.

Ambition I nurtured, from flicker to light
And watched it extinguish at coming of night
My hopes were the full of a mariner’s chest
They are now merely holes in my second hand vest.

We all wish for lofty not sure where to look
And the champion in waiting, in doubting is stuck
The priest at the bishop is looking in vain
And the desert is scanning the red sky for rain.

The winemaker waits for the grape to ferment
And sighs when it’s ready the first day of Lent.
The sinner repents from half-six to seven
Saint Peter then sells him a pass card for Heaven.

Tomorrows don’t happen just yesterdays past
Futures a joke and the promise can’t last.
Eyes become sockets and bodies make clay
Hopes disappear and dreams fade away.

Yesterday’s boy; today’s sturdy man?
Yesterday’s winner is today’s also-ran
Yesterday’s great ones today stand quite small
For time is the master; destroyer of all.



 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Roads without Bend.


On January 31st, Sebastian Barry’s new novel, ‘Days Without End’ was announced as the overall winner of the Costa Book Awards for 2016. The award was only justice for Barry who has attained cult status that is not his thing but there it is! It’s a long, long way from the mild west of Wicklow to the wild west of Missouri to write more sacred scripture but seamless for a permanent gentleman. Sebastian becomes the first writer to win the overall award on two occasions having previously been successful with his inspirational novel “The Secret Scripture”.

By way of celebrating another Irish success the Prodigal thought it apt to string a few verses together based on some of the words and phrases found in ‘Days Without End’. Any man who chooses to name his children after a sea creature, a magician and a jug deserves nothing but applause. Here it is!

Roads without Bend.

 
When the strength died out of his father’s earth
And hunger pinched his fallen face
He met the moon and stars up close
Mirrors of a new disgrace.

 
Just a fragment of legend yet to come
Hatched under a hedge in wild Missouri
No compass or map; no direction
Just forward and future and certain furore.

 
The hunger wolves under hunger moons
Sand and Sioux, longing and thirst,
And always the question; who would survive
It maybe came down to who caught his horse first.

 
Now baked, then chilled, like a sweating wall
Loose as dawn and tight as noon
Face a collection of forgotten smiles
Just there; linger note of a banshee croon.

 
Afoot, black acres of fallen flames
Ashes like Lent Wednesday in Sligo town
Mississippi glancing sideways at Wilsons Creek
The whip-poor-will inviting perdition down.

 
Snow tonsure perched on mountain top
Just a simple sight some distance ahead
Like beauty and lesser swapping places in the face
Deposits from the living in accounts of the dead.

 
When all options are floated, memory picks itself,
Lace and shawl of winter on the shoulders of the hills,
Peering at the past through concave lenses
Bitterness buried in unmarked drills.



Wednesday, 25 January 2017

SpAndrés


Twin brown hands cupped together
Lattice fingers underpinning,
Digits of fair Spanish weather
Have known loving and sister sinning.
Offered me a stone, a twig, a cone of pine
Abandoned by a woodland creature
The offering of friendship, simple sign,
The simple gift itself; a gift from nature.
Navacerrada; once home to Indian braves
The Navajo of the Arizona plains
Once proudest of red people, turned to slaves
Now shovelling dirt and clearing city drains.
Reservoir; no reservation here!
Guadarrama peaks, a lofty sentry
At Plaza de Los Angeles; sipping beer,
Smiling at the leaving and the entry.
He gave us home, free gratis with goodwill
No timetable, at liberty to leave or still to stay
A chalet at the summit of his hill
No yesterday, tomorrow, just today.
True lover of his legacy of Spain
Paradise of pismires, crawling free,
Not anxious for the mists or promised rain
No yearning here to visit salty sea.
We walked with him, this boy of innovation
For miles along the path; Camino Way,
With chat and song and simple recreation
“Enjoy the moment friend; live for today”.
To Spain’s Madrid we travel soon again
To meet this man and those who own his heart
Bianca, Hermann, the little Princess Sarah
And Jack, of course, who plays a special part.
 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Conspiracy.


A path forms, when ground is deemed as granted,
Ground not yet conceded by the stranger
Who scans horizon, land-lie, smells the danger,
Has seen it twice before and has lamented.

The thin-edged wedges of suspicion lofted, start
To raise high ground and vale against me
Already consigned to the paths of purgatory,
Sign says ‘all for hell’ must now depart.

Streams of mirth and death flow side by side
In twin currents of certainty and doubt
Tiring and retiring, tossed about
The man made paddles searching for the tide.

Ground like time is snatched but never mine
But held in memory’s prison for a while
A plastic inch; a rictus, killing smile.
The crime of waste lies waiting down the line.

Can human pupils weep for welcome loss?
Reality caught, can never be outrun,
The minute hand can never be undone
Just heads and tails in every pitch and toss.

Where would years be but for faithful mirror
Narcissus pool fashioned from the sand
Giving, taking, soul mates of the hand
That knows not what is stroke or what is terror.

Still more steal over what belongs to others
Like sun-bred freckles of a tinker’s wife
The promise in the handle of a knife
Conspiracy has no fathers, only mothers.