Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Chinaman


Recently I visited Newcastle Forest to perform a grim task. It fell to me to choose a permanent resting place for my noble pal, China. I picked a spot I know he would have approved of as we spent many a day there in the shadow of the widow-maker. He knew the way well and trod exactly the same forest path on many occasions. I recall wheeling dozens of barrow-loads of oak and beech from this spot to the forest road and he traversed the way with me on each and every occasion.

Ann Marie and Niamh carried him to his final sleeping place and together we buried him with the dignity he truly deserved.


Emperor son of wolf, the Chinaman, lies sleeping,
Stretching now at the curve of life's shoulder.
Guarded by the mother of the widow maker
At one with root, sinew and bolder
All those last year leaves of browning and yellow
Crumpled with wrinkles of wisdom and knowing
The secrets of life, the birthing at death,
The end and beginning, the fading, the growing.

The Achin’ at parting, the briefest goodbye
His lifetime a heartbeat of Nature,
Skips now with his quarry, the good-natured deer
And every innocent creature.
He tramped on the ramp of my conscience
Every harsh word I mightn’t have framed
That was the difference between him and me
Only man deserves to be shamed.
He’s part of the ether again, as before
Where bright breezes chase little cloud sisters
Into airtight pockets away from the storm
And the stars and the moon echo his whispers.
Nobility’s rays; his own private sun,
Grief and guilt were never his lot
The ash and the oak, the beech and the briar
All guardians of his private plot.
And what to remember and treasure forever
His always affection, his kindness and manner,
His vision and listening without pupil or ear
The heart of his father, the dog with wolf’s banner.
As dainty as the dancer the graceful Nijinsky
To just walk behind him so supple of limb,
The glances, the dances, the style and the prances
He didn’t choose death, she found him.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Haircut.

I went for a haircut
To Mammy number three
She’s good at the job
And it’s free.
Salon a hive of gossip
A mushroom of chat,
The truth; a rock to a bee
Black this; white that.
An auld one pipes up
Graves unclose,
Off to post
The devil goes.
Red bad apple
Rot at the core
Lie in her jaw
Opens the door.
Athletic mind, fragile body
Alloy of cramp and rust,
Nor felt the shafts of cupids cart
Certain dawn, doubtful dusk.
The padlock of silence
Redundant here
Sanity goes for a swim
Me and regret had never met
Until I went for a trim.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Six Sonnets of Living.

The first stir; swish in amniotic sea.
Blind wandering, driven by force unseen
Exploring the unknown, but ever keen
To crawl the distance, beat the tide; to be.
From side to side in ever growing circle
Cannot breathe, cannot shout,
Urging, pulsing, keep going! Get out!
Still tied to anchor knot of angry purple.

Defiant and screaming, man pushes his way
Into air, different now; the night, the day.
First breath, first curse, first piss.
First contact with his maker skin to skin
Exodus over, now begin
A pilgrimage of quest with mothers kiss.

Human bellows; all fellows need these to survive
Inhalation, exhalation, ventilation;
Gas exchange for all the nation
From sky to lung to tell us we’re alive.
A gasp, a pink inhaler, bagpipe drone,
Breathe in; breathe out, come and go,
Windpipes wide for ebb and flow
Of unseen force, a life support alone.
There’s many a ghost would welcome
Air to swallow for his own some
As a fish upon a grassy bank;
When your breath can’t make a frost
It is certain you are lost,
Then consider file and rank.

Symbiotic saddle with a stimulus
Never fires in total isolation
Partner in a brain fed congregation
Just as is a shower to brother cumulus.
As love is two way tower of attraction
That peaks and wanes like seasons ebb and flow
Feelings up above and down below
Convince us that we know of satisfaction.

What do we know of sensitive or sense?
Persuaded by fool’s gold or Peters Pence?
Does it make us human just by it alone?
Do we know or is it chance
That our instinct makes the dance
Or just a muscle playing with a bone.

A foot, an inch, a yard what does it mean?
Except the urge to make higher
A spark, a flame, or all-consuming fire
A seed of corn ambitious to be green.
Man cannot stand still, he must stretch
Grow taller, stouter, expand in frame
If he wants to stay in the living game
This growth is life; in every drain and ditch.

In time this growth will stall, and then contract
Little by little until the final act
That heralds the party in the great unknown.
And man must take his leave from here
No longer know the senseless fear
That shadows all of us while we have grown.

Perpetuate, reproduce, make a model just like you,
Mates and primates, birds and bees at dawn
Tenants of future in waiting nest and spawn.
Every cringing Christian, Kurd and Jew.
Survival of species most urgent drive in life
Copulate, stipulate, guarantee new batch of birth
Offspring to promote us when we return to dirt
As we will when reaper grimly twists the knife.

Love is futile, lust has thrust and focus
That delivers clones to petrify and poke us
Into oblivion, post transfer of seed.
The brief transfer from shot to quarry
The deed accomplished; no room for sorry
Perpetuation swiftly guaranteed.

If you don’t eat you don’t excrete
If you don’t excrete you die
A deposit on that dunghill in the sky
A decomposing pile of shapeless meat.
The pony eyed the miner in a pit,
“What’s the difference between his dung and mine?
That offshoot from the rear because we dine,
Mine is fertilizer; his is shit.”

Fallen grass and leaves, the trail of grazing herd
Coloured droppings of every deer and bird
The sods of plodding camel on the sand
All have useful purpose when they pass,
Hen’s droppings make a powerful potent gas
Man poisons what he’s taken from the land.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Bridges of Abbeyshrule.


Where Malachy's men of brown and beads
Cistercian monks of cowl and care
Settled close by Inny's reeds,
Built a house of stone and prayer.
Segovia's echo, fifty five yards long,
Pick handle shiny, Paddy's spit,
To honour an English Lord Lieutenant
In Dublin Castle, not worth a Whit.
The bridge a balcony, banks the stalls
To river's never ending play.
By night a loving lullaby
Full blooded drama day on day.
Further east another bridge
Shell hump on the unhurried snail,
Either side peat lands; no roads
The Bog Bridge, untold tale.
Rex brought me fishing at Scally's Bridge
For throw back roach and spiky perch,
The quivering eel fried sweet in lard
In cast iron pan, smoking on birch.
Morris's bridge or is it Quinn's,
Straddle on Royal back so long,
A roundabout before it's time
Tuning fork for water's song.
Webb's Bridge is the silent sentry
Grey rainbow of the duck and drake
Guarding the sacred harbour walls
Public passway, local lake.
And heading west is Dreaper's Bridge
Where I knocked on keeper's door,
Idle the house, stolid the lock,
Keenaghan's here no more.
Roads and hills, paths and crossings,
Near Colehill of home and school,
In Bulfin's rambles, special places,
The timeless bridges of Abbeyshrule.

 (Dedicated to Turquoise who was a recent visitor to Abbeyshrule)




Tuesday, 26 May 2015

El Greco

Can the darkness burn the light
Can the phantom put to fright
The ghost of thoughts unsaid?
We must bury what we may'
Forget grief, avoid decay or
Irreverence to our dead.

I heard the cuckoo twice today
Echo, or one far away
Or was it two to one?
The country voted to be gay
The straw proposed to new mown hay
The moon lies with the sun.

El Greco heard from Titian
"Never show the people truth"
You cannot paint a soul.
Saints, savages, who decides?
Except the men who don't take sides,
Sinners on parole.

Doménikos defied,
And by this he almost died
In Toledo of the blades.
El Greco; Spanish stroke by choice,
They took away his voice,
Turned his heart to spades.

Lorca, Goya, Dali, Picasso,
Masters of the bristle
Still must stand and whistle after the Greek,
Never still defined, one of a kind,
Elongated neck and mind,
They know not what they seek.

Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina
Took Columbus for a cruise
With sail from Ferdinand and Isabella,
Never knew where he was bound
For all the world he found
New men of gold and red and yellow.

Columbus; a Venetian, Greco hailed from Crete,
Neither of a vein of Spanish blood.
Or Castilian Robin Hood.
In El Prado, take a glance at Delacroix
Schoolboy raised in France,
Remembered Valladolid, and the Greek who always would.