This my Land (1985-1991)
Philip Rogers, Lucan, Dublin
For a bit of a lark,
a colleague, Spark,
embarked with glee
to compile a veterinary anthology.
His plea was read by vets in bed
or sitting by their fires
or browsing in the library
near academic spires.
Some went the easy way
and found their early efforts
in lofts and long-forgotten places.
Dust flew. Old manuscripts looked new
like titivated faces.
Others had Muses unleashed.
Pens, pencils scratched.
First drafts were slashed.
Groans, teeth clenched,
birthed the novel opus:
poems were made flesh
and dwelt amongst us.
They sent their souls to Spark.
It was a lark no more.
He axed and chopped for days
and published it himself.
The work was read
with silent nods and chuckles,
inward cries, time-lost sighs,
But permanence? No!
Mixed joy and sorrow,
here today, gone tomorrow.
You were indeed a rare one,
a quare one, a crafty blackguard,
a plotting thief,
you stole from me the best of themes
before I was conceived.
I dowsed the hidden Irish streams for years
but I was 45 before I drank the gift
of your clean spring,
a heady crystal poitin
as potent as the third still run.
The first slug made me drunk
the next smashed me out for days
and now I'm hooked.
O self-watchful poet,
who lauded effort spent on poems,
you knew their vanity,
yet you scrawled enfevered-
had to- in pain, anger, fear,
love, despair and, most of all,
in helpless prayer but little outward laughter.
You could not flee the maternal pavlovian
conditioning of Catholic childhood and youth.
Adroitly scalpelling the wank of power by some,
you bandaged-up the frail humanity of others: peasants,
wise priests and gombeenmen, politicians, writers, women,
especially young temple worshippers
who dreamed in lust at the unsheathing, cut and thrust
of the priest-poet's pen. Is that to be my lot?
Ireland changes daily but some things not.
And bad bastards will say I stole from you
the best I wrote.
I must make tracks to bed.
Science is my jealous mistress;
she needs care and wooing too.
She kept me well away from you
until now, until now. But no more.
Earth, plough and furrow,
the Book of Durrow,
celibate dreams to the sewer drain consigned
in self-conscious pain
by you, poor lonely man, poor soul alone,
the people's priest who would be queen and drone.
From a bleak clay-moulded ursine
you growled earth-ripping curses,
groans of your own peaks of power
and troughs of drained vigour.
Prickly gorsefires raged and
in the bogs and mountains of your mind,
leaving wildernesses, smouldering quicklime,
blackened tonsures, from which in time
grew shoots of fern, heather and myrtle,
a riot of honest green and purple.
You knew the wariness of
mountain-men, weary heroes
who worked the earth before the tractor era,
dour men of the North, with tightlipped spinster sisters,
men whose best suits were bought from hucksters' stalls.
Winter storms lifted scollab and
from your rustic people's rafters. Ice wind, lancinate
whistled through rough-patched britches
petrifying grass-wiped arses.
Boots caked in mud, hayseeds in unwashed hair,
dungstain of years under fingernails,
vomit, weasel-piss and whiskey on your vest,
you would fail the breathalyser-test.
Nothing but death could halt
green fool sayer of sooth,
in your painful stony path
to your grim truth.
* a. THE LIFE OF KAVANAGH
Under 3 cheap spotlights
two out of work actors
hypnotise the depths of soul
of 36 people caught
in the money trap.
Wood fire, shadows,
frothy black and amber glasses
warm our minds in the flames of words.
There is a terrible power
in the spoken word,
the flash of manic eyes,
that raises us
above the drab mundane.
We see stars through our ears.
Suspension of disbelief
has been achieved
beyond the shadow of the flame.
do not disturb the fantasy.
We are saved
when we escape ourselves.
And, as I walk away,
my only regret
is not to have asked
that beautiful blonde,
who laughed and cried in empathy
if she would mind
if I gave her a brother's kiss.
Then, I run back
to recite this verse
and her partner grins,
thinking he owns her.
on brief parole from the money trap
walk out into the night street,
inebriated with words,
* b. KULLERVA AND THE GRAND CANAL
After the Beal Bocht,
I steer my body to the car
and as the engine fires,
I fantasise a stroll
along the Grand Canal,
the silent waters,
the watching trees,
in search of a woman
who could share with me the mind,
the mind of Kavanagh,
of loneliness and savage need.
By the black Niagarous lock,
under a rustling judastree,
I find instead
a jaded maid of lamplight,
dull of intellect,
bereft of soulfroth and mindfrills.
She finger-flicks a lipsticked
into the minifalls,
Jackoes her tongue and crotch
and offers her all (you name it mister)
for only fifteen quid. My soul revolts.
I am afraid, half paralysed.
I try but can not reach her.
I am Kullerva, the siren my sister.
She ropes me tightly to the judastree
as trolls and pubfolk crowd round
to jeer my helpless agony.
I struggle and howl as she sates
and fucks the mob for free.
In one last frenzied spree,
she strips me down, strokes me up
and sucks me off quickly, expertly.
Manic, she rises to drunken cheers,
sprays her mouthful over my face,
(all I ever got from you, dear brother),
curses my life and hers, then frees me.
I take my blade. You know the rest?
Wrong again: it fails to pierce my chest.
Sister saunters off towards
Leeson Street on the arm of a laughing priest.
From Kavanagh, Sibelius and me: Fuck fantasy!
Back in the real world, I work the clutch,
rev through the gears and drive home,
holding back my groans for one
whose eyes are also misty,
who knows her reality and mine
and the savagery of life.
was an ordinary guy.
Once he cast a loving eye on life,
a warm, compassionate tear on death
until he mounted in bravado his first Horse,
gift that was no gift
from a friend who was no friend.
a white and airy flier,
had occult powers to unchain the slave
from boredom, apathy and hopelessness;
could transport him above the clouds of pain,
weightless, effortless, in dreamy, floating peace
through imagined skies to countries of the mind,
soaring, swooping, gliding free to kingdoms,
mindscapes of the blind, where he
was crowned a few sweet hours
free of loneliness.
No woman now between his thighs
could hope to emulate the thrill
of this unbridled bucking steed.
In the saddle, exhilarated, wild,
he was blinded in that ride
and, though he could not know at first,
his limbs were bound with shackles
more cruel than prison chains.
From golden thrones in dim and
high thrones, Horse unsaddled him
to freefall unprepared
in uncontrolled descent,
covered in cold sweat,
cramping limbs and tearing chestpain,
lurching stomach, icy guts,
rippling rigors jerking twisting puppet body,
obscene fandango of his heels
to empty retching, nausea.
With terror in his eyes,
he knew he must remount his Horse again
at any cost: the theft, the muggings, burglary,
the sordid retail of his mouth and flesh
in furtive doorways for the urgent cash
to pay his Horse's upkeep,
day by intravenous day.
For twenty months he rode his
in sight of the Gates of Hell until a deathly chill
seeped mercilessly into Horseman's eye.
Now life was cold as death to him
and death was what he sought but fought
until one Dublin Christmas Eve.
Lone-huddled by the quays,
he heard the hymns of midnight Mass
echo on the water, through the streets.
"All is calm... All is bright..."
No joy to him.
"...Sleep in heavenly peace..."
No peace to him but darkness and despair.
This would be his silent night.
This night he'd ride in style.
Crouched before the Four Courts,
symbol of Irish justice,
he found a lumpy vein and shot
a lethal dose of heroin.
He leaped to the saddle and took
tightened his knees in last embrace,
wheeled his Horse around in trotting pace.
Skimming over Liffey waters, gliding over Phoenix Park,
above the cushioned wealth of Castleknock,
past Blanch, Mulhuddart and Clonee,
past Christmas candles glinting in Dunboyne,
to him was Jesus stillborn.
He slapped the reins, kneed his Horse,
then sunk the spurs,
rowelling savagely in the white flanks as he
yielded his head to the powerful runaway.
Pegasus snorted and galloped unstoppable
thundering, whinnying, wild eyed in agony
hammering over the green plains of Warrenstown
over the hedges and fields of the living ones
leaping the wall of the dead.
As pigeons heralded that
a wino woman scavenging the quays
saw Horseman crumpled where he died,
syringe and needle by his side.
She took his coat for warmth,
she searched his corpse.
An empty plastic bag was all she found.
The Horse was gone but his whinny remained...
Echo...Echo... through streets broad and narrow
Alive, Alive-O, Oh very much so
in the cold Dublin dawn.
Early birds were astir and smoke
curled from a few chimneys.
Fiercely neat little houses
shouted indignation at the grot and greyness.
Here and there, in ones and twos,
the determined lucky ones,
hunched into the cold dawn rain,
walking or cycling to work.
Tool-kit under her arm,
a young fitter waited for her lift.
Her go-for knuckled cold fists
into a well worn donkey jacket.
Their Seven Sisters dreamed on,
deep in the debt of valium sleep.
Mongrels, tails between their legs,
nosed and snarled in garbage.
A Ford two-litre, blue lights flashing,
squealed to a purposeful halt.
Its four uniformed men baton-tapped
good morning on a caravan's door.
In the shrouded Tolka valley,
from choking mist and drizzle,
the ghosts of Larkin, Pearse and Connolly
addressed a rally of the unemployed.
Words like slavery, oppression, revolution,
the People... rose to the clouds for vengeance.
Clouds transformed into clenched fists
and angry roars of thunder gave way
to soft rain. On the airport tarmac,
charter planes held idle conversations,
waiting for their passengers
from Dublin 4, 15, Foxrock.
Driving through at 6 a.m., I sensed
the painful cutting of dragon teeth
through hunger-swollen northside gums.
I shivered for the children of Kathleen.
Into the Leeson Strip,
autumn winds whirl
around the Blood Bank corner.
Cruisers ply their customary lanes.
Catkins roll in gutters.
sleeps in dormant seed,
beauty which can never realise itself
without the dark and damp warmth
of hungry soil,
the bursting through,
the energy of sun shafting
outstretched greenery, the living
rain bathing thirsty roots.
But there are too many seeds
and not enough space to grow.
Too much concrete
covers fallow city soil.
Too little love nurtures
the hardy sprouts which shoot
and grow to shout and run wild
and sniff glue and knock back cider
and mind your car "for ten-pence, mister".
"Or for a tenner, mister,
you can bud my sister".
Rigor leers adoring
on pushers touring,
Coloured lights strobing
supple bodies prancing, weaving;
gashes opening and closing
in blue-white faces: words
drowning in the disco sea.
Cold stars bathing
lost light on the altar-stone;
bouncers lounging against padlocks;
beer heading onto pounding floors;
a careless butt smouldering
on melting plastic;
polystyrene flaring and dripping,
its poison smoke rolling down
and the moaning, the screaming of teenagers
seeing the scythe-tongues reaping.
Here were no Mosaic miracles
of rodded stone yielding the water of life
or the cold bush fire cloning cold flame
or the Cana stunt reversed
to pump a lake of beer through fire-hoses.
Christ did not appear to wake the Coolock dead.
Even the patron saint of lovers did not show.
The burnt offering of curling hair, frying fat
and human meat was good in the sight of God
and the sun shone next morning,
Unknown to family and friends
and star-dust took on new meaning.
Ireland would bury more children:
she has no shortage of rich tilth
and her graves are insatiable.
Dust to dust indeed.
Do I really know Marita?
I know that I am a nurse
and that I care, by Christ I care.
I try to climb into her head
but I must fail:
it is difficult enough to climb into my own.
She lives in a cardboard box
on the street near Buswells.
At least she has a good address
(Kildare St, near the Dail)
but who will write to her?
Will busy TDs call?
How many votes is she worth?
She is a private soul,
won't eat her Simon-soup and sandwich
if I stay near. But she'll talk
if I decide to stay
and raise the questions.
Yes, she's afraid of muggers.
God help her! What mugger
would think it worthwhile
to bother her? She has nothing,
nothing but human dignity:
no cash, no jewellery, no drugs
to tempt the weak.
But Simon will give her
an insulated sleeping bag,
warm and waterproof,
worth 150 quid. Now I fear for her.
She has something worth stealing.
And this is Ireland
and Murphy's Law prevails.
Garda, if you hold with Christ,
mind her sleeping-bag for her
till night falls
and keep an eye on her as she sleeps.
The night-light was soft
in the pleasant room.
Everything was clean and fresh.
A pair of roses nodded towards the bed.
The nurse had brought them, done her chores,
taken out the bedpan,
washed her patient gently, combed her wispy hair,
given the shot of heroin.
The old one's children had not
been for days.
The nurse had made excuses: rain,
traffic jams, end-of-term exams.
But the old one knew and cried quietly.
Washed out eyes, eight decades old,
welled unwinking from their tunnels.
Spindly hands lay white and cold
above the spotless sheets,
hands which clutched her beads, her lifeline.
Metastatic cancer and its wracking pain
had sapped her will, throttled the vestigial strength
from her frail frame. Her breath
was scarcely audible.
The nurse had sent the summons
to the family
but knew it was too late.
"Nora love, will we say the Rosary?".
She lit the blessed candles,
prayed the Resurrection for this mother
and for mothers everywhere and children who forget:
"... now and at the hour of our death...".
The old one's lips, purple as a stole,
moved silently: "Amen".
She struggled, tried to sit up.
"God bless you Nurse.
Tell them I could not wait."
The nurse's hard-soft arms
held the old one as she slumped.
Gentle hands stroked her as she gasped her last
and throated the death rattle.
Nurses, like men, don't cry, do
This one did, bitterly,
for all the Noras of this earth
and all the unborn Noras still to come.
They came later, hardly glanced
at the corpse.
"Isn't it a terror how fast they go
when cancer takes hold of a body?"
said the daughter, full of spirits, herpes and herself.
She wanted the death cert there and then.
Tomorrow was Friday and the insurance company
would be closed on Saturday.
The nurse smiled sweetly, flint-eyed.
"I'm afraid the doctor won't be in
before tomorrow afternoon ".
The son said nothing, not a word.
He was just the driver.
The nurse tidied up, raced home
woke her partner with a feral kiss
and hissed as she raked the lazy flame
"Love me; I need savage loving now".
Adam and Eve's echoes
the favourite carols.
The crib across the river
sings its joyful song:
the Christ Child is born,
God in a puny frame,
the message for the weakest of us.
The only problem is
the millions who do not hear
and the disbelief of we who do.
Shaking Sam and Once-I-Was Pat
huddle on a waste-strewn site,
share a flagon of cider:
Christ's blood shed for down and outs.
Hairy Billy knocks back
his last mouthful of meths,
shuffles in tears towards the East
parapet. The water cries too.
Biddy completes her inventory
of her worldly goods,
hoarded in the corner of a Switzer's bag.
She prays a toothless Our Father
for those less fortunate
and spits a blood-streaked phlegm
through the Halfpenny Bridge
on her way to the Hostel.
Kneeling in a peaceful trance,
amidst the hacking coughs
and creaking benches,
I needed to believe
the unity of everything:
the grain of sand, the Mover of the sea.
But noisy doubts cavorted in my mind.
A line of sinning saints and saintly sinners
and all the combinations in between,
we advanced in silence.
"Body of Christ".
His robot arm, metallic words,
reflecting years of weariness,
remnants of an obsolete program,
dispensed the snowy bread
to the hungry.
"Body of Christ". In
a neighbour from our street,
hatless and self-conscious,
cradled the simple earthen bowl,
blessed friend and stranger
with maternal eyes.
Sweet Jesus! How I willed
those flawless discs of wheat to be
the Crucified, the Easter-risen hope
of our rebirth.
I might have gone to him, my tired, tired brother,
one doubting Thomas to another
but turned instead to her.
She believed and I
needed her belief.
"Body of Christ".
Three bewildered youths
with older brothers on the dole,
drowned despair in cider,
hot-wired a handy car.
Their joyriding overturned
to grief on a greasy bend.
scalpelled deep into the bark
of a sturdy chestnut bole,
tracking twin incisions
in weeping white pulp.
Young blood stained the wounds.
Later, calloused scars, thumbtacked
with two tinfoil crosses.
Whispers in the breeze.
And somewhere else,
the third scar tries to heal
in the brain of a boy
who had no boyhood
and whose cross
would not blow away
in wind or time.
As a scarecrow in a storm,
he was shattered. March sleet fell.
His gaunt face, scraggy beard,
dull haggard eyes
peering out of wet tunnels,
followed her coffin. How could she
fill herself with whiskey,
stagger raving to their bed
and down a score of Mogadon
before his eyes? How could the ambulance
take three minutes to arrive?
How could she be dead
before help came?
I held him tightly, murmuring
that her mind had freaked out
and she was not responsible
and that God forgives.
But words of comfort now
Unhearing, he just stared
at the polished oak.
He sensed her in there,
a honey blonde with tresses to her waist,
thirty five years' hustling
against grot and poverty.
Her woman's smile and teenage
had smitten many men.
In her wedding dress she lay,
beautiful as a sleeping princess,
a baby dead in her cold body,
waiting for the groom
she could not marry.
and for the past few days
blue-arsed flies were mesmerised
by our activity. Niceties
were observed to the letter:
pudding mixes with cinnamon,
bread crumbs and chopped pork,
last year's cards exhumed,
black sheep telephoned.
Belfast crowds, fresh-faced
with automatic weapons,
RUC with walkie-talkies
were no problem
to republican smugglers.
We and booze-thirsty nationalists
overran the customs posts
with north sea tigers in our tanks.
Alcohol did not hit my brain
till later, when the house was still.
They were gone visiting
and I was making coleslaw
in a silent house.
Jesus! Coleslaw on Christmas
when there were sunbeams to be soaked,
lonely breasts to be stroked,
voids to be filled in mutual longing.
The doorbell chimed and a saviour appeared,
a bottle under his oxter.
Jameson, the Irish solution
to Irish problems, filled two voids
and, for a stolen hour, we compared
notes of alternatives,
what we would like from Santa Claus,
what we could offer a needy world.
We saw each others needs and gifts
and sank into the golden haze.
Jesus, baby, celibate and
was for other children,
not for us in our present state
but we emptied the glasses,
resumed adopted roles,
keeping the premium paid
for the moment at any rate.
The coleslaw must have been made
by the fairies.
Red peppers added the missing zest.
* a. MONKEY BUSINESS
"I tell ya Joxer,
I always knew them Afrikaaners
was savages", said he in Guinness Oxford.
"Sure they enjoy
nothing better than monkeys
in bondage, tied to glide in a witches' cradle,
and to hammer them from all sides
with them deadly weapons
popping from black pagan thighs".
"Too true... If we don't
watch it Mick,
they 'll make monkeys of us all.
And another thing:
I'm gone off the idea
of monkey-gland injections.
I 'd sooner lie safe in a soft bed,
remembering past glories".
"I tell yez lads, Pretoria is on the right track
but it's taking too long to finish the task".
"Christopher, ould flower,
ya hit the nail on the head.
Two more when you're ready".
*b. GUILTY MY LORD
In a sunlight clearing,
a calving hind knelt slowly down
on bloodied fangs. Her calf
was dispatched through his unburst sac.
In the isolation ward,
a twenty-six year old lay,
sentenced. Her baby slept nearby,
too late for unburst sacs.
The mother's eyes bled terror,
pleading not to die but medical eyes
slid away, empty of hope, impotent.
Her crime: to love her man
on his return from silicon
valley. Some chippie there was up to monkey business,
or maybe King Kong had it off all over Hollywood
before the guns brought him down.
From their cushioned pulpits,
righteous ministers call down
the wrath of god on sinful flocks.
"I tell ye brethren, God is not mocked!".
Fire and brimstone blaze again
in the mouths of frenzied men.
TO THE SOUL OF A MURDERED FOUR-YEAR-OLD
O Little one, for you was life
as natural as birdsong
until you saw the pain of Judas
gleam through your father's manic eyes.
I have replayed my death
many times, but I have lived
twelve times your span.
You, poor innocent, had no dress
rehearsals. Little one,
in your last seconds,
after you transcended terror,
did you understand
that man is sometimes animal,
that mind is sometimes overstretched.
And as you screamed out
a last frantic Abba,
did you forgive
the insane deed?
Did you say: Some day
you will be with me in Paradise?
Dear child! Now you are at
You know the answer to life's riddle,
or if you don't humanity is lost.
If you don't know, we should round up
everyone who looks sideways at a child
and we should bury them
under a million millstones.
If you are not at peace dear
we should surround ourselves
with loyal bodyguards and armies,
go on the plunder
for gut and groin alone,
lust and glut today
for there is no tomorrow.
We should gather up
our criminals, outcasts, loons,
our crippled, weak, infirm,
our deaf and dumb,
our Mongols and deformed,
our aged, unemployed,
our politicians, priests
our social workers, prison guards
and cull the lot. Let us turn
our prisons, sanatoria,
our hospitals, asylums,
into pleasure palaces.
Make life simple, clear the
Make life simple, clear the road
in one final solution
of unearthly scale.
For our sake, little one, rest easy.
Joyful, masterful, the lucky
explodes into the egg,
sheds its exhausted tail
and new life yawns awake.
But death chuckles
sliding in unseen,
hiding in life's shadow.
We spoil them and starve them,
dandle and cuddle them,
rape them and bugger them,
stroke them and burn them,
tuck them into bed
throw them onto the streets.
We build them up with praise
and tear them down with tongue-lashing.
We salve their wounds
and smash their little limbs.
We love them from the moment of their being
and hate them for being in our way.
We cotton-wool the premature
and toss the unloved foetus in a bin.
And many are they who say
there is no good in mortal man,
nor mortal sin in him.
But children will always be,
for a world without them
is no world for you or me,
is but a dying pain
facing a dark eternity.
drove by the schoolyard today,
a woman at his side, not Mommy.
looks out the window, crying.
I ask why.
She just hugs me and smiles,
saying: I'm so happy
with my little girl.
has her bottle as a friend
and the child a thin blanket
edged with tattered silk.
But the bottle has no milk
and the blanket no warmth.
tells magic stories
to the sleepy child,
whose pure eyes shine
in wonderment and joy,
then Charlie insists
on playing his secret game
and the boy's eyes dim
in puzzlement and lifelong pain.
THE MALE OF THE SPECIES
Between the foolish and the wise
Between the glowing stars and groaning ice
Between laughter and tears
God & Satan fight in him.
Hope & despair lurch his heart.
Love & hatred savage his mind.
Nun & Harlot turn his head
and in a vital world
many living souls
We came to Mass
to share ourselves, our hopes
with one another and with God,
to pray for peace and health,
love, encouragement. The priest,
my God-unknowing man,
did his Roman best. He praised
the children for their gifts
confettied round the altar, toys
and multicoloured books to be dispensed
by Santa to less fortunates.
But then he warned of bags of
in stockings near the waiting hearth
for children who might dare
to hassle parents, fight as sibs,
to be themselves in slow pre-Christmas days;
that mammy wants the kitchen to herself
and daddy wants a drink in peace
out of his woman's way.
He advised his straying sheep
to shun goat-pasture, not to pass
their rank and state in life.
"God has given us crosses to be borne
and each must keep our place".
The priest, believing, said it
I sought clean snow outside
but only soot-rain fell.
* 19. WHY
FINNEGAN Jr. SLATES PINTS FOR MIRACLE-WORKER JOHN
(To the memory of Timothy Finnegan, late of Walkinstown, and how I precipitated his famous wake)
I hear ye knew my father,
of his debaucheries
and of his famous wake.
My story was the death of him entirely
and in my grave he lies;
on that my life I stake.
John the Corpo-digger,
cursing my audacity
to be coffined on a Saturday
and need my grave by Monday,
mumbling and swearing obscenities
on my legendary parentage,
dug the rain-soaked clinging Sunday clay,
Crazy John, the lazy bastard,
was no respecter of the dead
(or the living either, for that matter)
he dug my grave too tight
and left a wisdom-tooth of granite
erupted through the brown gum
inside the yawning mouth.
Requiem over, incensed and
I was first-geared to the forest
of headstones and recycled wreaths.
John, in mud-caked wellingtons
and sweat-stained dungarees,
a truculent pilot to a coffin-ship,
shambled apelike by the hearse,
a shovel on his shoulder,
his head capped in bawneen.
He argued with the driver,
sleeved his leaking nose,
scratched his balls with feeling
and roared in the general direction of the crowd
what a marvellous day it was for the job.
With a scythe-swipe of his free arm,
he signalled the bearers
to drop me on the planks.
Webbing hissed through handles.
He grunted to the lifters
and kicked the planks aside.
"Down with him, nice and easy".
My feet went down in solemn rite
but the shoulder of the lid
jammed solid on the tooth of granite.
He thumped a mighty heel on the brass nameplate
but I would not go down.
Cursing pine for swelling,
he roared: "Bounce him lads".
They bounced the box with gusto.
As a window-ledge can pop a bottle-top,
the granite popped the coffin lid,
scattering the crowd.
Wakened by shrieks of anger and fear,
head six-foot down, knees in the air,
there was I, reborn with second sight,
bollocks naked except for the pocketless shroud
twisted caul-like around my neck.
When God opens one window, She
to soften the draft, some say,
but when they hauled me out by the ankles
and a maiden aunt gave me her fur to wear,
my father bleated and died of shock.
Our clan always holds a good wake...
Since then, John and I don't
talk too much.
He blames me for his sacking;
the Corpo 'll never give him the chance
to save another life
in like circumstance.
But in my local boozer,
there's pints on standing order
against my slate for John,
a miracle-worker, if ever there was one.
Eejits and dossers, the old, the
the handicapped, the busy whores
are always with us.
They, like the Johns of this world,
seem to have no place, no great destiny,
until you get a different perspective of life
as you look from your grave upside-down,
or you savour a hot brown loaf,
cut on a breadboard of sanded pine and polished brass,
inscribed with your name and a simple cross.
Numb-toed stamp of boots.
Thump of mittened hands.
Roof cages, not for pigeons
but hawk-eyes. Bristle of arms.
Gun sights on every move below,
blue steel snouts ready to rip.
Coffee detail late.
Tempers on the boil.
Dreams of Cypriot sun.
WATCHERS OF THE WATCHERS
glints on barbed-wire,
on tilted grey girders,
breakwaters against any wave
of would-be rescuers.
At the outer gate, a pale,
tall, lank-haired man.
On his shoulders
a blue-faced, snot-nosed child.
except for sigh-breaths on ice-air,
thin clothes in knife-air.
No guards with whom to plead
an unofficial visit.
Blank stares towards the great grey door.
WATCHER THROUGH TINTED GLASS
I released the clutch.
As the cars ahead moved on,
I retuned the radio,
thinking of Presley's "Jailhouse Rock".
I wished the watchers of the
a silent Good Luck.
Was the man a brother
or a victim's brother?
Was the child a prisoner's son
or just another orphan
of the righteous gun?
From south Kilkenny to
along the frosty roads,
were oligolithic tumuli
of humble beet. Their faces, skulls,
like those of naked corpses clamped
in the paddies of Cambodia
or Polish prison-camps,
were tortured, broken,
anguished and clay-grained.
Hair-torn from the soil, they screamed
as mandrakes. Some were scalped,
others split in two. And from the meek,
the dispossessed, we of greed and strife,
with little need of consolation,
suck their sap of life
and strength of soul.
The aroma of good tea followed
"He won't be back for half an hour."
She closed the door in my face.
Post and rail fence peered
through the morning mist;
vacant paddocks waited
for priceless horses.
On the green lawn
two thrushes picked
for worms, as I for work.
Outside the mansion, I waited,
hungry in my beat-up car,
eyeing the rust spots,
eighty-six thousand on the clock,
two quid in my pocket.
I saw the broken roof slates,
the cracked marble statues
and I smiled.
Content now, I whistled softly,
calling to the thrushes
"We're only passing through".
"Oh yes, you're a great man
and so patient. I apologise
for the long delay;
cash-flow problems, you know ".
It was the fourth time
in more than a year
that I tried to collect
for work long done.
"I have it set aside for you
in an envelope. Can you call?
I have another lame.
You might be interested
to experiment. But of course
I can't pay anything for this.
You might learn something new
about your technique..."
I should have known better
but I went to treat
another crippled horse
and the boss was gone
and the envelope mislaid
and I learned the hard way
the weakness of promises,
the strength of hope.
I parked my scowling
between two brand new, smirking Mercs
in the traffic island.
Behind me the Tower Hotel,
in front the Jade Palace Restaurant:
modern China rubbing shoulders
with the 11th century tower
of Reginald the Dane.
The Waterford docks
clanged and hooted on the right.
A native pigeon BATaBATfLAPped
to perch on the grey stone sill
of the broken-grilled window
high over the port.
The shadow of a foreign flag,
fluttering on the patchwork wall
of the crumbling Tower
did not faze him. Proud-chested,
he strutted into inner silence,
a silence of decay and darkness,
then emerged into the January sun.
Head ratcheting from side to side,
his cold eye missed nothing,
nor did those of his ancestors
who perched on the same sill.
Shadows flickered on that wall,
shadows of nine centuries:
of pigeons and gulls, lumbering 4-legged cranes,
Container-laden trucks, pantechnicons,
masts of prison-ships,
sails of grain- and famine-ships,
flapping rags on shuffling skeletons.
Musket, broadsword, pike and lance
of Redcoat, Roundhead, yeoman and rebel
shadowed those stones.
Full of wine, Cromwell's and Warbeck's men
pissed against those stones.
Full of Strongbow, Aoife heard him snore
content within those walls.
But my pigeon was not fazed by shadows.
Bored with the scene below, he BATafLAPfLAPped
away up-river, changed his mind,
circled a few times, then headed seaward.
He was watched until lost from sight
and wished an envious farewell
by two grounded veterans of the dole,
stubble-shadowed, strong young men
who wished they, too, had wings.
Tonight a few pints in Lismore,
then on to Waterford
for a deorum more.
A creature of groups,
I wound up in discussion
on the state of the nation,
the third-world economy
of the Emerald of Europe,
the mess, the hopelessness
in this small island,
home of despair.
The bottom line
on which we all agreed
was that men and women
who do something well
should raise their arms in song
and sing from the heart their thanks
for knowing what they know,
doing what they do best.
Unplug the televisions.
Away with pseudo, hype and bluff.
Long life to mothers and fathers
of happy children. Long life
to fiddle makers, car breakers,
waterkeepers and poachers,
the makers and breakers of laws,
rogues who master any craft
and try to do it even better.
At ten next morning, JCBs
excavating tunnels in my guts,
jackhammers cracking my skull,
I knew that my talent was to laze in bed.
Emigrants from Armagh,
oblivious to Iniskeen
or Paddy Maguire's life,
they talked with a Sligoman
of the barley and apple,
of whitened red diesel
running the smuggler's roads,
of a son called Tom McGurk
who cared for his mother
and missed the marriage boat.
In a Dublin semi-D,
they talked of punt and pound,
of the savage price
of pints and chasers,
Tom Fee's memory for names,
but never once
the troubles or the Irish pain.
And, sharing their warmth and
I laughed and cried with them.
And, later, I laughed and cried
at the miserly soul
trapped inside my will-be corpse,
a soul that seeks the luxury
the selfishness of "I am",
the doglike urge
to leave a sign behind
on macerated bark.
Head high, the young buck
into the oak clearing. Autumn sun
slants low through branches. The world
is gold and brown and green. Silence reigns.
He is ready and grunts his
The old warrior replies.
Side by side, both parade
around the battle glade in timeless ritual.
Thudding hooves vibrate the
Clatter, rattle, clack of antlers.
Echoes of centuries encode in oak bark.
Yielding to youth, the old buck
slopes away to brood on better
Strutting to his browsing does,
the young king coughs and grunts
his proud and potent victory.
Dawn brings the death-cough of
The deer herd fades into Mammon's mist
in a thunder of JCBs and thickening haze
of oak-dust and diesel fumes.
Somewhere out there
in outer-space cold Monaghan
is the grave of a lonely Kavanagh-man
who anguish-dreamed his lover's melt
engulf him in the small-death throes
of a poor man's bedtime fire.
His passion sizzled in the lenten ash,
guilt blister-writhing in flame.
O let me not forget that grave;
one like it will be mine.
But let me break my bonds to save
my spirit while there's time,
for that poor devil died a mental cripple,
cursing the land which broke his spirit,
and mothers who smother their sons,
cursing a church which brands as mighty sins
the Atlantic Trench of human needs
Comrades, spare menus
or unused paper napkins,
scrap computer paper,
the back of cheques.
We have no excuse
for lack of paper.
Can't find a pen?
Borrow a pencil,
an Access biro at the Jet.
Use Tippex, magic markers.
Use a sharpened matchstick
dipped in paint.
And there's always blood.
You have mental block?
Come off it, look around,
what do you see?
Wealth and poverty?
Life and death?
Look inside yourself
and weep or shout in joy.
Let your soul sprout wings
and hawk the air of imagination
seeking the blackbird or rat,
the bloody meat of truth.
in blood and tears,
knew the desert mirage
but found his oasis.
So can we.
Moses had Irish connections.
Loyal followers spirited his corpse
secretly to Clonmacnoise.
In a bog they buried him,
ten stone tablets by him.
(These same tablets had a rough time:
they cracked the night he got them,
when he tripped and swore
on his way down the mountain.
Grey mosaics of broken ideals,
they've been in bits since.
The tablets were dug up recently
by treasure-hunters on leave of absence
from the National Museum.
They called in the experts;
an army of angels,
stripped to their sexless buffs,
squeezed giant squirts of super-glue
along the broken edges.
Celestial compressors jacked rams,
borrowed from CPI,
to vice the bits together.
After a long time,
Michael ordered the rams to be released.
The tablets stood for a moment, then
to a roar of angelic anger,
fell apart in pieces once again.
Michael was demoted
and Gabriel became the gaffer.
He sent for a team of steel-fixers,
laid off after Sisk's bank
disrupted the Dublin skyline,
and he sent for the Devil himself,
laid off after confession was abolished.
The Devil was told
to bore holes in the stones
under pain of being dispatched
to Heaven. He obliged,
drilling deftly with a fiery prick
and finished off the job
by swishing the tip of his tail
though his handiwork.
John Sisk's men ran rods of steel
through the holes and bolted the ends.
"Nice job", said Gabriel, who prescribed
the tablets be craned to the top of the Central Bank
for the moral edification
of the Jews and Protestants of Dublin.
(The rest of us did not need
that kind of reminder).
Anyway, we could not read the script.
But, during the night,
some crazy son-of-a-bitch,
a PR man for the rubber trade,
climbed the bank unaided,
pulled giant condoms
over the standing stones
and lettered slogans ten-foot high
"DUBLIN SAYS YES IF BELFAST WANTS TO PLAY"
Next morning, PMPA
was inundated with minor claims -
one Henry Street trader got paid
(under the all-risks policy)
for swallowing her teeth.
Steeven's and Jervis Street
ran out of plaster of paris.
It took two days to clear
the traffic jam and only then
could the Knights and Opus troops
ride through to remove the heretic johnnies,
which were excommunicated
and drowned with quenched candles
in the sympathetic Liffey.
That was a mistake.
They should have left the covers on,
for the acid rain and super-acid comments
of noted academics
ate through the steel cross-your-heart bars.
The tablets crashed apart once more,
brought down the Bank but the Pound
hit a new high as Israeli investors
bought the capital and scoured the ruins
with metal detectors and stone sniffer dogs.
The bits were sent to Haifa,
guarded by Nicaraguan Contras,
were reassembled by a team
of stone repairers from Beijing
and were encased in two foot layers
of Galway glass. But the earthquake came
and glass is fragile.
The Churches united:
London, Delhi, Moscow, Rome,
Salt Lake City and Tokyo
held an Ecumenical Summit in Greenhills.
They anvil-bent a devilish plan:
reversed the rules.
Thou shal't not honour God!
and we began to pray like saints.
Thou shal't blaspheme!
and we were mute.
Thou shal't work ten hours on Sunday!
and the unions led mass strikes,
called for the Tridentine rite.
In Cracow, students burned
effigies of the Pope.
Khomeni burned in effigy in Teheran.
Sit-ins were the rage
in every mosque, cathedral, meeting-house and kirk.
Beeswax and joss-sticks zoomed in price.
Thou shal't revile thy parents!
and the geriatric homes were emptied
and long-distance exchanges were jammed.
Thou shal't kill, Kill, KILL!
and troops withdrew to their borders
and Shankill got drunk with Ardoyne.
Thou shal't shag thy neighbour's spouse!
and Scrabble shares
vied with those of Trivial Pursuit
and so it went
and everyone was happy
and the confessionals were full.
Bless me father, for I have
I failed to shag my neighbour's spouse...
I gave a fair wage to my workers...
I told the truth in court...
God is good, my child. Don't despair:
say three Hail Marys.
"And thank you all for
The Director waved goodbye
and disappeared, flanked by his officers,
into the laboratory.
We board the bus.
I see a vacant seat,
catch his eye. "Hello" says he.
"Hi" from me, "Mind if I sit here?".
He looks away, fiddles with his camera.
I close my eyes, enjoying the autumn sun
falsely warm on my face through the glass.
The day was tiring. My calves and feet
ached from hours of standing,
looking at posters, trudging corridors.
His badge said Sweden and I knew
his English would be perfect.
Language would be no problem.
He sits there.
I have to say something
but have nothing to say.
I think of inane openings:
cold for the time of year...
great facilities they've got here...
and what is your main field?...
but will not utter them.
Are the same thoughts in his head?
We'd said it many times that day
to Czechs, Aussies, Poms and Uncle Sams
and we were tired of talk anyway.
We know that half an hour or more of silence lies ahead
before the bus disgorges us to let us part
to our own silences,
because we'll be alone
and used to it.
"Well, here we are".
We file from the bus
with our briefcases and silences.
"Yes, see you later,
On the night before my
raw sixth years came
to be mock-interviewed by me.
One by one, fresh-faced, keen, naive,
they entered the boardroom
and took the hot seat opposite.
I shook firm young hands,
cracked hoary jokes to break the ice.
I went through the motions:
subjects, interests, asking reasons
why they wanted to pursue
their guiding stars.
One, a farmer's son,
was to take a course at Warrenstown
and then go home to breed
Whitehead meat on fifty Celbridge acres.
He did not know that if he sold the land
the interest would double that from beef.
What churl would dare to spoil
such innocent simplicity?
And who can put a selling price
on hearing your own calves bawl
and the paternal snort
of your own ringed bull?
When the last lad had gone
and the paperwork was done,
I wondered if I had gained
insight into the tired minds
that would turn me down next morning.
Well-heeled Taca is alive in Dublin 4.
24 years without a clock
except the inner need to eat,
to prove in mind creations
that I am, to ask questions
asked by those who went before.
24 years to dream, to play
sophisticated games with figures,
produce tables of t values
significant at p < .001,
yet produce too many at p > .05,
or worse, of no significance.
24 years to realise
how little I know
and to know how little
Suddenly, last Monday morning,
cuckoos crowded my nest,
not one but a struggling mass,
featherless, wide beaked, mute.
I pity their hunger,
knowing the gnaw of mine.
Without farewell, I hopped to
the thorny lip,
glared into a sleety sky,
flapped bedraggled wings
and, croaking all the way,
flew to the ruined castle
on the northwest border of the Pale.
On Monday morning Nov 28th 1988, I found a colleague's files cluttering up my office in the centre in which I had worked for 24 years. Staff of the Meat Research Department had occupied our wing at the Dunsinea Research Centre (now the National Food Centre), Dublin 15. I moved that day to the National Beef Research Centre, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath.
Our main natural resource is agriculture. In September 1988 the national agricultural research organisation, the Agricultural Institute (AFT) and the National Agricultural Advisory and Education Services (ACOT) were merged into the Food and Agriculture Authority (TEAGASC).
A 44% cut in budget and haphazard, unplanned voluntary early retirement of top scientific, technical, clerical and farm staff castrated the new body. Impotent and demoralised, it limps on, still haemorrhaging, into a high-tech Europe. Michael O'Kennedy was Minister of Agriculture at the time.
I have finished
with this glass of wine,
still wine in the glass.
I have finished
with the dream of being here
with people, with serious talk.
I am tired, pissed.
I want to sleep
with a woman, a dream.
Fuck it, I must sleep
as I am, alone, myself.
I will wake tomorrow,
reach for stars
that I will never reach,
but which will fire human hearts,
will be reached by others.
* a. FARAWAY HILLS
Three weeks in Australian sun
and then the sullen skies of Ballymun
to greet my body's touchdown in the rain.
The drizzle and the boring cold skewer my bones,
penetrate the unaccustomed tan.
My restless soul still flies the cloudless skies
of faraway Geelong.
Kathleen, my sweetheart, ochone.
The news at home was grim:
surplus milk in Europe, butter mountains;
farmers paid to leave their land
for recreation uses, forestry;
abattoirs on short-time or closed down,
accountants and receivers busy now.
The factory barons slaughter Friesian stores,
quite useless for good steak
but profit for the barons guaranteed
by paper-shifting claw-backs.
Never mind the quality, count
and move the lot to intervention freezers.
Meanwhile, cattle prices tumble day by day,
taunt the worried farmers who must feed their stock:
beef to the heels, unwanted by the trade
which will not plan ahead.
Agribusiness dwindling fast,
cash-flow at a trickle....
Woe the country when the farmer has no cash.
Kathleen, my loved one, ochone.
And the strikes, the lockouts:
teachers, busmen, public-sector workers
(who should know better) stand and watch
the slow collapse of our economy;
the numbers on the dole the highest ever.
Educated youngsters must revolt en masse
to pull us from this swallowing morass.
But maybe it's too late.
When builders build no houses, we're a sorry State.
Kathleen, my darling, ochone.
Exploration all around the coast
and not one drop of oil ashore.
No oil, no gold, uranium,
no sapphires, opals, diamonds, amethysts,
our national wealth of zinc and lead
botched and plundered.
Aughinish, that multimillion hope of work,
almost at a stop. Factories closing down
like ninepins falling, moneylenders'
interest rates recalling
the slavery of debt but V. de Pauling
is poor answer. National debt a ghastly sum:
more than seven grand
for every man, woman and child in the land.
We cannot pay the interest, let alone the debt.
And then we smash the priceless warriors
and mumble "Sorry" to Beijing.
O Kathleen, Mavourneen, ochone.
Four lessons my mother taught
faraway hills are green;
there are long horns on the cows overseas;
sorrow today is the joy of tomorrow;
and the shroud has no pockets.
Of course I know these sayings
and I am rooted in this soil,
this land which could be wonderland
but never will.
Yes, pieces of my heart will stay behind
when I walk out on Her.
For the grass this side of the hill is dying
and my five calves
will have calves of their own to feed.
The only grass in sight is melting from my hills
like snow off a ditch in May
and there is long, green grass down Geelong way.
O Kathleen, my homeland, ochone.
When the ship begins to slip beneath the waves,
rats leap over the side. Fat rats, lean rats,
savage and mean rats, rats of black, grey, brown
jump ship and swim, or drown.
O Kathleen, my poor beauty, slan.
b. PALE KATHLEEN
I flee this land again, the land
of my father's mother and his father's dams,
awful in its beauty and its hopelessness,
the land of wrecks; of plundered tombs,
of torn phone-books and dead phones;
of twisted metal desecrating
woodland, moor and fertile fields;
shrapnel in the eyelids of our potholed roads;
the land of politicians banking three pensions
to quilt in Euro-down the nests of cuckoo squabs;
the land of dole queues, nixers,
extradition writs, west brits
and the nod's as good as a wink;
whose horses run so well
when blinkers are removed
in the Curragh dawn;
this land of tattered plastic bags festooning
rusty nettled fences; nets of monofilament
across our salmon rivers;
land of septic streams, the sewers of sad towns.
But, like the swift on April's call,
I home again to friends who laugh
aloud at life's insanity,
whose women manage to remain intact
despite the fertile accidents; blind friends
who will not see the drip of Kathleen's blood;
who mourn their dead, their thwarted dreams
with passion; who murder
black pints or golden drams
as if tomorrow is for fools, not us.
The same again Sean.
(1)Newgrange is a 5000 year-old passage grave near Slane, Co. Meath. Over 200 kilotons of rock from Wicklow, the Mournes and the Boyne valley were used to construct a long upward-sloping passage to a central burial chamber. The burial chamber is pitch dark at all times of the year except for a few minutes at dawn around the winter solstice. On the morning of December 21, as the sun rises over the horizon, its rays crawl along the passage to illuminate the central chamber for about 17 minutes. Apart from its use as a tomb, the mysteries of Newgrange remain unsolved.
* a. THE GIRL
In the corbelled chamber
of the Newgrange cairn
she pondered in the dark
but she was not in tune.
Her friend had joked
and smoked a stinking pipe
and bloody tourists clicked their cameras,
whispered "Ain't that something, honey?",
"Ach zo", "Wow",
without an inkling of the why or how.
She would return, alone.
That night she cycled twenty
miles in silence,
strode to the massive Stone,
guard of the tomb for a thousand years
before the Giza pyramid.
Through gaps in scudding cloud,
the dark was shafted by full moon.
Thick lenses fogged,
shapeless in a threadbare gaberdine,
she hunched, against the wind and rain
that scoured the white quartz face.
Like a small bedraggled owl,
she sought the slightest sign
of ancient meaning through the murk.
Though nigh impossible to see
she would not concede
that sight was needed to receive
Amazous, the chestless, restless
was bathed in swirling grey-green light.
light spreading from her core
to gleam from every pore.
Her face shone gold.
In the howling gale, the little figure grew;
her mind sang high and wild
an ancient tune she did not know.
* b. THE EAGLE
In a mighty thunderbolt, the
girl became flame,
and from her ashes an eagle flew,
his eyes fierce, his head, beak imperious.
He perched upon the Great Stone as of right,
with wings spread wide aloft to greet the moon.
In regal confidence, he screamed into the dark:
"A Dhaoine na Sidhe, tarraigi amach cugham(2)
Bring me your Queen. Tell Her Eagle has come".
* c. THE QUEEN
Rain gave way to silky mist;
A void appeared between the clouds
and Selene smiled her silver light on Meath.
From the great tomb, tumuli and geo-cracks,
the Little Ones with see-through wings emerged,
formed up in massed battalions
to fill the plain.
In unison they called their absent Queen:
"Banrion Geal na Sidhe(3)".
2Pron: A gwee'nee neh shee'yeh, thawr'igee a'mock who'um - O People of the Magic Ones, come out to me!
All hell broke loose.
The earth turned upside-down
and back again. The moon was split
to form two bullish horns; the sky
was reefed by bolts so fast and long
that day was pale beside such light.
The noise and power shook the earth again;
the mountains groaned.
The grid of steel that barred the tomb fell down.
The passage glowed. The bright Queen
arrowed through the tumult
to 'light upon the eagle's back.
"Fly", she ordered,
"fly back ten thousand years".
High over Newgrange,
Eagle soared to glide the time machine.
3Pron: Bon'ree'un gee'owl na shee'yeh - O Shining Queen of the Fairies!
* d. THE VISION
"Blink and see", she
cried. And Eagle blinked.
Then far below them, from the Mournes to Sally Gap,
green forest stretched. The mound was not in sight.
In among the trees, the Little
Fir Bolgs and Tuatha de Danaan (Ireland's Aboriginals
who dwelt beneath the ground). They fought and sported,
courted, died and rose again:
new generations of mixed blood, a faery-human mix.
Eagle blinked five thousand
The woods were thinned and fields of green
sprang out between the trees.
Winding lines of sweating men snaked out of sight
to Wicklow's heather hills, to Mourne's dark slopes.
They hacked away their thorny, branchy tracks.
On wooden rollers, simple rafts,
with pride and awful pain, they hauled
with woven rope the giant stones,
mounds of water-rounded rocks,
slabs of twinkling quartz.
They cursed their loads,
up hill, down dale, over fords.
Their king and priests had spoken:
a sign was to be built, a monument to say
"All power in the Universe must shine
and then decay".
The dome was built,
a mighty dome, with passage pointing east
to tell the thoughtless bureaucrats,
technocrats, autocrats, me fein rats,
that life must change.
The Newgrange sign is clear and
penetrates the soul.
The men who built the mound were free.
They knew what they were doing,
where they were going.
The whorls and spirals, signs of sun and water,
deeply etched in granite cry aloud:
"The reality of life and death is change.
The reality of change is death and life.
Listen and act if you dare".
Eagle understood. He saw his death
and rebirth, found great inner peace.
Eagle blinked again,
slipstreamed to the right,
past Christ's birthday, came to rest again
in mid fifth century,
hovered over Tara's mighty fort as yet no fire lit,
saw the Opposition's fire lit before the King's.
Patrick had arrived and brought his Easter Flame.
"Now the fat's in the fire " thought Eagle.
(It was and still is and ever shall be
for Paddy's priests have lost their way.
They use the fear of Hell
and threats of dire punishment
and Candle, Book and Bell
to keep their faithful tightly bound
as slaves to their disquiet).
Eagle's piercing eyes blinked
Then came the utter desolation to come.
(And come it will, of that there is no doubt,
as selfish devil-man must use his clout).
The Bombs rained down in thousands:
London, Moscow, New York, Bonn,
Peking, Detroit, Berlin, Rome,
Sydney, Baghdad, Delhi, Tokyo.......
Megaton on Megaton multiplied by M.
Eagle saw it all. He saw the earth explode.
He saw the soil turn glass. He saw the sky go black.
He saw the ice-age come, the death of all green life.
Cold famine stalked the earth.
He heard the screams of the unlucky ones,
the living dead. Mad human beings
devoured human flesh and dog ate dog
and day was night on mountain, plain and bog.
Foul death-stench filled the air
and in a global groaning wail
the damned and dying sobbed the Dies Irae
of hopeless dreams.
Eagle blinked again and gave the
not of fear or hate but of simple welling joy
because he saw some more: he saw another dawn
when gentle rays of golden sun poured through again.
He saw new creatures at their work. New life is hard to stop.
Young farmers tilled their fields and watched their crop
and Eagle knew the meaning of the wheel.
"To earth", the Queen
Eagle folded wings and plummeted
to perch once more on Carraig Mor.
The Queen and Fairies took their leave
and the ancient place fell still.
* e. THE GIRL
Eagle screamed once more,
grew and split in two.
One part became an owl.
True to life's mystery,
they coupled before the tomb.
Owl laid a golden egg
from which a dazed girl
hatched into the rain,
thick lenses still fogged,
mind-flogged but knowing.
I've seen enough tonight.
I need not come again.
Aware of the mighty beat
of owl- and eagle- wings behind,
aware of her vibrant womanhood,
of her final triumph over pain and death,
she pedalled briskly home,
whistling Beethoven's Ninth.
Well tuned, fiddles pipes and
weave skilfully through lively jigs and reels.
To their wild vibes, lilting voices, tapping toes and heels
give deepgut resonance. A well played mandolin
and squeezebox pass the test.
(A guitar and bodhran don't fit in,
though they try their level best).
I gaze around the noisy pub and
a hundred hungry souls attempt to flee
their caged reality, their yuppie slavery.
Then I think of fleeing refugees,
in Israel, Timor, Kurdustan,
bomb-bloodied bodies in Belfast streets,
famine bloated bellies in Afghanistan,
the well-heeled barons of intervention meats.
Sarsfield", I nod in
"this is a truly valid way to pass
the pissed-off time of night and day".
Later, when I recall that pagan mass
(the happy music of the pub, the fleadh)
I do not feel alone and cold in bed,
for I stroll periwinkled shores along the sea,
the ghosts of Ireland laughing in my head.
If you're Irish, here is fertile
for ploughing, sowing, harvesting. All praise
to the soil from which my forbears came
and which my rotting corpse will fertilise
some day. Meanwhile I soldier on with wife,
sometimes dance to arcane melodies,
sometimes chant the requiem of life,
aware that time is brief before my obsequies.
A strange relationship we have,
this man in oil-stained dungarees and I,
this man with blackened hands,
and battered mind. In pints, we talk
of gombeen politicians,
faceless men who shape our destinies
with egocentric influence.
We do not rebel: in fact we
to their inane philosophies,
knowing they vomit horseshit.
Why is this? We, the Irish people,
are a great people.
We have the soul for hope,
for work, for justice, scholarship,
for joy, for dance, for bed
in haggard, ditch, or cuckoo's nest.
We have the stomach for
the juicy steak of better times
but we know famine and the taste
of grass and soup of nettles.
I call him when I need
his canny hands and mind,
when the diesel burns too fast,
or the oil needs changing,
or the brakes are poor.
He calls me when his mind
has over-revved and he sees
only one solution
to injustice in this land:
the stone wall and the gun -
exterminate the dossers,
the drinkers of our blood,
If it was so simple,
Hitler's dream for Europe
would have won the day
but not so. The pain of man,
is the pain of loss, of insecurity,
the pain of the hopeless dream
that if we lay up treasure now,
it will survive the bad days
which we fear will come.
Begone with fear and live today,
tomorrow is uncertain.