ODYSSEY

Ranged across the fridge, the wanderings

of my inner Ulysses may be seen. 

Behold VW camper van of cherished dreams,

to bring us where crystal clear waters

fringe sunlit villages nestled between

warm seas and heat-hazed mountains.

 

Enamelled Pisa leans on shopping lists

beside a magnetic fishing boat

harbouring lottery tickets.

The Boston skyline cradles an old photo

while the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London,

a Norwegian moose, and puffins from Orkney

hold reminders, phone numbers,

wi-fi password, and post codes.

 

The daily jumbled in with all the dreams,

reminding me that but one step outside

might lead to adventure on any day,

with my Penelope, who will return with

me to home and her peaceful crochet.


Years Hence a Small Boy asks about the Pandemic

 

Did the birds notice?

great flocks of birds were seen leaving cities in China

& elsewhere, there were no more crumbs from the cafes,

there were no more gleanings from the marketplace.

Did the air change as well?

the air was never as pure in all my life before,

we could see further and clearer than ever –

the lungs of the world healed as ours grew sick.

Did the wild animals notice?

goats came down from the hills in Wales,

kangaroos wandered streets in Australia,

dolphins swam free in the canals of Venice.

Did everything sound the same?

there was silence & there was noise –

planes, cars, trucks were never heard so seldom,

birdsong was never heard so loud, never so sweet

Did the people forget when it was over?

no, my child, in saddened hearts it never went away.

 

 

 

 

A Serenade for Spring

A Serenade for Spring

 

Were the colours ever so glorious as this Spring?

Bird song never seemed so loud, so fresh, so close.

The very heavens have cleared, the air is pure, again.

 

Again?  When were the skies ever so clear for so long?

Never in my memory.  Everywhere Nature explodes

in our very faces, assailing all our awakened senses.

 

By the roadsides the pale primrose proudly asserts

herself, free from all the fumes of passing traffic,

even the badger thrives, road kill abounds no more.

 

Down in the quiet harbour a cormorant fished

undisturbed, unseen but by ourselves and the gulls.

An old neighbour called out from her doorway,

“It’s like someone stole away all the people.”

Galloping Children

Galloping children

The ageing grey tenement released

it’s children on a fine day; bright, clear skies

and gentle breezes, one of those perfect days

in childhood, often recalled in fond

memories.  A white van pulled up and

my father and uncle, finished their

workday early for once, simply scooped

up all who played on the street, bundled

them in the back where they bounced around

happy in the mystery of where they

might land.  When their drive was done, released

once more, they looked around, wide eyed.

A stream rushed and tumbled over great

granite rocks while Scots pines soared so tall

and proud.  Specks of white fluff moved slowly

across the green heights of the hills above.

“They’re sheep,” my father explained before

turning to his brother, adding, “children

need a gallop every now and then.”

 

The sound of one hand skipping

The sound of one hand skipping

Out I went because I wanted to play

with a hop, skip, jump and a one, two, three,

they said half-an-hour is all I could stay

even when there’s no-one else, just me.

Johnny at his window looks sad today

he can’t come out because it’s my turn here.

Mary’s mother just shoo’ed me away,

think she was afraid I’d come too near.

Flapping his wings landed a big black crow

I asked out loud “would you like to play?”

He looked at me, and wouldn’t you know

he said nothing at all then flew away.

In the garden shed where they keep the tools

I found some old rope no-one else wanted,

They taught a rhyme before closing our schools

so, I skipped and out loud I chanted –

don’t forget coughs and sneezes spread diseases

always remember you cover your mouth,

don’t touch your face, sneeze into your elbow

all because coughs and sneezes spread diseases

and that’s how we’ll make this old virus go.

2020 vision, or they still lie to us

 

2020 vision, or they still lie to us

They always lie to us.

When they proclaim they are

telling the truth

they act as if this were

virtue on their part,

rather than a sacred duty.

They always lie to us.

The wars never end

by Christmas,

there were no weapons of

mass destruction

and

the faltering fail-safes

often fail to hold,

situations being always

worse than they proclaim.

They always lie to us.

Drip feeding us morsels,

indecipherable

tit bits of truth,

is also a form of lying.

They always lie to us,

so much so

that it is no longer

a source of sadness,

instead,

the sadness lies

in how often we

forget,

how seldom we

remember,

in our ever and always

believing,

not admitting that

they always lie to us.

 

What about the working man?

 

 

 

“What about the working man?”

 

His roaring filled the street.

We were children scurrying

past, herd safety in numbers,

safety in distance, across the street.

 

What about the working man?”

That was his challenge for every passerby,

arms flailing, old coat flapping, eyes blind

to everyone, to everything else but…

 

In the trenches, he was, never right since.

They say when drinking he sees

the faces of men he killed up close,

with a bayonet.

 

I heard that years later,

after he died, old age finally

granting him peace.  Back then,

he spread his fear and horror

while we were children scurrying

past, herd safety in numbers,

safety in distance, across the street,

not seeing in his eyes

the dead men he saw,

dying closer to him

than we could ever dare to be.

 

Note – this is about a real person who lived in the same Parish as myself in Kilkenny City.  It is also the last poem I shared with Denis Collins of Wexford before his untimely death in the last week.  He was preparing an exhibition on the theme of Work for  May Day.  Alas it was not be, this was to be one of my contributions.  On the Facebook page Kilkenny Down Memory Lane there were some posts recalling notable characters from days gone by, this poor soul was one of the people remembered. His battle cry remains as relevant as ever, “what about the working man?”

Dolphins Danced That Day

This poem is in memory of Martin Colfer. Skipper of the Rebecca C, who often took me out to search for the whales off the Hook Head in County Wexford.  The video was shot at a reading of this in The Troubadour London, during an evening organised by Coffee House Poetry.

 


 

Dolphins danced in the harbour that day

 

in memoriam Martin Colfer, Skipper of the Rebecca C

 

They were good, those days together, easy

sailing, easy talking, easy in each

others company.  He taught me how to

watch at sea for birds circling, then diving.

He showed me the seals spying on us,

the dolphins playing games around the boat,

then, wonder of wonders, we would reach where

we had seen the great whales blow.  At times we

would come so close we could hear their very

breathing.  Together we saw mighty Fin

Whales, majestic Humpbacks, playful passing

Minke.  Once, sailing from our own harbour

at Duncannon we set a Northward course

to Ballyhack he gave me the tiller

to hold her steady while he cleared space

for photographers, waiting for their chance

to see the sights that we had often seen.

It happened then we went through pods of

Dolphins swimming in families of three.

At one hundred we stopped our counting.

Small wonder so that the day they buried

him in the graveyard overlooking the bay

the dolphins danced in the water, plain

enough then, that all who mourned could see.

A Sonnet For Chagall

 

 

Sonnet for Chagall

These mine eyes are the windows of my soul,

where you may think inside of me you look,

therein reading me as an open book,

in gazing outward lies my own true role.

 

Let me instead show you what then I see

when brushing clear old glass, old dust, old grime,

peering closely through layers left by time,

my village returns in pale broken light to me.

 

The splintered glass gives splintered view,

kaleidoscopic beasts both large and small

loom close, they share our lives with them

as crosses do, not one so high, but two,

side by side houses stand while people call,

splintered self remembering again.

 

note: all images used in this are in the public domain

Evening stroll, Old Town, Chania, Crete

Evening stroll, Old Town, Chania, Crete

 

He was a gentleman, holding us but

a moment, smiling in simple delight

at chatting again with some visitors

to the old quarters of the Cretan town,

his, obviously, wrapped around him like

the warm clothes he wore as a shield

against the mild Spring night.

 

He said, “this was little Jerusalem

before the war.  Lovely people, kind

to the children, like me, playing

on these streets, often gave us sweets,”

pausing, “there’s not many left now.”

 

He asked us where we were from, was it cold

when we left, did we have much snow?  He heard

it was a land that was wonderfully green, except

when it snowed.  Was it true it often rained?

 

We parted then, went our separate ways.

Strolling those same lanes again, a bright,

gloriously sunny day, we could see signs

above a handful of doorways, realising

then it was Passover.