On first reading Dermot Bolger’s “Temptation”

On first reading Dermot Bolger’s “Temptation”

I too know that road, the garage, the sharp bend,

the hump-backed bridge, over and beyond, the sea

at last, journey’s end.

Everything as it always was, as it should be.

But of course it is not,

the imagined woman’s tears of happiness

her fears of never seeing this again unrealised,

her deepest felt relief,

I applaud all of this

but for us it was not to be.

“She had honestly never expected,”

Dermot wrote,

“to see this again except as a woman

riddled with cancer.”

And what can I do

but remember…

August nineteen ninety-eight

the last summer’s day and all are

deserting the beach,

you know the scene –

struggling parents, lethargic children, end-of-season farewells.

She paused and looked back seawards,

“I feel like I’ll never see this again.”

Her simple words concealed a terrible truth.

Rosslare Strand, August 2000

In Times of Civil Wars

In Times of Civil Wars

I

It is still widely written
that in Eighteen Sixty-Five
at the hour of his defeat
Robert E Lee rode to the
Old Court House, Appomattox.
Resplendent in uniform,
dignified, impressive, there
he signed the Articles of
Surrender. The war’s winner,
Ulysses S. Grant, tired, worn,
like his own dusty clothes,
counter signed. It was over.
Lee mounted his horse, rode through
the ranks of the victorious.
To a man they rose, silent
in respect and watched
the old man pass proudly by.
This is still widely written
and so I learned of it.

II

But not so widely written,
in August Nineteen Twenty-Two
Mountjoy Jail, Dublin, Ireland,
defeated Republicans
milling about the stairs and
halls of that desolate place
heard whispered like a soft
breeze barely bending barley
news of yet one more ambush
one more killing on the road
and so knew Michael Collins
was dead, one more awful death.
Sworn enemies of his side,
still, to a man they dropped
to their knees and in Irish
recited a Rosary,
prayers for the slain man’s soul.
This is not so widely written
my Grandfather knelt that day,
and so I learned of it.

I am rock

I am rock

I am rock,

I am stone,

I am old but I am here.

I was once something else

Now I am stone.

My surface is worn, scratched, chipped

I am still me, I am stone.

Look closely at me,

There are colours where it seems

There is only one colour,

There are marks where it seems smooth,

And all the time, I am what I am,

I am stone.

The shape I am now

Is not the shape I always had,

But I am still stone.

Dun Laoghaire

March 2004

This was published as part of the Kilkenny Library Poets on Board Scheme

At the Arts Festival, Galway

There are swans on the Corrib,

Along Quay Street the pubs are

Filled to overflowing.

They play Edith Piaf in cafes

While patrons patiently wait.

Outside, buskers ply their trade.

Behind the old Spanish Arch

We find the new Museum.

There, Johnny Faulkner and friends

Transport us with old sea-songs

Beyond the river’s open mouth

To Greenland whale fisheries.

Voices tell the shanties rhythms.

Eyes closed, to listen close,

I follow the music’s rise and fall.

Singers’ voices in harmony

Take us until we return

To the museum’s sunlit room.

Outside, the swans glide by, mute.

This was published as part of Kilkenny Library Poets on Board Scheme

Pools of Light

They don’t make lights like they used to,

Grandpa Simpson, dressed so perfectly,

Fedora flopping at the oh, so perfect angle,

Dances down the street

From pool of light to darkness,

To pool of light

And darkness,

And pool of light

To darkness,

Again and again and again

Thereby…

dancing

those

stepping

stones

of

light

In time to the rhythm of his feet

And the music in his heart

Try doing that in today’s light.

They don’t make lights like they used to,

Children gathered closer and tighter as the darkness crept in.

Best of all were lights in narrow streets

Where at times old trees growth

leaned

towards

light

and

shadows,

Wind tossed limbs splintered the edges,

Like dark bulrushes around pools of light.

They played jack-jack-cross-the-water, one, two, three,

Screeching across the street from the dark side to the light.

They tied strings to letter boxes and hung around in the darkness

watching front doors opened to frustrated emptiness while they giggled at their prey,

stage lit in pools of light

Try doing that in today’s light.

Highly commended in the Black Diamond Poetry Competition, 2010

Road Rage

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

The red car is parked on double yellow lines

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

Nearby I am waiting, content to be waiting

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

The passing parade entertains and I am content, waiting

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

From the rear of the red car a youngster leans forward

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

There is no prologue, no gentle upswell, it is sudden

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

His music, his sound, his choice, it is there, it is everywhere

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

Along with the shattered still air there goes my patience

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I suddenly want to take my phone and retaliate

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I want so much to go and stand by his open window

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

His open window! His open window!

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I could, I could do it, take my phone to his open window

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

And by his window I could play for him

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

My choice of music as he plays his for me

Ba da boom ba da boom bad da boom boom boom

I could, I could do it, I could play for him,

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

Puccini, Madame Butterfly, Un Bel Di, Vedremo

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

And as the music rises and the voice soars

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I would lean closer, I would raise the volume

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I would lift the phone, I would share my music even more

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I imagine I would enjoy his horrified looks

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

His initial delight at being noticed turning

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

To complete and utter incomprehension

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

How can anyone call that music?

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

I could enjoy that but I don’t, I turn away and hold my silence

Ba da boom ba da boom ba da boom boom boom

Maybe one good day, one good day, we will see