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?”

Real Men Eat Quiche

Real men eat quiche, (love peace).


Gorbachev, Botha, Nelson Mandela,

Hume, Adams and David Trimble, for peace

sake would risk it all in one great gamble.


In these sad times others choose war, midgets

becoming mighty men in their own eyes

distracting their own with blatant lies.


Leaning hard until an old neighbour falls

to bully and bluster is all they know,

proving to themselves they have big balls.

WISPA to Wales2

kings head lampeterWISPA tour of Wales, March 2014, part two.

The evening in the Kings Head, Lampeter, was a chance for me to read more extensively from the collection I brought with me. The audience were most appreciative and even patient when I “fluffed” the special effects in “Road Rage”! The poem, my response to being forced to enjoy others’ music from passing cars, at high volume, massive bass output levels, depends to some extent on being able to play in the background an aria from “Madame Butterfly,” a beautiful piece called, “Un bel di, vedremo,” translated, one fine day, we shall see. Perhaps one fine day I’ll get it right! The night in Lampeter I was reminded to hold the speakers on the phone to the mic, NOT the screen! Easy be mortified among such lovely people. By way of compensation here is a link to the proper audio/visual version of the same poem.
Afterwards I was hosted by another poet and wonderful lady, Jane Llewellyn. It was a pleasure having such fascinating conversations with her and her daughter. They live in a beautiful valley and it was refreshing to soak up the peace and serenity there. Again I say that when the idea of the WISPA poet exchanges was first being developed, inbuilt was the hope that the exchange poet would have a chance, space and time , to experience creative inspiration as part of their tour. This was present throughout the tour.

trees in jane llewellyn's

It would be difficult not to feel inspired in such surroundings, trees garlanding valleys, wild flowers everywhere and daffodils running riot along the verges.

However, as if that were not enough this day, 26th March, had a lot more to offer from both the natural and poetic worlds. We headed next to a nature reserve at Cors Caron.

This area is a raised bog, only marginally disturbed by human activities. With a raised walkway meandering across the landscape it offers glorious views in a most peaceful setting.

cars caron3

Hidden in the heart of the reserve there is a bird watching hide, a wooden building the same shade of the marshy world around it. A glass wall forms one side and there you can watch nature in an unobtrusive way, or share poems.

cars caron4

For Jane I read one of her own pieces, an elegy for her recently lost great friend and neighbour Dai. It was a lovely setting to share poetry and I felt would be equally a contemplative place to compose.

strata florida1

Next was Strata Florida, the plain of flowers, the site of an ancient monastery wrapped in great and comforting silence, the sort of place, in the words of WB Yeats, ‘where peace comes dripping slow.’

strata florida2

We wandered awhile among the old graves with their wonderful Welsh slate headstones until, suitably soothed by a place many others spoke of and were delighted I had been brought to, it was time to leave contemplation aside and return to Lampeter for an afternoon and evening of intense poetic activity.

To be continued, a workshop in the University of Trinity St. Davids, a reading by Sujat Bhatt and a meeting with the National Poet of Wales.

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