THE ROYAL WAY
A headland sits on the skin of the sea
like congealed blood on an old wound.
I walk to the head knowing what
the sea is capable of, steering clear of
claw and draw of drowned memory.
The promontory lurks beyond lure of
ebb and flow – a leopard in waving sea-grass.
Faraway boats dream of clear sailing
and I dream of walking, walking,
into a future unlike the past.
I hope I make it to the lighthouse
by taking this longer route inland.
The head coils away from me now,
a serpent skull swaying – then closer,
ready to strike – my feet mired in clay.
On and on I go, trudge of legs
on tortuous twisting path
avoiding cliffs and sinkholes,
ignoring shoreline detours to souvenir shops
that sell nothing but trinkets of time.
Soon the headland takes me to its crux,
testimony to many years travelled.
Here at last, I lie on slabs aeons old
and dance naked on rocks of the Ara Solis
without ever, ever, looking back.
Published in Cyphers #77 (May 2014)
My regular orbit around Munster
illumined by onrushing beams of cars.
On the long straight out of Lemybrien
glow of comets in my windscreen ceases.
Above dark road sweet starlight.
I pull into a lay-by to answer two calls of nature:
one urgent and mundane, the other primal, deep-rooted.
I step from the truck beneath a sky free of ambient light.
Distant Monavullaghs rise like hump-backed whales
silhouetted in sharp relief against a base horizon.
Flow of Milky Way arcs the landscape like a dome
gilding grass with ghostly light.
Wet tarmac glistens on the road beneath my feet.
I pick out clusters – Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Plough.
and superheroes – Orion, Sagittarius – with belt and bow.
Aldebaran, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel.
A red planet low and lurking
beams down dreams and possibilities.
Somewhere to the right of this flicker of a road
an ocean sparkles, a chiffon bed reflecting myriad eyes of God.
I turn and turn again, a child beneath the sky.
Chill seizes my bones. Reality sets in with the cold.
I abandon my pilgrim road and rejoin the N25
to the glimmer of a distant city, wormhole to my world
of sales and deadlines, orders and deliveries.
Published in The Shop #46-47 (Nov 2014)
I saw Mary at the airport,
globes of tears on lines she wrote.
She kissed the cheeks of her only son
as though he were a departing saint.
Her boy-child called to airside altar,
she joined hands under trembling chin
in prayer to the Church of Emigration
of wherever her holy son was bound.
I saw her later in an airport car park.
She beheld his mystic climb,
roar of ascension in her ears,
his plane a fading silver crucifix in the sky.
Published in Stony Thursday Book #9 (Oct 2010)
What is it about that pair of women
out walking east the road that signals
them of this place, as if birthplace
branded birthmarks on their brows?
No accent reveals the soil of their source.
They nod as they pass, as if to say words
are not needed on a remote peninsula.
They are sprouted from stony earth
as surely as roadside ferns bending
in winds that howl in off the Atlantic.
No seeds of retirees – no summer-home
renters or blow-ins from the city,
no immigrants landed of plane or ship.
What betrays their ancestry – lineage
etched in lines across their foreheads?
Where are the lines?
Is it rare essence?
Scent of countryside?
Ectoplasm of generations
hanging over people in certain isolated areas,
a gift handed down, changing little
with passing centuries,
that makes them recognisable to
those who know the signs?
Is it the antiquity around them?
That Early Christian cross on the hill,
their backs to it now; faces of saints
moss-ridden, weather-beaten like crinkled
grey skin? Is it swaying in the branches
of lichen-crusted trees by the roadside
sheltering them, also gnarled and bowed
by the weight of history, or is it in
the cove where monks landed aeons ago
– forefathers of our corrupt church –
that lends the cragginess to their faces,
the rugged grandeur to match the valleys,
the dry-stone walls or the eagle’s nest
on the sheep-cropped slopes above them?
Published in Boyne Berries #10 (Sep 2011)
Cracks in porcelain grey
are known as grykes –
haphazard slits of lime dust,
seeps and calcareous drips,
respite from sun and gouging wind,
damp and shady recesses,
perfect cradles in the slabs
for rare orchids and buds.
Grykes are all around,
not just on rocky landscapes:
in every familiar territory,
some invisible, others plain,
shelters from limestone certainty,
havens for growth and surprise,
nurseries, orphanages in the entrails
of a slab-strewn world.
Published in About Place Journal Vol 2 #2 (August 2013)
At the gates to the falls
Iguazu children warble for alms.
They stand in line singing melodies.
Mysterious Guarani lyrics
drift like vapour in the sky
from misty water beyond.
Coins drop in baskets – balms
for sins of dead conquistadors.
That childish tapping of feet
and clapping of hands resonates
with older, whiter, hands that clapped
and feet that tapped to ancient rhythms
in westerly outposts of Europe
not long ago in languages
that also beg for survival,
that also bleed from mercury
poison of dying tongues.
Published by Every Day Poets (May 2013)
NAVEL OF THE WORLD
When twilight falls on Cusco
lean on Inca walls that withstood tests
of time and Spanish efforts at demolition.
Breathe in tendrils of rare oxygen.
Eyes watered by wind and altitude
make lines of light go loopy-droopy
between lamps in Plaza de Armas
– copper wires to the soul lit up
by stars in the sky above
Iglesia de La Compañia
but they are not stars.
Turn full circle in the Square.
Pearl and amber beads wink on hillsides,
each twinkle a window to Cusco homes:
baubles and decorations
on an upside-down Christmas tree.
The dark hole at the centre of the sky
remains black, adding fairytale
depth to make-believe dusk.
Night drapes dreams on Cusco,
drags eyes from sky to plaza.
Step lightly, slow-waltz until your coat
becomes a scarlet cape, a time machine.
Citizens of this city no longer wear
modern clothes: they walk tall – empired,
empowered – by head-dresses of finest
plumes and breastplates of gold.
They are Inca again.
Pachacutec rules –
conquerors never came here.
Published by Minus 9 Squared Vol 1 (May 2011)