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Poetry

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

N25

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

TERMINAL CATHEDRAL

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROOTS

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BURREN

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

IGUAZU

 

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:

ascending necklaces,

strung-out star-clusters,

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)

 

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