Irish Questions

[This is version 15 of this poem. Perhaps version 16 would have been “perfect”, but that might have been too perfect, given the poem’s theme – 1916 and all that. So, here’s version 15 for plain old 2015.]

What could be less poetic than war? The warriors’
Words become wounds, not better words.
Yet some poems are a kind of proclamation,
One voice assumes the many of a nation
Through artifice and verse:
Walt Whitman, Padraic Pearse.

Regarding freedom, ought you to ask or take?
Is this the choice? History is not black and white
We’re told, not the old photography or print
By which we know it, not that portrait
Of Pearse in profile, young and fair –
But only those who see in monochrome make
Any difference, the others seeking light
By which to know, not to set fire
To distinction. And is there distinction without Distinction,
The Ascendency Gentleman wrinkling his Patrician
Nose at the Peasant? Is there a nation
Without assimilation? White and black
Too are expunged in red, red blood –
The only colour left in which to paint:
Red, the rebel and the RIC; Red, the good
Man and the bad shot down; Red, the devil and the saint!

But red too fades, bleeds into other colours,
Factions that plan and plot – strike! And attain!
And then again begins the pain
That leads once more to war.

And when war is done, if war is ever done,
Defeat victorious on each side is crowned,
And we welcome it not with the feline hiss
Of scared contempt but with – of course – a kiss.

A kiss for Cathleen, a kiss on the clergyman’s ring,
A kiss too fading on the hectoring lips,
A kiss becoming bullets – you can’t kiss
Yourself. And others? Others are the dangerous thing.

Anger at an Anthology

Fuck sake! Not more bloody death! –
            It clears the table, cuts the grass,
            Cleans the slate and seals the pass,
            Shears the shepherd and his lass,
And still it is not out of breath,
            But makes time for my sorry ass!

“Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new”

I have, somewhat reluctantly, given Just Poems a makeover. Although poetry itself is enough (as my About page assures us), appearances can add to its appeal, and I think this new Theme allows for enhanced readability. Let me know what you think…

Anyway, back to business. Here’s a haiku, let’s call it ‘Fashion’:

It is important
To look smart so I straighten
Up my straitjacket

Thanks for visiting,


P.S. Lycidas!


Four Poems (Rhymes in April)

Captive Flux
Who named the days? Tell me who!
What god or beast?
Valhallan? Olympian? Jupiter’s priest?
What lion in what zoo?!

And why label the gloriousness
Of our sun-bound spins?
Our relation to the fire begins
And ends anew each day, nameless.

Your music is inside me, Joseph –
The wind in Cretaceous fronds soothing my mammalian mothers,
The pressure forming strings of iron in the earth
Around my burrowing fathers,
The skin under my flesh,
Wind in my chest –
Your notes echo
In marrow,
Bones bored like flutes, mere oaten reeds
To sound your serenades.

To April
Chaucer, Eliot, Millay:
Poets have many things to say
To April. What would I say to it?
Nothing – it is a construct.
Yes, the moon turns,
The earth too (to dust),
The sun burns
Out days, but I distrust
All timeframes, the rigid
Collars of clock time
Dripping days digit by digit,
And the natural, cycling kind
Appearing to repeat, like April,
Like Friday, all coming alive,
But actually being new and making older, a mill
Grinding all things into grime,
Grimmer and gaunter grains
Of being – chains.
And after all
I guess that’s what I have to say to April.

Concerning CERN
Smash it, mash it, bake it in a pie –
White coats, clipboards, standing by;
Crash it, bash it, stand it on its head –
Smaller things are easier said;
Whack it, smack it, give it a thump –
Measure each mote of the insect’s jump.


I thought one of the pictures which inspired this poem might contribute something to its enjoyment... Can you see which girl is the Rose?
I thought one of the pictures which inspired this poem might contribute something to its enjoyment… Can you tell which girl is the Rose?

Fading into the photograph some of your classmates,
No less important, no less alive, but not you – you stand out,
A sullen rose, having a bad day in 1936, or that’s just how
You look. No less hopeful for it, a whole kaleidoscope of life
Spirals out from the black-and-white school picture,
The market streets alive with sensory richness, Galway alleyways
Leading each to different lives. Perhaps you became a nun,
The school selling it well, perhaps a nurse, living by the hospital,
Perhaps a corpse hours after this was taken, the sullenness sickness.

What became of you? And why is the became more than you are
This 1930s day? Just a rose, unpruned, a flame on film, ready to bloom
Like a camera’s flash or to fade like your friends
Into the drear background. Why? Because I cannot know,
Because the narrative act of lining you all up
And saving this second forever sets suspense – what happened next?
And next, and next, and after that, and then? What happened?

What is happening, forever now, frame-sized, is you standing,
And standing out – your cardigan maybe blue, your eyes as well,
Hair light and easy on your well-held head – and looking out,
Out at lives coming, possibilities, the schooling done, the ticket
To America, to India, to some escape from your life back then,
From discipline and rules and drudgery, from poverty and fools
And from, oh from, the stings and thorns that are coming,
As surely for you as for your fellows, the failures, the regrets,
That what ifs and the if onlys, the sullenness of a girl
Deepening into the well-worn despair of womanhood,
The children and the husband and the house, the parents
Sickening and needing care, the bills, the aches, the worries,
All the things that go along with any joys, joys of parenthood
And love, if such you knew, joys of shelter and of family,
All the joys that sit around a grief, expectant diners
Waiting for a feast, the servants lined around the board,
The silver shining and the linen laid, the wine all ready,
Just to be uncorked, the dishes coming in, set down with care,
The lids lifted, and the horror underneath. Ah, had they but been empty,
Then what care? But the rotted flesh, the shattered bone,
The food of monsters set out like a kill –
And all your ravenous fellows tucking in.

What pains you saw, what joys, what black-and-whites,
Will not be known. Only this lonesome rose will grow and die,
And only she will ever know the world she found,
And what she made of it, and what she left.