March 24, 2015

[frame by frame]
I have pieced you together from glimpses
[the swollen black pools of your eyes]
A doll sewn up by candlelight alive
[tumbles of thready hair]
A black-and-white stop-motion film
[your chalk-white back]
Gaps filled in by fancy
[shadows of limbs]
Holes resonating with the peal of ragged breath
[your rising waist]
And the chainlink clinking of a heavying heart
[your fingers delicate on dimpled skin,
the fruitful fullness of your lonesome chin,
the round foundation of your lip-loved cheek,
the turning of your shoulder from your neck]

Day trip to Lesbos

March 20, 2015

            I’ve come

To learn your craft
Simple as sunshine
And as subtle

Portmarnock height

March 9, 2015

Now what is cloud and what is hill?
What’s star and what is streetlight?
Sometimes when the evening’s still
Distinction is recondite.
What is land and what is sky
And what’s the sea between them?
Seen from this Portmarnock height
All worlds look one and equal.


February 12, 2015

Life is not possible of emptiness,
Emptiness not of life –
But all that I can give, I give,
And lose that you might have.
Two cannot become one, no more
Than one can become two –
And to be half, and meet your half,
Might leave two halves, not one.


January 15, 2015

I put all my eggs in one basket.
Then I smashed it.

The Language of Love

January 9, 2015

Pens are mightier than swords,
So let’s not fight, let’s compare words –
”A bullet a day keeps the infidel away!”
Versus ”Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!”
Well! While your words are amusingly kitsch,
For depth and for beauty, nothing beats French.

The Stylite’s Sonnet

January 1, 2015

The moon is bright tonight, God favours me
With light to see my sins, the inch
Of cloth the winds have left my thigh,
The speck of footsole skin that does not pinch,
So that I might tear them both to find
The lofty suffering that Jesus felt,
A pain beyond redemption and a mind
To think my pillared self of God bereft –
Then His glory in my dear salvation
Shall be the greater for my hopelessness,
And from its nightly need of resurrection
My faith will have the strength of exercise.
Thus when I fall I will not meet the sod,
But the monolithic mercy of my God.


December 22, 2014

[A storm arises at the port of Aulis, preventing the Greek fleet from sailing for Troy. Their leader Agamemnon consults the seer Calchas for advise on calming the storm.]

I watch my father. The timely winds of Thrace
Augur hope for those who love him,
Hope that he might not depart us at his brother’s whim.
I see him hear with ashen face
The council of the Seer – is it good
News, no leaving? Or a solution to the storm,
The suggestion of some warm
Libation maybe, wine or blood?

He looks at me – I do not know that face.
Is it one they know who meet
Him in war? With halting pace
Unknown before to striding, kingly feet
He’s moving to the Altar.
Ah! Some god will be appeased,
The clouds will clear and father will go east,
Leaving love behind for slaughter.

He calls to me, the men are quiet.
I do not like their silence or their eyes,
Following me to father. What insight
Can they hope from our goodbyes?

The wind starts whipping harder,
Screaming louder as I reach
Him, screaming round the Praying
Stone, screaming, screaming.
Yes wise wind! Increase! Be greater
Than men’s rashness – keep them beached.

We are embracing. “Ah father,
Do not go to Troy –
Ahhh! Father!”
No! It can’t be…
But my blood is really spilling,
Without me tamely splashing,
And all the men are watching
As the screaming moans to nothing.

America the

December 10, 2014

(with apologies to Katharine Lee Bates and the beautiful America)

O beautiful for spacious cells,
For amber waves of pain,
For rectal feeding’s majesties,
Gitmo and Abu Ghraib!
America! America!
George shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
For “free” and “detainee”!

One for Sorrow

December 5, 2014

“No, they’re nasty birds,” he said of magpies,
Seeing me feed some. One day his donkey,
Cut across his cross, had had the wound reopened by
A couple. I remember this when the flies
Lift and I recognize the form of the remains,
Maggots singing from its beak. I see no harm
In it. In death it even seems kind, suckling the swarm
Of fly-spawn abandoned by their own kin.
But while alive perhaps it was a troubling bird, stealing
Shiny toys from shiny children to sparkle it to sleep
In the cold branches, or cuckoo-like destroying
Others’ eggs, or plucking out the ripe round eyes of sheep…
Still, it looks innocent enough tonight.
I toss it in the ditch – its final flight.

The Serpent

November 17, 2014

Listing the good deeds of Hitler
To an audience of Jews!
It seems fair to say my sister,
Vicky, was somewhat confused.

We always found her in some temple,
Just like Christ at twelve years old –
Her certainty was just as simple,
Though her father was no god.

“He loved Blondie till he killed her,
And he could be nice to kids
(Those he didn’t send to war,
Those he didn’t class as Yids).”

He would stagger up the steps,
Left or right, my room or hers…
Can’t say that it mattered which –
Hearing’s bad as being heard.

“We just need some understanding.”
“There must be some clear defense.”
“I know we can still absolve him.”
“Maybe his love can make sense.”

I tried to tell her that a victim
Doesn’t need to wait for that,
But she got stuck inside the garden
Trying to put the apple back.


October 30, 2014

already again the vice awakening
dims my vision
dances tighter tighter
in my blood my bones
contorting consciousness until
thought is all action the
indecency of blindness
quieting all else ceasing
now to begin later again already


October 14, 2014

When you were seven you wrote your first poem,
A child given to word and image
By the necessity of your parents’ work, alone
In the world of nature from a young age,
But without the coldness of the abandoned,
For you felt yourself beloved of every creature,
Of the woods and of the snow, and your absent
Parents loved you too, and your poems procured
The services of the mountain and the river
As foster parents, the protective shadow
Of Urey as your father, and the gentle song of the Etto, giver-
Of-life, as your mother. The will to borrow
Such parents was a blessing, and you knew a bliss
In early years, although your poems could sing a common sadness:

“The snow falls ponderously in the valley
Around the fruitless evergreens
In the great shadowcoat of the Urey
Where the soft Etto is first seen
To rise magically out of rock,
Ages before the oar and dock;
It wonders “What can they mean,
These unfalling things that strive any way
But down?”, and drifts with snowslow wings
Upon their movements and their tracks,
Whitening the land, papering cracks,
And having no more knowledge than a day.”

You spent your youth in that wild neighbourhood,
Observing the tragedy of insect life
And the romance of snow falling on the woods
In the Etto Valley. The blunt knife
Of the sun above the Urey never showed
Itself a force of heat, only of light,
And it helped the frozen blank blanket of snow
To pervade your natural wanderings with the sight
Only of eternal waste and coldness.
But the Etto and its woodlands would break
The influence of the sky and brush the wilderness
With moving colour – “a water-snake
On ice will writhe and hiss
Until it melts the whiteness with its kiss.”

Song without Words

August 5, 2014

Before the end, the music’s pitch unpeaking, pianoing from forte,
I’d like to claim a moment for your face, curve of your chin,
The mole on pink sunset-sunned snow, reactionary cheeks, exploding lips,
Outward from heaven your eyes Luciferous descension,
Pulsing energetic visage of a god, fallen, into glory, godheaded angel,
Outward all beckoning inward, stellar attraction, spherical tones
Chiming within your skin, soft, soft now, soft

Pianoing from forte, down the sound and down and down
Your eyes and lips and cheeks and down and down
Your visage, night, night no longer star-full, only night
Come down upon you and darkening darkness to a pitch
Unseen, unheard, unseeable, unhearable, and bearable only because unbearable,
The loss of you


July 29, 2014

Wind! Oh! The wind hurts the window – the storm has arrived!
Rain! Coat! The rain coats the raincoats of all those outside!
Foot! Steps! Each foot steps its footsteps in a muddy path!
Clean! Up! The storm lifts clay clean up to clean up the tracks!

Panthera’s Watch

July 16, 2014

A mess of enemy light this cold Judean sky,
Illuminating goats and the shit of goats.
Why not just darkness when there’s nothing to see?
Can I not lay down my spear and self and sleep
And dream of that girl I took last night?
She smelled of shit, some peasant’s whelp,
And bleated like a goat, but by Mars
I’d favour her again with Roman love.


June 24, 2014

Sing, muse…
Come on, seriously. Sing.
Ok, just hum something…


May 27, 2014

Digging holes to put people
in is a hard line of business,
Hard as the earth when the
frost sets in, & harder when
youve no interest in the lies
People tell to make a grave
less cold. The spade gets to
the truth of it: earth is hard.


May 13, 2014

After all this time I dreamed of you tonight.
We walked and talked through alleys of my mind.
And now that I’m awake again I find
The love I had still burning just as bright.
Oh, if only this old world were kind
And love and one stray dream could set things right.

We were together again at long last –
Intoxicating wine after a fast –
Walking the streets of Galway and Belfast…
Ah, my first love, if only dreams could last.
Alas, more years are gone than are to come,
Our once bright future lies in mist behind.
And oh, the things I would have done
If I had not been blind.

How many years, how many miles between us?
And yet you are as close as a dream, so close
You are inside me, my Alcestis, my Hermione –
Except you won’t come back.
I can only dream you into my life.
You live, but time and distance make
You as good as dead to me.
You haunt me, living ghost,
Rattling your chains across my soul.

Two Poems

May 6, 2014

Nameless, that is what I must be.

But even “I” is a name, and even “be”.

Anything which only is,

I must be as anything which only is.


  first thought: “which is like this”


  second thought: “which is in this way”


  third thought: “which only is”,

  might be called the final thought

  because it was the chosen one,

  but that too is a name.


  A poem to be called “Final”



Nameless, really,

Slip your name,

the heavy breath of others on your birth,

the heaviness of your own thoughts, of “your” and “own”.

There will always be thoughts,

But let them rise like bubbles from the deep

And free themselves in empty air, leaving the surface calm,

    the water more fully water.

The Heavenly Body

April 22, 2014

Little wonder my words fail
Being but the comet’s tail

Deep Breath

April 15, 2014

Fearing winter like an old man now,
Fall’s chill settling in, the evenings dark,
I worry my mind’s furrows with the plow
Of thought, each pale idea dropping like a spark
Whose fire’s burned out. I brood like ashes
In an arctic hearth, clinging to my days
With cold-cracked hands, feeling no more the flashes
Which in youth promised the world — and then delivered this.
But what’s “this”? Just what I think it, nothing else;
All its brute nature’s but my frown or grin.
And now, so late as now, can’t I replace
All raw reactions with deep breath? Can’t I at last begin
To give no heed to prize or peril
And live like old Diogenes in his barrel?


April 1, 2014

When the moribund rebound,
Return upon the merry-go-round;
When the ash is flame again
And flies again on phoenix wing;
When the slumb’ring heads start up,
Eyes arising like to bulbs;
It’s then we say a spring has sprung,
When some ending’s rebegun.

meditation on peace

March 18, 2014

meditation on peace


March 11, 2014

Silent clay now is my father
Silence deeper than deaf ears
Clay laying unbodily asunder
A timeless now unknown in years
His is a being of emptiness
Mine less than the dark is mine
A father but of thoughts

Charlotte Smith

February 28, 2014

Charlotte thought her life would be too long
And now she has been dead two-hundred years.
I linger on her words, like still-wet tears
Remaining though the eyes are dry, are gone
Into a place sans sight and sense,
A not-place that her longing never knew,
For though that longed-for peace she linked thereto,
There’s not a piece of it in nothingness,
No way to ease your head when it grows tense
Only with worms, stringing the skull from crack to crack
Where once electric currents ran amok –
And all to make you long for rest, no less.
Ah! if for peace and rest you have a thought,
A void should be avoided and not sought.

paean to pain

February 25, 2014

in praise of pain I raise my pen
(and quickly put it down again)

The Lovesong of Samuel Lear

February 17, 2014

People in love are horrific.
They mince and they prance and they preen.
If you asked them they’d say it’s terrific.
But it’s (rationally speaking) obscene.
And what’s worse is it happens so often.
(Though it never will happen to me).
You see them, from cradle to coffin.
Congregating so damn cheerily.
Whether natured or nurtured this illness.
Has no cure and they’ll love all their lives.
They’ll love all their colouring pencils.
Then they’ll grow up and love all their wives.
Oh I never will love, I swear it.
I’ll avoid it, creep by like a crab.
For whenever I am disappointed.
I point it and stab stab stab stab.

Sad occasion dear

February 4, 2014

We sociopathic poets! Of all of us,
Who would not kill for “Lycidas”?
Milton himself, although a friend to King,
For its dear sake would have him drown again.

(But I don’t ask that tragedy inspire –
It is enough if it lets me retire
Into the peace misfortune brings
When it befalls my family and friends.)


January 28, 2014

Fall, lofty verse! Great Aeschylus is dead!
(An eagle dropped a tortoise on his head.)


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