POETRY

Following are some general comments made on Osgur Breatnach’s poetry. Feel free to forward your own reviews and comments.

A very definite talent for poetry…

Polished..

          A fine sense of drama…

         Very interesting work..

         Buckets of talent…

         Strong images….

Three collections of poetry follow covering reflections on life, loss and love.                                         © Osgur Breatnach

 The Pregnant Man

 
My Bucket List

Not much:
The fortitude of Nelson Mandela,
The single-mindedness of Che Guevara

The wit of Oscar Wilde

The voice of Richard Burton

The Integrity of my father

The compassion of my mother

The energy of my grandchildren.

Not a chance:

There’s a hole in my bucket.

Lullaby

My stepdaughters especially helped me access my feminine side and re-enter that magical child space. I wrote them this lullaby.

I'd like to lullaby you,

Lift you up,

off forest floor flowers,

Slip you past the sleeping shadows,

Dance you past the midnight hour,

As the owl whoo hoots

in the trees,

leads you light as a breeze,

To dew-wet open meadows,

moonlit, glistening, all-aglow,

Dance there until dawn's trees come to life,

all birds aflitter,

And your own eyelids flutter,

And wake you to your dreams.

Dead Eyes

Over a short number of years I learnt a lot about the truth, lies and deception of images, particularly, from Gene a friend. This poem was written after I previewed some of his soon to be award-winning exhibits.

By a winter’s fire,

Gene, “I’m an image maker”, impressed me.

His flickering glasses magnified the size of his eyes

as he filed away some photography;

people, shadows and light.

I reached out for the black and whites.

A blind man stared dully back at me.

Raising mine, in time, I said,

‘His eyes are dead! Blank!’

But unblinking, waiting, baiting,

Gene’s huge eyes bored.

I dropped mine to the blind man’s
white eyes

round black pupils

staring

round me, over me, through me,

past all pain and time.

Over good coffee

Gene, the image-maker, impressed me,

For he had ability

Not only to turn negative into positive

but to make blind eyes see.

Inner City Predator

After being kidnapped by police, thrown into a police car and taken to a subterranean passageway under Dublin’s Bridewell police station in the small hours of a morning in 1976, and tortured there, police cars somehow never looked the same again.

Slithering

round the corner,

Sliding

into the stream

of traffic,

Crocodile

Eight eyes peering,

Engine purring,

Metal clasps

about to clamp

outspread wrists.

Within its bowls

and from the gutter,

Mechanical voice-over

menacing:

"Foxtrot One! Foxtrot One!

'Detain youths

On corner Main Street. '

Loneliness

Although this poem is short, any period of loneliness, between moon night and morning, can last many months, even years.

Loneliness

is in the bedroom

staring at the ceiling,

Listening to rain

tap his window pane,

car lights passing

without feeling.

The moon

breaking through the clouds

lights him up alone,

Pacing in his room,

Peering at the gloom,

All night,

Dawn time

loneliness gone.

Eight women and Counting

I’ve had many female relationships since I was nine years of age, through puberty and, early manhood. In the following poem I wrote about some of them. The poem obviously says more about me than it does about any of the eight women.

FIRST

She lived

in a forest

with yellow cane,

shallow swamp,

surrounded by terraced tombs

and released his childhood.

Now, pupils dilated,

oblivious to pain,

with compassionate friends

and her flowing frocks,

she fades,

unfearful

of the virus

SECOND.

Belfast Barnsley damsel

seeking a shining knight

in a dirty Dublin weekend

and a Bangor bang.

A date in London

never worked out:

apolitical incompatibility,

within a rifle-shot

of Marx's grave.

THIRD.

A teacher

fearing life,

fleetingly,

grasping her innocence,

adolescent hand in hers,

they stood

on edge of sand

and ocean,

enchanted

by sparkling sulphur,

the toneless

lapping motion.

misty morning meanders,

watching rabbits reaching

for the sunrise.

Gliding gulls crying

he wrote,

tear blurring vision

dimming,

the ship slipping out to sea.

FOURTH.

East End pirate

who knew junky Soho,

cemented human pillars.

Prostrate

she mothered men.

Clutching child and carpenter,

smiling

uncertainly,

she slipped away to Somerset,

astounding

her analyst,

who exhibited

her therapeutic mural.

FIFTH.

Angelic anarchist

whose Island

never existed.

Grasping life

her men

washed over her

in waves.

Her diary

recorded rivals,

even her lover's cramp.

Her rejection embittered,

cemented

against emotion,

even when

a red bus

battered her body bloody.

SIXTH.

Gorbal’s girl,

a derelict

washed up

by the urban sea,

Punctured arms

and colandared dreams,

surviving on a soul of ice,

lovers living

in her children's faces.

In her thighs

her lies

woke and broke him.
SEVENTH.

Alone

on the run,

needing one;

cold comfort

from memories

of son

and butchered comrades.

While he,

whiskey dizzy,

self-analysed,

accepted prison,

pleased

in their knowledge

that he had nothing

to give

nor take.

SEVENTH.

Disgorged

by the industrial revolution;

deprived,

conditioned,

head full of urban fairy tales.

They watched moondust

reflected in their eyes.

Clasped,

Swallowed each other whole

becoming one.

Once,

terrified,

exasperated,

communicating,

he caressed her body

with his bruising fist;

More than once,

searching for herself,

she pierced

his body

with sharp fragments

of his own heart.

They survived

only to separate

both victims,

both imprisoned.

But from the embryo

of their love,

warm from the womb,

two sons

whose being is paramount:

through them the Love noun

has become the verb.

The Pregnant Man

Birthing my inner child was a painful but awakening experience.

They waited. Outside. Patiently.

A little away from the place.

Anxious.

Inside the place,

sweated face,

He lay,

On the mattress,

Nervous,

Trembling,

Puffed eyes

crying.

And then the push,

Once more,

More than before,

And the groan came,

Grew to a scream,

Gasped,

Rasped,

And through the tears,

And terror,

All alone,

He yelled at the nurse:

"Fuck you!

I'm trying as hard

as I can!"

And cursed

at the top of his voice

His wife, brother,

father, mother,

And yelled

And pushed,

Tears ran,

the crown began

to show,

Slipping,

Head first,

Slowly.


Outside, anxious,

They heard the shouts,

A few nerves broke

for a smoke.

One bloke

tried to sleep

to cut it out.


Inside,

He felt it move

and pushed,

Shoved,

Shivered,

Trembled,

Heaved,

Sighed,

Sweated,

Cried,

Raw eyes red,

Roared,

Pushed

his terror aside,

Felt the umbilical cord

Tighten.

Frightened,

He lightened...,

..............Sighed,

Smiled.....,

Laughed! And hugged his child.

Looking

into his face

from his space.

He felt warm, reborn.

Éalú/ Escape

While serving 12 years penal servitude for something I never did, for short periods I escaped every night..


Ciúnas oíche,

Binneas feadóige,

ag éalú

ó chillín amach,

Ag éirí 's ag luí,

Ag lí

an aeir,

Amhail drúcht

na maidine.

Éalú oíche,

Borbbhriste

ag macalla

garbhchoiscéime

an eochróra.


Night silence,

Whistle sweetness,

from a cell

escaping,

Rising and falling

Licking

the air

like morning dew.

Night escape

Broken brutally

by the echo

Of the screw's

Discordant footsteps.

Unsleep

Trying to find stillness in jail is not easy.

I don't sleep well any more,

haunted by human gargoyles,

rattling barbed wire.

A silent wind flames my hair,

steels my eyes.

Icy fingers clutch my throat.

Moonbeams impale the yard

through racing clouds.

My starving mind

nibbles knowledge

greedily.

A nicotined finger

fails to wipe grime

from a child's moist eye.

Transistors wail Utopia.

I don't sleep well any more.

Haunted

by a fool's aimless whistling:

his boots stomp the prison yard all night.

High Hopes

On Inis Oirr, a small island on Ireland’s western seaboard, we let loose our romance into the atmosphere, not sure if or when or where it would land.

Destined for great heights together,

no surprise when soft rain drizzling

cool refreshing a balmy night

air fuchsia silent filling

stilling shallow pools

reflecting full moon shimmering,

we splashed across the sky.

Autumn

This poem deals with a couple coming to terms with imminent death, the grief that followed and life-force’s healing..

His bleak deserted body

Dying in autumn,

Death’s harvest,

-ugly, unfriendly, unromantic,

unlike a russet leaf

swaying,

tearing itself from a rooted tree,

silently spiraling,

sun-streamed kaleidoscope of colors,

twisting in the wind,

-falling to the still ground.

Misted burgundy berries

A final joint wish

Plucked for two,

-her palmful of lustrous purple blush

coldly, glossy, staring,

lolling

dully and seeping ,smeared juice glinting,

their grainy succulence,

one after the other on their tongues,

totally tasteless,

-falling from his stilled hand.

After Autumn’s cold slaughter,

Fears’ numbing chill;

Winters’ thaws,

Spurting Spring shoots and sprouting May buds;

Drifting friendships; shoreline

Ebbing

summers. Blackberries clusterdancing

for a fruitful Autumn,

Lips life-force lift, insight excitement

through new empowered eyes,

harvesting our smiles.

The Coward

He fears:

Moonlit snow,

Children's eyes

Woman's clasping crotch,

The wind's footsteps,

Reflections

That avoid

Confirming his sight,

Principles

that imprison his body,

The bareness of barbed wire,

Emotions and

Exposing impulses:

The weary weight

Powering his pen.

Reflections

It was early in a relationship, a transitory time for both of us, a time for reflection - a weekend away from Dublin city to Galway’s Burren.

On a Dublin High Street

Reflected in glass sheets

'Mongst silent mannequins

She stared.

Amongst bonsai hawthorn

Moist moss Burren born

She smiled.

Like the cukoo and fox

Over creviced crag rocks

Cautious and dexterous

He trekked.

To the bark, lichen laced,

Pool reflecting moonface,

Together past springtime

They laughed.

The Man in the Mirror

A lesson for international book day

They say life is like an open book:

black and white,

cover to cover,

sentence by sentence,

clear as a full stop,

bound between the beginning and the end.

But to me full stops are fathomless

and life mostly moves, unseen,

between the lines,

so that I never judge a book

by the words.

A river rose

My mother sat under the summer shade of a small hawthorn tree in Glencree, in the Wicklow Hills, reading a newspaper. My father was beside her, mischievously, an exaggerated lamb wool’s mustache, retrieved from nearby gorse, covering much of his face.
Roisín, my stepdaughter, was standing in a slow moving river, hunched over, investigating.
Reminded of another unrecorded time long before with one of my sons I thought my feelings required to be given life this time. I invited images from Roisín so that we might share the moment by writing a poem together.

In the mountain sun

he took her rose

remembered another

child, half her age,

half his age ago.

He soaked up the sun,

remembered his son,

soaked in her glow

and they wrote a poem together:


Above the lullabying river

She cradled

in the witch tree's arms,

Slipped

to sunny sleep

And dreamt

of a place

where daydreams

came at night,

And dreams were life:

As the moon

Silently

Slipped

Sideways,

She blew out

The stars.

Cell 17

Evening: Sun

Out of sight

Is a single slat

of pale light,

Pall black bars

burnt into walls,

Shifting until

darkness falls.

Night: Moon

Without sky

Is a neon-lit

Judas eye,

Its prying

all- night beam

catch my cigarette

cloud dreams.

The Sower and the Seed

"It's Children's
Year!"

They boasted,

Tearing his

comforting hands

from a mother

in labour.


"There's room at the
inn!"

They grinned,

Banging

Reinforced,

steel doors

between the sower and

the seed.

"Justice is served!"

Boasted

the grinning

political tribunal

Annulling

his rights.

Proud breasts give
life,

Feeding

revenge.

One more innocent,

Against such

grinning boasts.

A poet's apology

I'd write (for you)

Of speckled pavements,

Blurred, bead-wet

windows,

Dawn winds

stretching

spider's silk,

Long hair wisps,

Whispered orgasms,

Clutching, clawing

fingers,

Bloody births,

Laughing sons,

Cut- grass scent

in a bare prison yard,

State acupuncture

that broke my nerve.

I'd write (even for
myself)

But footsteps

and keys

echo

in the jangle

of my mind.

Winter in captivity

Tears of the silent moon

On lusterless

Barbed wire.

Frightening shades

Grey granite walls.

Iron bars

Rammed into cold stone.

Pall- black

Crow's caw.

Footprints

In a bleak

Snow-covered yard.

Silence in my cell.

Geimhreadh i ngéimheann

Deora na gealaí tostaí

Ar dheilgshreang

Gan loinnir.

Scáileanna scáfara

Fallaí liath éibhir.

Barraí iarann

Sáite sa gcloch fhuar.

Crágáil phréachán

Dubh-mharfach.

Lorg coise

I gclós lom

Gealsneachtach.

Ciúnas im chillín.

Unbelievers

Derry’s civil rights march in Ireland on Bloody Sunday in 1972 is a defining moment in Irish history. 13 marchers were shot dead by British paratroopers, another died later. Internationally it portrayed an oppressive image of Britain’s rule and ensured the 30 years of war that followed before a British government prepared to negotiate a civil rights settlement.
Some people saw the war coming.

Red, coal- flecked fire,

Television glow

flickers

on granite hearth.

Shadows slide

on son and mother's

faces.....

Beyond the green plant,

In the corner,

By the black table,

The red lamp,

Elbow bowed,

Cups and swirls

Cigar smoke...

A survivor sits writing...........

..... of Dublinmen,

Two,

On a Sunday

In '72;

Of the snow

falling.

Of waving

comrades

off in a car.

Green rucksacks heavy

both made the pub....

...In the warmth,

Waiting...

The television

silenced

the unbelieving,

Numbering

Derry's 13

unarmed dead,

White hankerchief

waving.

Later,

Outside the pub

as they left,

The Dublin snow,

at their feet,

flecked with blood.

The Dublinmen’s

last long weekend,

On a lonely farm,

Spent eating stew,

Stripping and

assembling

empty guns,

White handkerchief

Blindfolded,

Had purpose.

The snowman and the teenager

Hilly lane,

Moonlit,

Light turquoise lit

from Dalkey down.

After midnight,

Snow

by degrees,

Mild,

Gently

melting

on warm,

bewildered,

teenage face.

On bitter breath

swirling.

Passing a

Milk- white snowman

On silver bed,

Carrot-nosed

Cap askew,

it seems to say

"I’m Innocent!

It wasn't I!"

Sneering knows

His cold girlfriend

chose another.

Sloping

roads and paths,

Yellow streetlit,

Sheetlike;

Flakes fall

failing to cover

staining footprints.

Boston snowwoman

They lived with Boston’s cold winters for 9 years, warmed by a loving relationship. On returning to Ireland she was forlorn when he was diagnosed with cancer and dead within ten weeks of the cold news. Time eased her grief.

He caught her eye

unflinching

casting his one eye

out the window

on a Boston blizzard

and at midnight

as it rested

gently on the meadow

at Savin Hill

he built a snow-woman

by moonlight

and danced her

lively

whistling

lightly.

Death came suddenly, cold.

Both his eyes closed

and her voice froze

over many melted snows.

Recently,

I saw her

look out a window

past a Dublin blizzard,

unflinching

tilt her ear

to the wind,

slightly

smile

and then

at last

came her tune,

lightly whistled.

A ghost in the window

At times, only the image of a mountain visible from my apartment stabilised my waning inner strength.

His window

Landscapes a mountain tall

A river rushing fast

Swans gliding past;

Mirrors a phone on his wall

She doesn't call

Anymore;

Catches the name he calls

Her scent in the air

That won't disappear;

Mirrors the door in his hall

She doesn't call

Anymore;

Landscapes a mountain tall

Winter's wind fast

Swirling snow past;

Reflects the mountain stand tall.

The man in the mirror

I began a journey of self-analysis and drug-free counselling in the 80s. I didn’t have to journey far. I just learnt to look in the mirror.

Pot-bellied,

Naked

between two mirrors,

Frowning,

He peered,

One to the other,

Reflecting on

blurred images;

Going backwards

and forwards

to infinity,

Or,

Simultaneously,

Not moving at all.

His wall of words

in perfect

architectual forms

tumbled

from his mouth

into the waste paper bin.

He dozed

in and out

of reality,

Reading

tell-tale tales,

Word perfect,

Until he could

analyse dreams

in his sleep.

He heard a child

soothe him,

Tease him,

And,

when

he opened his eyes,

Deny any

responsibility

for being absent.

He watched

the sharp spark

in his eyes,

Moisten,

Make way

from fear.

In the end

the reflections

shrugged

their shoulders

nodded their heads

and walked away

aware.

Its OK to fantasies

In an exercise in exorcising cynicism I set my sensuality adrift.

Midnight heat.

Full-moon bathed

naked beach,

body
salt-scented,

Phosphorous surf heart echo,

Yielding sand heart beat.

Moist swollen lips

ear- whisper.

Cool, shaded

red-poppied bank,

Singing mayfly brook,

Sun-slatted

Ripe Rueben body

Like a fallen peach,

Bruised luscious on

love-making.

Sizzling,

Out of

the snow,

Stretching log fire glow,

Brandied breath,

Purring body warm

on a coat of fur,

Soft shadows tease

glistening skin.


Bells pealing.

Children skipping

Windowbox bluebells

Bee-buzzing.

Lace curtain breezing

Sunlight slip-streaming,

In her sweet sweat

Exhausted,

Entwined, dreaming............

.......................Wakening.

Alone.

But its OK to fantasies.

Voices

I was listening to post-funeral taped memories by friends of a man I never met. They were taped for his surviving wife.

I’m driving west,

setting sun sets lace stone walls on fire;

into the past

under clear night skies glinting with lights

some long ago expired.

Its another death day,

-six years on,

as I listen to ponderous hearts echo

spinning on the tape recorder,

regarding some irritable habits,

your sense of humour and comforting words;

Heavy hearts billowing like thunder clouds over Mullach Mór;

bellowing like the steady surf on the shore

deep at the base of the Cliffs of Mohar.

I never knew you

but I heard you were no ghetto Derry cowboy

and always sided with the Indian;

though in your youth

an Indian arrow put out your right eye,

leaving your Left vision seeing more than most,

and focused, years later, one blood-red Sunday

deep into a black hole,

as a paratrooper,

flinching at your stare, flicked his sights

killed 14 left and right of you,

so that you knew

you were living on borrowed time.

Eavesdropping,

As I drive through the Burren,

I listen to these friends spinning stories;

heavy hearts echo,

but, like cloud-spotting or ink blot tests,

I know you only as you echo

and reflect through family and friends,

who, in life’s barren crags, like orchids bloom.

Haiku for a lazy poet

Haik uhaiku haik

Uh aiku haik uhaiku

Hai kuh aik uhaik

Hanging Out on the 11th Floor

Being

I was lying in bed on a sunny October Sunday morning, a week after hectic devastating weeks; one in which I had buried both my parents. Affirming my existence led to the following.

I was a child

I was a crawler

I was a climber

I was an escapee

I was a singer

I was a trespasser

I was a runner

I was a fruit thief

I was a grandchild

I was abandoned

I was a hopscotch jumper

I was a footballer

I was a hurler

I was a baseball player

I was a cricket player

I was a cowboy

I was an Indian

I was a buffalo hunter

I was an airplane pilot

I was a swimmer

I was a wrestler

I was a student

I was a smoker

I was a card player

I was a reader

I was a cross-country runner

I was a truant

I was a gallery viewer

I was a girl catcher

I was a museum visitor

I was cider taster

I was shy

I was a day border

I was an exam taker

I was a window cleaner

I was a decorator

I was a journalist

I was a bridegroom

I was a restaurateur

I was a victim

I was an accused

I was a prisoner

I was depressed

I was a son.

I am a father

I am a husband

I am a lover

I am an ex-divorcee

I am a carer

I am a brother-in-law

I am a traveler

I am a son-in-law

I am a driver

I am a reader

I am a teacher

I am a campaigner

I am a debater

I am a lecturer

I am an historian

I am a warrior

I am a pet owner

I am a gardener

I am a worker

I am an inventor

I am a designer

I am a swimmer

I am a laugher

I am a crier

I am a shouter

I am a pleader

I am a viewer

I am a cleaner

I am a lender

I am a buyer

I am a seller

I am a rower

I am a dancer

I am a singer

I am a listener

I am an empathizer

I am a public speaker

I am a writer

I am a poet

I am a fisherman

I am a communicator

I am an image-maker

I am an organiser

I am a debtor

I am an artist

I am a chess player

I am a cook

I am a cousin

I am an uncle

I am a nephew

I am a brother

I am a friend

I am free.

I will be a time taker

I will be a wine taster

I will be an author

I will be a salsa dancer

I will be a playwright

I will be a skier

I will be a grand uncle

I will be a grandfather

I will forget

I will be terminally ill

I will not be.

Epilogue

I am a timetaker

I am a winetaster

I am a grandfather

I am a grand uncle

I am beginning to forget.

Inner Stillness

At a time of disquiet in my life my step-daughter Dairine’s eight-year-old hand in mine was steady, demanding and comforting. The ten-year-old hand of Roisín, my other step-daughter, felt elusive but strong in its stillness.

Softer than

a butterfly wing-kiss,

softer than

rose petals falling,

softer than

sunlight sliding,

softer than

cotton clouds gliding,

softer than

moonlight scent,

softer than

dusk-flowers flushing,

was your small hand in mine

and the sound echoes

still.

The Visit

At the time of my incarceration visitors faced each other across a counter in a visiting box. Two grilled metal walls were fixed ceiling to tabletop. Between these two walls ran double perspex half- walls, creating a corridor the length of the visiting box. Staring down this corridor from one end of the table sat a prison warder. If voices dropped too low in attempted intimacy the prison warder ended the visit.

Scarred face:

Peering,

Gashed

horizontally

by wire grill;

Blurred

by perspex.

Glistening lips:

Like moist grapes;

Droplets

on barbed wire

after rainfall.

Darting eyes:

Silent,

Searching

For weakness,

Frayed cuffs.

Stating love

and fear.

Clawing children,

Frustrated

by barriers.

Easily wearied.

The youngest

never knew me,

Never may.

The eldest,

Pushing daisies

through the grill,

Grows

Estranged.

Twelve years

of visits;

Struggle’s price

Consciously paid.

Where his uncle's father washed his socks

The prison laundry in Portlaoise Jail, Ireland, was the site of an attempted escape shortly after I arrived there to commence serving a 12- year sentence of penal servitude. I wasn’t involved in the escape. The prison laundry was also where generations of republican prisoners did their washing.

The prison laundry room:

A Vermeer room

Ripped bare;

Red, tiled floor,

Shadowed gloom.

The laundry room:

A room with a view,

And a past,

Where his father's uncle

washed his socks.

Bars scarred,

With a guard

behind every lock.

The laundry room:

Inside,

One winter's night;

Shadows

Slipped in

Three score toes light,

Undefeated,

Hands bare

Bent back the bars

and through the soap scent

Scented freedom,

But spotted there

retreated.

The laundry room:

Fathers, sons,

Soap and suds

and sedition.

Rows of washermen

White sinks bare

Yellow, cracked.

Scrubbing shirts,

Socks and underwear:

A hidden family tradition.

Colours

Grey jailer's eyes

Rustless razor wire

Grey June skies.

Blue in her bed

Red nipples thrust

Her brown -eyed tears spread.

Grey granite walls,

Grey army blankets,

His grey hair falls. 

Complicity

Struggling for human rights allows no exactitude of action. Nor is there any escaping from responsibility.

Is

To comply

Complicity?

It

Is complex

And inconcise.

The concept

Congruents,

Confounds,

As

Not to comply,

Equally,

Is complicity.

The Visitors

My mother, recovering from a life threatening operation, was in hospital. I drove my father to another hospital when he was unwell; drove him back again when he was tested positively for cancer; visited him in hospital as he struggled with the treatment. I often felt that death was at my elbow, accompanying me, trying to push past me and that only I stood between it and my father.


Not yet night

We arrive together

For final fight,

Avoid each other.

Out of the lift

Our eyes shift

Barely perceptive nods

Vague recall

Passing by a cross of god

Our feet echo

in unison

determinedly down

winding cryptic corridors,

through doors, twists and turns

past living, dying and dead

to the hospital bed.

He views my father,

Gravely,

Swishing his coat

Clears his throat

In a gravelly voice

that offers little choice

queries his health.

Pale face on shrunken head

white hair whisps

on pale pillow

linen to chin

and thin

lips

in newly learnt

Polish and Latvian

thanks passing nurses

in their native tongues;

With arched eyebrow

queries the relativity of the answer.

“I am not well

But I am getting better”.

The solemn,

sullen

sombre

glum visitor

talks of infinity.

(My father’s thin lips

Persistent like a hammer

Corrects his grammar).

As I watch on

he throws his eyes round

shakes his head

Sits up off the bed

Barks “I’ll be back!”

Moving gently away

to his second visitor

his blue eyes

frailly resting

on his second son,

Who knows their wars are over,

and that they have both won

but that both have lost

asks “how is your mother?”

A month later,

I wasn’t there,

I was burying my mother,

But I was told,

The visitor returned, dourly

asked my father sourly

was he any better

Gloated he’d just taken my mother,

My father’s wife,

Then vengefully

also took my father’s life.

The Orange

When I was ten I spent six months with my ‘Abuela’ (granny) in Spain. I wrote this after she died in 1974. Memories of her warmth and love, and sensations of Madrid’s heat and fragrances flooded me at the news of her death.

........Eyes closed

An orange under my nose,

I breathed,

deeply.......................

She was small

like a black bird,

Black hair

back in a bun.

Dark clothes,

Dark eyes,

Gleaming white pearls

in rows round

her tanned skin creased.

Proudly she introduced me

to her friends:

The giant grocer

behind the multicolored

jars of free sweets;

The porter's witch-wife

inside the hall door

who merged with the shadows;

The laughing hairdresser

who American styled

my 10-year-old head

like an upside-down hairbrush.

Sweating

I stuck to the shade

Shopping daily,

Followed my nose

Past all the hot-chocolate cafes

And scented stalls:

Dead eyed monster fish,

bursting grapes,

Crinkly lemons,

Queues of apples

level with my teeth

Huge, tangy onions,

Nose-sharp, pleated, garlic hair,

Muscular stiff-armed salamis,

crusty crumbling crisp bread

Sweet chin-dripping syrupy

plush lush peaches and oranges,

Sizzling thumb sucking meats,

Confusions of scented flowers.

At family occasions

round white-laced

mahogany table

she placed small flags:

Germany, Ireland, Spain,

Re-uniting scattered seed.

She fried me small portions,

Wings and chicken legs,

And watched me

Lick my fingers.

She pretended no knowledge

of my siesta- time raids,

Over old, creaking,

Warped floorboards,

On the fridge,

for the cool lemonade.

Midnight

On the balcony,

Warm under the moon,

She showed me

how to flick open

click shut her fan.

On her birthday she stopped

at the pasteleria

and bought me

two juicy tart slices.

Under the bright sun,

In Spain,

Twenty four years later,

She closed her eyes.

Under a damp sky,

In Ireland,

I close my eyes,

Tightly,

An orange under my nose

breathing deeply.......

Waiting for my father

It was exactly a year to the day my father died. I had forgotten and went to sleep. My subconscious awoke.

A passing sea gull's cry

flicker-wakes me

to flurried images:

Half-lit pale evening

a November platform

standing impatiently

lift waiting

boarding school returning,

his car late arriving.

Gulls swirling, bread diving.

My feather-like eyelids

in the dull dark

fluttering silent wings

slow motion-like flapping

red eyes rapid rolling

I hear from far away,

a forlorn cry,

perhaps a gull passing,

tightened lips quivering

deep in darkest blue night

I drift, gliding,

searching for my father

nevermore to be late,

expected nevermore.

The Hug

Onion-layers of grief can accumulate without our noticing, so they can be given no voice. During a weekend away in grief-counseling I could only write about it.


From the corner

Came the belly cavern’s primal roar,

Ripping raw

red throat spit and mucus,

Rasping nape-neck hair

and shivering spine.

The inner child,

Knowing, smiled;

Hand tugged,

Shared

“I

am not scared!

I

just need hugged!

You

are the adult

bugged

by fear feelings

interfering!”

The adult

now knowing,

Smiled,

Hugged his inner child.

Hanging out on the 11th floor

Evening San Francisco sky

the eleventh hour,

Between the 11th floor

and the 29th

Fingers of fog slide by

un-ominously,

anonymously.

Mist morning rises with a high,

High-rise lovemaking

Moves the earth, triggers chaos,

Earthquake manoeuvres

Eerie ambulances

Distressed cop sirens,

…and his tranquil smile.

Across the Bay high-rise fog licks

Redwoods. Timber towers tumble

to the ground floor, ground to dust

over a thousand years.

Jet lagged and body sagged

The eleventh floor

The eleventh hour

Silently, he lets go.

The shortest text-poem in English literature

In recollection of the short poems “Adam had’em” and
Mohamed Ali’s “Me, We.”:

I,

U.

Thanks Theo

On my own

On a Sunday with the finest of wine

and a book of poems,

On a Baggot Street afternoon,

Outside, the pavement dries out.

Ghostly guests overflow my table,

Insight exchanges,

wide ranging conversations

Alter all:

The finest of poems and a mere glass of wine.

I wasn't ready

I was ready

when she left.

Two years in hospital beds

said it all.

She had trained me to the core

at age five

when she left, alive,

Five months later returning.


Your strong arm, tickling beard

and tobacco breath

comforted me

on a cold Atlantic shore.

The truth was

I wasn’t ready

when you marched out

of hospital

like a soldier on parade.

I had trouble keeping up.

The desk nurse

avoided my eyes

that she had called it wrong,

that you would not last

Past Christmas songs.

I wasn’t ready,

when you marched out to die.

I wasn’t ready,

Under a heartless October sky,

Tears in your blue eyes,

as your wife was cremated,

you died

in dignity

sung out

by a son

and granddaughter.

I wasn’t ready,

I wasn’t there.

July 2010

 

                                                               

 

 

 

 


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