Thursday, 26 May 2011

In the Maze

The Gatelodge camera's pitiless eye
Watches the next meal of colour
Slide into this monochrome maw
Another morsel of humanity
Hard humoured, defiantly pliant
Will be processed, digested
Gradually rendered down
Then carried along a barred gullet
Marinated in captivity's reek -
A miasma of old sweat and stale tea
(With odd notes of something worse)
To finally stick in the craw
Of our rancid little history:
The prison visits room -
A cockpit of menace and scabbed cheer
Where anything can happen and often doesn't
Guards and guarded discreetly scrap
For crumbs of power
Each side incessantly off-balance
The weirdly vague attentiveness of staff
Is a half-hearted play on omniscience
Trying to see everything relevant
To getting home safe
Without seeing too bloody much
Everyone is doing time here
Where it is nearly always
Thirteen O'Clock

Friday, 20 May 2011


There’s no gain in sitting
By a dry Fountain
Purporting love 
If the plumbing’s fucked
Or getting a up a warm blaze
In the cold ashes
Of cherished farmsteads
Forgiveness demands
A down payment
Bigger than that.
Washing the feet of those
Not yet able to put them
In your basin of blood
Would be a better start
Or else inclusion
Is just a delusion.

Aghalane bridge

Artemis met Kratos
On the back road to Belturbet.
The consequence of this physics:
A brutal amputation.
The ancient stone limb,
Once stretched across a river,
Is crudely cauterised at either end.
Granite fists still hold fast
To each international bank.
And in between?
A delaying vacancy,
An obstacle course for brown trout,
A collapsed fear,
As horribly off key
As flowers in the mouth of a corpse.
And finally; a way to turn away,
And mind your own bloody business.

Closed border barracks 2009

This is now a feral place -
Once implacable, lately humbled,
The writ of law over ruled
By an ordinance of nature,
The roll of honour was unscrewed
The portals welded,
The armour sold for scrap
And all then supplanted:
Fushia, escallonia, hebes and whitethorn -
A lush and careless memorial:
Climbing the blast walls, lacing the wire,
Embracing cameras bowed and blind.
You could pull it all down tomorrow,
But you'd never settle accounts
As well as bindweed, couch grass, mares tail,
Swaddling this infant void
In gorgeous ruin.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


A swift slap on its tin backside
And a new loaf is delivered
On the scullery table
My mother, the creator
Having swaddled it in dishcloths
Murders it swiftly with her knife
Releasing the hot, sour breath
So redolent of childhood
I love the way new bread
Sucks butter off the blade
And stops time in a country kitchen


Daddy's brogues sat in a corner
Freshly painted with Oxblood
He wore them like statements
Well heeled. Solid. Tough
But I saw violence in their thick, pitted skins
With the tips glittering like gypsies teeth
They were like big, ignorant dogs
Better left outdoors
They stayed their ground, though
And growled at Daddy's slippers.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


This is my neighbours field
And, today, my battleground
We take the path of most resistance
Fading into a stand of Hazel
Going to ground in a humid understory
Of bilberry and honeysuckle.
Two white hares dance across my gunsight
Then leap a drainage ditch
Into the safety of the Free State
We've been here too long already
A brattle of thunder gives us cover to move
And sudden wind flattens the meadow
Exposing its pale, thick mane
The grass is good
There'll be a second cut th'year
On my own plot
If I live to see the end of it.

The land cries

When God painted Ireland,
He used watercolours,
Smudging the dun, sodden landscape
With occasional sunshine.
This wringing wet romance
Seeps down through quiet churchyards
Feeding lonely streams where soldiers drank
And scanned  heather ridges riddled
With the possibility of concealment
And sudden death
I looked down at Lough Erne
Through the shining, murderous hillocks
Is that where all this water goes?
Washing the clay clean to Enniskillen.
It's a pity spilled blood
Can't be got rid of as quickly.

First published Independent 1992