Thursday, 30 June 2011


Here, in the hollow
There was standing room only
For any slabber about politics
You put your mind to higher things:
Catching the barman's eye,
Lining yourself up for a game of Pool,
Getting a berth in the snug,
The perilous journey of stout
From pump to table
It was our wee melting pot
Miraculously stirred
No strangers here
Only people you had not yet
Tapped for a pint..

Monday, 27 June 2011

Meat wagon

My father kick-started
A dead man with the heel of his shoe
And swore to me, in drink, he once
Got a mad woman out of a tree
By firing windfall apples at her
He was half-deafened with blasts
And if you set him up with
A glass of Guinness and a bush
He might let on darkly about
The wounds in his head from
Collecting bits of people in bags
Or happier times when an Emergency
Meant being too full of plum poitin
To keep his ambulance between the hedges
After a well-lubricated false alarm
Way out in the never-never
God knew, a while of his crack
Blunted trauma far better
Than any sterile diagnosis
His compassion had no side
He'd seen the similarity of passing souls
Whatever foot they kicked with in life
There were no atheists in the back
Where in his humble way
He held everyone sacred

Friday, 24 June 2011

Motes and Planks

The trouble with badness
In these parts:
There's just too much of it
To go around.
Bitterness squeezed out,
Around these shapely hills,
But never quite drained away -
The excess pooling, stagnating,
Soaked into your neighbours
Who, fair play to them,
Would never see you stuck
If your Massey broke down,
Or if, misjudging the weather,
You needed the silage in quick
But who:
When push came to shove here, long ago,
Turned a blind eye
(Maybe bruised shut)
To  the causes and effects
Of townland assassination,
To the covert decisions
On life and death
Your kin were subject to
For merely staying put.
The busy mandate of peace,
Intruding in these parts
Where too much was observed
But damn little changed
Should well be cautious -
Stepping lightly over sacred ground,
Looking for a hand to shake,
To make things right again.
You'd maybe take it just to square things
With the man upstairs.
But the man next door?
That's another story.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

This is not a checkpoint

You'd come across farmers sons,
You went to school with.
On the back roads at dusk
Looking to park up somewhere quiet,
With your first Convent lassie.
A blur of camouflage,
The circle of dim red light,
And you'd draw up to some fella,
Locked and loaded,
You once dead-legged in the playground.
You were both playing new roles
He had his licence to kill
You just had your licence
The idea was to be civil -
Men of the world,
But your girl flinched violently,
Giving the game away
And it made you suddenly ashamed,
Knowing in the dirty wash of sidelights,
It might have been a different story
If she'd been there on her own.
Without the thin orange cover of your
There's an awkward moment
When you try to read his opinion,
Hating yourself for doing it.
And, for forms sake,
He pretends to check your details.
You're let through, of course,
Still a friend of the state,
Despite your exotic tastes.
You give a weak salute
As you spot your old art teacher
Prone on the verge -
Covering you with a
General purpose machine gun
Like the subject of his own Magritte.
The surreal picture,
Now framed in your back window
Is soon consumed by twilight.
The legacy remains -
An unwelcome passenger,
A big, sour lump of indigestible history
Sprawled across the back seat
You thought you'd be playing on later.
She is silent, for a time, then:
'Sorry. This isn't going to work.'

Friday, 17 June 2011


Lost in a forest of legs,
Beneath the homely ceiling
Of damp green serge and fag smoke,
A girl looks for her father.
He went out this morning,
Bad tempered at the rain,
Late for his own funeral
But real enough, at least,
As she lay in her bed's warm nest.
Later, while she ate her cornflakes,
Still weak with sleep,
A mile away between dripping ditches,
He was rubbed out of the picture
To make room for a new Ireland
The muffled percussion of bullets
Lifted a few starlings,
Who were keeping their feet warm
On telephone wires
That would presently hum with shock.
Later when raised up to wet eyes
To be cursed with this truth
She wouldn't take it.
Still scrabbling furiously for a gap
In the hateful logic of the wake,
She transmits impotent love -
Unsaid, undone, undying
Receiving no signal in return

Monday, 13 June 2011


Here is your man with the healing hands
Playing slap and tickle
With all the uncooked meat remaining
The meagre contents of the surgeon's purse:
Puckered, raw and stupid at the ends
His goal is animated rage
The method brutal kindness
Frank manipulation
The starved cheer of the military ward
Is no match for his mechanical wit
'Aha!' He cries, cracking his knuckles
'We have ways of making you walk!'

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Last Post

Climbing Benaughlin
On a curling bog road
The starlight blanched 
By cement works down below
Farting out aggregate 24/7
We passed a low stone shelf
Erupting from the peat
Flecked with the detritus
Of a visiting regiment's supper
The mysterious no-name biscuits
A fiddly little tin opener
Some warm fragments of hexamine
That recently fired a squaddy brew
A single boiled sweet, wrapped
Already mobbed by wood ants
These military artefacts
Are made incongruous
By their proximity to a red post box 
The mail still Royal in this district
If nothing else 
You could have your wee war here,
Wait for that red van
And write home about it by return
The solid truth of a letter
Your own careful legend
Having much more shape
Than the facts on the ground

Monday, 6 June 2011


Men on stone blocks 
Revealed to us annually 
In the midst of traffic 
The corner boys of public space 
Stepping out of unconscious precincts
Vert-de-gris warriors
Reduced to mere staging posts
In our journey through the here and now
The invisibilty grates for a moment 
But how could we ordinarily bear 
Such constant presence of loss? 
And so we ration our Glorious Dead 
One brief life after another.

The Walk

A hollow box of day-glo Peelers:
This unlikely lining
Holding the brethern snug within.
Mustered by the public toilet
A municipal bouquet
Of piss and shit and disinfectant
Pervades the porous night air
Seeming to mock any wholesome intent.
The Sergeant, hoping for rain and overtime
Sends the Lodge off up the brae
There's no music allowed
Nothing to set the pace
A blackthorn stick clatters down
The thin procession shivers
As an old man finds his feet again
This plantation town has switched sides
The war memorial, their destination
Is now held hostage by demography
Someone from the sullen, watching crowd
Begins a protest song, then stops abruptly
As if to recognise the irony
Of what is being overcome.