Poetry

From the West Coast

 

It’s Arthur’s day, and night. The weather here is impermanent.
What they call a glorious day is only a glorious split second.
Umbrellas are useless unless you want to fly.

 

People ask me how I am but don’t stop to listen to the answer.
They thank me at the most unexpected moments. They eat late
at night and wonder why they get beer bellies. After drinking
they mark their territory by spewing here and there. Aggression
and verbal abuse towards staff of the Emergency Department
isn’t tolerated.

 

The paper says males here are among the ugliest in the world,
just behind the Poles. And they are short. For ten lines of
a recommendation letter by Doctor Flahy I will have to sleep
with him once, for fifteen I must sleep with him twice.
People call towers castles, hills mountains and greens parks.

 

Girls put headbands on their bums. Men wear sandals to match
their black suits at the dinner gala. Today’s lecture on art started
twenty minutes later than it should when most people had still
to arrive. The sign in a shoe shop in Abbeygate Street reads
Leather is not a waterproof material.

 

Many houses don’t have numbers and if it happens that they do
it’s difficult to locate a sign with the name of a street. There are
no woods in the area. People say it’s because of the English.
There are only a few bus stops in the countryside. If you’re lucky
to find one, there’s no timetable on it. Buses are delayed.
It’s not how I imagined my death.

 

Originally published in THE SHOp (IE), Issue 42, Summer 2013

 

 

 

 

Almost Paradise

 

its main street is a distant cousin picking nettles
its traffic lights the dismissed troops of Gaddafi
its city hall is a late summer invitation to dance
its pedestrian zone a disobedient bowing parrot
its ring road is a vivisection on a hard-boiled egg
its zebra crossings the pinnacles of Notre Dame
its roundabout is spring water drank with friends
its walls are naked legs of Finnish holidaymakers
its houses are Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik
its river is a blue bog spotted with frenzied foxes
its papers are Bergman’s films watched in winter
its food is an emerald in the church-royal insignia
its water is a daydream of bulldog puppies-to-be
its tourists are an improvised violin composition
its climate is the oldest suspension bridge in town
its atmosphere the twenty-first month of the year
its night blues festival is vodka chilled in draught
its history is a clenched jaw of a handsome beggar
its mayor is a watch found in the Gibson Desert
its bright future is a pinch of salt in my third eye

 

Originally published in Poetry Wales, Issue 48.4, Spring 2013

 

 

 

 

Travel Notes

 

I dedicated my life to travelling,
visited the town without laughter,
the sepia palace built by bricklayers.

 

I lost myself in spicy medina’s maze-like streets
let them discover me.

 

I saw the house where the Alzheimer’s
Christian name is remembered.

 

I had a Berber pizza, it tasted the real Sahara,
got up at three am to make it to the crater.

 

The sunset over the dunes watched me
for the millionth time.

 

I was shown a hole in a fence:
welcome to Egypt, this way to the Pyramids,
— time was afraid of them.

 

No one could see me on an Indian hard shoulder
when I closed my eyes.

 

I was almost guaranteed to see whales and dolphins.

 

I engraved people’s stories in my heart.
We were all looking in the same direction.

 

Originally published in Envoi, (UK) Issue 172, February 2016

 

 

 

 

I Consider My Home Planet
Thanks to Christopher Smart

 

For it is flat and its fields are greener than Ireland.
For it is bundled up in blue skies.
For it cruises smoothly.
For its four seasons last for three months each.
For its flowers come into blossom in March.
For its women can walk alone in the woods if they wish.
For its golden hour lasts two.
For its tomatoes taste like tomatoes.
For it has masculine moons.
For everyone there gets a good night’s sleep.
For it lacks antonyms for love and compassion.
For its people are not akin to wolves.
For firstly they welcome you when you leave the womb.
For secondly they help you to take first steps.
For thirdly they give you a map and compass.
For fourthly they say what they mean.
For fifthly they mean what they say.
For sixthly they do not dig pits for anyone.
For seventhly they respond to your call.
For eighthly they wait for you at the station in the cold.
For ninethly they are reliable like the standard metre in Sèvres.
For tenthly men beg you to dance with them.
For finally they serve you tea when you are old, sick or tired.

 

Originally published in Crannóg Magazine (IE), Issue 31, Autumn 2012

 

 

 

 

To Make it Through

 

imagine humans as little children
listening to your story.
But don’t tell your story
— widows and orphans first.
Sweeten crumbs with sporadic smiles.
Nod. Always stay in line.
Picture others as sick youngsters,
their hair caught by fire,
yourself as mother.
Don’t turn away while complimented.
Show enthusiasm for invites:
crackle inwardly.
Breathe through your nose. Nod.
When awake keep writing,
it could become Life in Letters to Nobody.
Walk fast, glance at your wrist,
stare at brightness.

 

Originally published in Emerge Literary Journal (US), Issue 4, October 2012

 

 

 

 

Please Everyone

 

Seamus Heaney
My heart torn apart. I wanted to built a dry stonewall around you, be your Cerberus. Even the President of the Republic didn’t care. You left a year later after I saw your trembling arms, bruised head, yourself given away.

 

Juan Gelman
The saddest eyes of the world. Your cells emanating grief. Your singular pain in the crowd. You said something to me, and I can’t recall what it was. Our eyes touched.

 

Dermot Healy
You held my hand while having one in the Park Hotel and from you a deep stream of sympathy for the Poles. To be certain, I asked what you meant and I heard, Because you the Polish have suffered so much.

 

Tadeusz Różewicz
There were only three hundred steps between our houses and I never met you in the South Park in Wrocław. Why didn’t you drink more water after getting diarrhoea? I wanted to read more of you, see new plays in The Contemporary, hear your laughter after falling down the stairs in Get’s studio at ninety.

 

Stanisław Barańczak
The prince of brilliancy. So many gifts gathered in one person. Have you abandoned writing your poetry to translate for us? You have improved Dickinson, Szymborska, Shakespeare. Towards the end you could only whisper a single word in several days. All nomads are your porcelain pain.

 

Tomaž Šalamun
We spent last Christmas together. You sat on the couch reading, shouting the gale down, me on the floor all ears. I am envious of the blue cabbage and tea which knew precisely why it was tea. What I know is you are having coffee with Staszek, sugar cubes dervish dancing.

 

Philip Levine
I was to run into you in Brooklyn next year. You said, Our duty is to write the truth and only the truth, sometimes you have to wait years for the real thing. I’m eighty five, happy to be alive.

 

Could everyone please stop dying.

 

Originally published in Stand 14.3 (UK) Autum2016