Self-Portrait with a Squirrel

 for Adam Zagajewski

I have worked for twenty years

on how to avoid work. Since succeeding

I have been studying time slipping                  

through my fingers. I love the first person

singular, begin all sentences with an I.   

I am engaged to Silence and gods know

it couldn not be anyone else.

At thirty-two I learnt I was intelligent,

at thirty-six I walked hand in hand with a man,

at forty-three I heard I was beautiful.

The only job I could do would be the one

where I am its object. My hobby is

to photograph dead squirrels. Often I ponder

on the biggest mystery of life – why people smile.

I enjoy staring at my shadow.                                           

I try to believe in my inner cosmos.

In the meadows I pick flowers

which remember I used to adore them.

The book I take from the deserted islet

is in my head. Like Irving Layton

I discovered that everything

except writing poems and making love

bores me. On Fridays I openly share

my thoughts for fifty minutes, on Skype.

It costs me fifty euro each time.

Twice a week I give a howl of frustration

in the park. If I meet someone after that    

I am the first to ask about the screams.

In my country you can receive two weeks in jail 

for lovemaking under the stars.  

Sometimes I wonder how much you can get                             

for being caught using a condom.        



The poem was commended in 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

by Mark Doty, Peter Goldsworthy and Carol Rumens





From the West Coast    

Dear Father, 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 do not stop to listen to the answer.

They thank me at the most unexpected times. 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

will not be 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 letter of recommendation from Doctor Fahy I will have to sleep

with him once: for fifteen, I must have sex 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 have, though most people

had still to arrive. The sign in a shoe shop in Upper Abbeygate

reads Leather is not a waterproof material.

Many houses do not have numbers and if it happens that they do

it is difficult to locate a sign with the street name. There are

no woods in the area. People say it is because of the English.

There are only a few bus stops in the countryside. If you are lucky

to find one, there is no timetable on it. Buses are delayed.

This is not how I imagined my death.   



Published in THE SHOp, The Irish Times and the anthology Writing Home by Dedalus Press





What I Love About the World is its Roundness

after Edwin Morgan

what I hate about the sun is its indiscrimination

what I love about a snowstorm is its distant view

what I hate about lowlands is their sluggishness

what I love about the bread of life is its sourdough

what I hate about diamonds is their near future

what I love about my hand being kissed is the promise

what I hate about six o’clock is it is always too late

what I love about love is it’s almost translucent

what I hate about hate is it does not go mouldy

what I love about hate is its self-advertisement

what I hate about love is its patinated silver bars

what I love about early mornings are their wings

what I hate about philosophy is its promiscuity

what I love about my precious life is its third act

what I hate about my mind-mate is her absence

what I hate about earthlings is their love for woods

what I love about a throne is my inner child sitting there

what I hate about my tongue is its wrong timing

what I love about dancing tango is their scent   

what I hate about the abyss is its hospitality

what I love about him is his seeing my voice

what I hate about you is it takes you so long



Originally published in Skylight47, Ireland





The Great Dark Spot   

Someone else will have to         

answer your letter.


I am busy conferring with                     

Cassiopeia about                              

the expansion of the sky,

summer rearrangement     

of exploding stars.       


I am tired of telling you           

what burns inside,                     

what dies,

about feeding the fire

watering a single plant.                     

I return to myself

my strength

the centre of all beauty,

I repaint the Great Dark Spot                       

relocate the Asteroid Belt.


You are a page

torn out of a star atlas

rustling in the distance,               

a speck of astral dust                               

in no one’s eye.

Someone else will have to

tell you it was not us.



Originally published in Stand, UK





To Make it Through  

imagine people 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 catching fire,

yourself as mother. Don’t turn away

while being complimented.                                                            

Show enthusiasm for invites

but 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,

run into a tunnel, stare at brightnes.



Originally published in Emerge Literary Journal, US