19 March 2018


When I was angry, I went to the river -
New water on old stones, the patience of pools.
Let the will find its own pace
Said a voice inside me
I was learning to believe,

And the rest will take care of itself.
The fish were facing upstream, tiny trout
Suspended like souls, in their aqueous element.
I and my godlike shadow
Fell across them, and they disappeared.

All this happened deep in the mountains -
Anger, trout and shadow
With the river flowing through them.
Far away, invisible but imagined,
Was an ancient sea, where things would resolve themselves.

- Harry Clifton

17 March 2018


No wise man ever wished to be younger.
                                                                — Swift
Down the long library each marble bust
shines unregarded through a shower of dust
where a grim ghost paces for exercise
in wet weather: nausea, gout, ‘some days
I hardly think it worth my time to rise’.
Not even the love of friends can quite appease
the vertigo, sore ears and inner voices;
deep-draughted rain clouds, a rock lost in space,
yahoos triumphant in the marketplace,
the isle is full of intolerable noises.

Go with the flow; no, going against the grain
he sits in his rocking chair with a migraine,
a light in the church all day till evensong,
the sort of day in which a man might hang.
No riding out to bubbling stream and weir,
to the moist meadow and white belvedere;
on tattling club and coffee house a pox,
a confederacy of dunces and mohocks —
scholars and saints be d-mn’d, slaves to a hard
reign and our own miniature self-regard.

We emerge from hibernation to ghetto-blasters
much better than our old Sony transistors,
consensual media, permanent celebration,
share options, electronic animation,
wave motion of site-specific daffodils,
closed-circuit video in the new hotels;
for Niamh and Oisín have come to earth once more
with blinding breastplate and tempestuous hair,
new festive orthodoxy and ironic icon,
their faces lit up like the Book of Kells.

Defrosting the goose-skin on Bridget’s daughters
spring sunlight sparkles among parking meters,
wizards on stilts, witches on circus bikes,
jokers and jugglers, twitching plastic snakes,
pop music of what happens, throbbing skies,
star wars, designer genes, sword sorceries.
We’ve no nostalgia for the patristic croziers,
fridges and tumble-dryers of former years,
rain-spattered cameras in O’Connell St.,
the sound mikes buffeted by wind and sleet —

but this is your birthday and I want to recall
a first-floor balcony under a shower of hail
where our own rowdy crowd stood to review
post-Christian gays cavorting up Fifth Avenue,
wise-cracking dialogue as quick and dry
as that in The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye;
for we too had our season in Tír na nÓg,
a Sacred Heart girl and a Protestant rogue,
chill sunshine warming us to the very bone,
our whole existence one erogenous zone.

I could resign these structures and devices,
these fancy flourishes and funny voices
to a post-literate, audio-visual realm
of uncial fluorescence, song and film,
as curious symptoms of a weird transition
before we opted to be slaves of fashion —
for now, whatever the ancestral dream,
we give ourselves to a vast corporate scheme
where our true wit is devalued once again,
our solitude known only to the rain.

The one reality is the perpetual flow,
chaos of complex systems. Each generation
does what it must; middle age and misanthropy,
like famine and religion, make poor copy,
and even the present vanishes like snow
off a rope, frost off a ditch, ice in the sun —
so back to the desktop and the drawing board,
prismatic natural light, slow-moving cloud,
the waves far-thundering in a life of their own,
a young woman hitching a lift on a country road. 

- Derek Mahon

11 March 2018


Unlike Lincoln,
this borough does not qualify a colour
for making up heroic doublets.

A passer-through
sees patchy tarmac, sooty bricks. Graffiti
daubs the church and round its porch

religious pigeons
peck second-hand confetti; but the steeple
would scarcely have to crane its neck

to get a sight
of honeysuckle camouflaging walls
and shrubs bunched plump in sunny corners.

Ivy claims
the drainpipes, brambles clamber over fences
and nettles, if there’s nothing else,

make up the numbers
when leaves applaud the rain. Sometimes ducks
occur in unexpected places.

yet filled with little promised lands: this parish
fashions parables with offshoots

of the tree
whose roots and stems assert themselves the same
in Eden and Gethsemane.

- Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

10 March 2018


haiku beginning with a line of Barbara Guest

The way a cowslip bends
Recalls a cart track,
Crushed sunlight at my feet.

- Michael Longley

08 March 2018


Things tell less and less:
The news impersonal
And from afar; no book
Worth wrenching off the shelf.
Liquor brings dizziness
And food discomfort; all
Music sounds thin and tired,
And what picture could earn a look?
The self drowses in the self
Beyond hope of a visitor.
Desire and those desired
Fade, and no matter:
Memories in decay
Annihilate the day.
There once was an answer:
Up at the stroke of seven,
A turn round the garden
(Breathing deep and slow),
Then work, never mind what,
How small, provided that
It serves another’s good
But once is long ago
And, tell me, how could
Such an answer be less than wrong,
Be right all along?
Vain echoes, desist.

- Kingsley Amis

05 March 2018


 The inward frame
Though slowly opening, opens every day
With process not unlike to that which cheers
A pensive Stranger, journeying at his leisure
Through some Helvetian dell, when low-hung mists
Break up, and are beginning to recede;
How pleased he is where thin and thinner grows
The veil, or where it parts at once, to spy
The dark pines thrusting forth their spiky heads;
To watch the spreading lawns with cattle grazed,
Then to be greeted by the scattered huts,
As they shine out; and see the streams whose murmur
Had soothed his ear while they were hidden:  how pleased
To have about him, which way e'er he goes,
Something on every side concealed from view,
In every quarter something visible,
Half-seen or wholly, lost and found again,
Alternate progress and impediment,
And yet a growing prospect in the main.

- William Wordsworth

04 March 2018

The kind of place
     where the way a traveler's tracks
disappear in snow
     is something you get used to -
such a place is this world of ours.

- Princess Shikishi (12th century)
 (translated by Steven Carter)