Poetry from Loose Leaves

A collection of Poems and Short Stories by writers from Longford.

Edited by Caroline Barry

Table of Contents

Forward by Caroline Barry

Poems

  1. The Fisherman’s Mother – By Anne Tully
  2. Laying Down the Harness – By Anne Tully
  3. The Oil Lamp – By Anne Tully
  4. All Souls – By Anne Tully
  5. Hair – By Breda Sullivan
  6. Tom – By Breda Sullivan
  7. Revenant – By Colin Carberry
  8. Knower of the Field – By Colin Carberry
  9. Lough Ree – By Colin Carberry
  10. The Stallion – By Colin Carberry
  11. At Saint Faithleach’s Well – By Colin Carberry
  12. Winter – By Edward Denniston
  13. Service – By Edward Denniston
  14. Dresses I have Known – By Haley Fox-Roberts
  15. The Red Carpet – By Haley Fox-Roberts
  16. Tease – By Jane Murphy
  17. Job’s Comforter – By Jane Murphy
  18. Leprechaun – By Jimmy Casey
  19. Not Good Enough for Heaven – By Anne Maher
  20. Clear as Gin – By Joan Sheridan
  21. Daffodils – By John Killian
  22. Lady in Waiting – By Josephine O’Neill
  23. Idolatry –  By Kieran Furey
  24. Martin –   By Kieran Furey
  25. A Little Learning – By Kieran Furey
  26. Decay –    By Kieran Furey
  27. Drumcliff –  By Kieran Furey
  28. Untitled –  By Maeve Brady
  29. Walkabout –  By M.V. Horan
  30. God’s – Eye View – By Margaret Nohilly
  31. Focus at Myross Wood Retreat   By Margaret Nohilly
  32. Frost’s Breath –  By Marie Fitzpatrick
  33. A woman Waters Flowers    By Marie Noone
  34. Old House Revisited – By Mary McGushin
  35. In the Abbey Theatre – By Mary Melvin Geoghegan
  36. Extract from Diary of a Town – By Noel Monahan
  37. The Present –  By Patricia Farrelly
  38. Untitled –   By Patricia Lovett
  39. Peace –   By Pauline Flood
  40. Death of a Cyclist – By Philip Brady
  41. Missing –  By Philip Brady
  42. Solstice Visit –  By Rose Moran
  43. Summer Comer – By Rose Moran
  44. Me – A River –  By Sean Cahill
  45. Benedicamus Domino – By Sr. Rosarii Beirne
  46. The Wee House – By Sr. Rosarii Beirne
  47. The Waters at Knockvicar    By Sr. Rosarii Beirne
  48. John (Johnny) Never Forgotten   By Valerie Masters
  49. Arms of Whoever – By Valerie Masters
  50. If I could tell you – By Grace Brennan
  51. Moving On –  By Fionnuala Farrell

Stories

  1. Coal-Dark – By Hubert Brady
  2. A Foul Moment – By Deirdre Houlihan
  3. An Uninvited Visitor – By Margot Gearty
  4. A Bump in the Night – By Isla Forster Duffy
  5. Confession –  By Joy Burns
  6. The Old White House – By Anne Gallagher
  7. A Desire for Romance – By Ann Noone
  8. Larry’s Proposition – By Hannah Masterson
  9. Tooth Appeal – By Valerie Masters
  10. The Porcelain Urn – By Marie Noone
  11. Too Old – No Never – By Breege Caldwell
  12. Heather’s Garden – By Hannah Masterson
  13. Invisible Scars – By Rose Byrne
  14. Nothing Personal – By Lorne Patterson
  15. Company – By Adrian F. Duncan
  16. A Return Ticket – By M.V. Horan
  17. The Bearer of Light – By Breda Sullivan
  18. The Old Morris Van – By Jimmy Keary
  19. A Meeting of Minds – By Aine Reilly

Forward by Caroline Barry

I spent most of the summer going through submissions for the Longford Anthology.  What a wonderful way to spend a summer. I always feel it is a privilege to read other peoples’ work, to be given a glimpse into the imagination or creative life of another writer is a special gift and I am grateful to the Arts Officer, Fergus Kennedy, for giving me this opportunity.

Any tweaks or adjustments I made to the texts submitted were sensitively done, in the hope of preserving the author’s voice.  As an editor it is my job to clean up text and polish the work so that it looks its best.  Writing is a process of excavation, of digging out the story and unearthing the emotional impact locked in the words.  While it can be a most enjoyable pastime, like any creative process it does require time and dedication.  The most resounding impression I have coming away from this anthology is one of sheer joy.  It is obvious that the subscribers to this book take immense pleasure in writing; their words are boundless, joyful, searching, even the dark stories glisten with a passion to accurately tell the tale.

My heartfelt congratulations to all the contributors to this book.  An especially warm congratulations to the Arts Officer, Fergus Kennedy, and Longford County Council for providing this platform for all the aspiring writers in County Longford.  Without such support writers are very often adrift, ready to take their work to the next level but unsure of where to go, or what to do.  By producing this book, Longford County Council has given writers in the county a beautiful record of their work, something that can be treasured for posterity.

Caroline Barry is a published author living and writing in Westmeath.  She has had two novels for teenagers published; The Rocket Girl and Isadora Elzbeth.  She is currently working on her third novel, Receiver, for the Orion Publishing House in London.  She was writer-in-residence with Laois County Council and has worked for over eight years running creative writing projects for teenagers in Dublin and the Midlands.  She has edited and published eight anthologies, taught adult creative writing classes, and is about to direct Neil Richardson’s play Through the Dark Clouds Shining, to be staged in the Civic Theatre, Tallaght in November 2009 and to tour in 2010.  She is a regular contributor to the Midlands Arts Magazine. She is currently working for Westmeath, Offaly and Longford County Councils.

Anne Tully

The Fisherman’s Mother

Drifting, one pale green pool spills into another,

trawling for shoals of laughter,

children’s high-pitched voices echo off gilded framework.

The ‘last duchess,’ casts a smile of approval at ardent Italian marble.

Snared, enmeshed, your eyes catch mine.

No mortal mixed the tints that brought your eyes to life.

Sun kissed, wind ravaged,

shrouded in a midnight blue Connemara cloak.

Fingers twisted in a rosary rope,

hands moulding an aged ash staff.

Take your rest by the swelling tide,

I bless your image and reluctant turn for shore.
Anne Tully

For James

Laying down the Harness.

Alive, this friend of my father

was spare in form and word,

rare his smile and brief.

Few deemed him odd.

Yet many feet jostle and stamp

through this mossy churchyard.

Seasons smote and caressed him,

his span, the allotted three score and ten.

Remembering his smile brings an answering

ghost to my own. A gentle shade with hard hands

and a soft touch. Clipped words and bristling brows.

His lean shell in an oaken box.

The rest has vaulted over the stone wall

and is loping down to the river

under an August sun.

Anne Tully

The Oil Lamp

Unsure at eighteen, I longed for soft light to flatter my foolish frame.

On my nineteenth birthday you gave me a Botticelli tinted oil lamp,

which, smoked and dimmed our love still further.

I ached for the perfect verse to lilt this surely- first time feeling.

You wrote Jenny Kissed Me on the back of a sparse shopping list.

That old thief time, from out that rhyme, has stolen a decade and more.

We meet now in a group, with others who laugh at the lovers’ reunion.

I’ve lost that oil lamp, just when I needed it most.

Jenny kissed me and stayed crease-less in the leaves of a diary,

for she never needed an oil lamp anyway.

Anne Tully

All Souls

The priest has prayed for five decades of the dearly departed.

Deluged whole hosts of malign spirits with holy water.

Stood at a thousand gravesides. Intoned ten thousand Aves.

Smiled benignly at a further thousand infants.

They now are merged into one regret.

A sunlit seminary bathed in smiles, a crowning answer to a mother’s prayer.

His words are well crafted, swirling with incense into the oaken rafters.

He speaks of the everyday saints and ordinary angels that have shuffled along these pews.

A pause, to allow the rustle of brightly coloured leavers to further deplete his scant hearers.

He gazes up, past the rafters, where his shades smile beatifically down.

He bids farewell to his two dozen lambs.

And stumbling slightly,

this shepherd is left to wander

high rooms,

where shades and souls cluster and

Echo his sorrowing whys.

Breda Sullivan

Hair

A child: my mother

braided my hair

in two tight plaits.

A teenager: she coiled

about my head

plaits long as ropes

secured with hairpins.

This style my classmates

called my crown of thorns.

Now middle-aged:

a thistle

gone to seed,

my white hair short

and free

to flirt with every breeze.

Breda Sullivan

Tom

His widow

gleans his life,

winnows memory

to reminiscence

of a perfect man

who never

swore at his cows,

muddied clean tiles,

played poker till dawn,

or drank whiskey

to the last drop.

Colin Carberry

Revenant

in memory of Johnny Maguire

I was standing out of the wind and rain,

under a restless oak that day in fall,

watching drops drill down the grey inscription

of a headstone, hard by the graveyard wall.

When something stirred on the periphery,

a blurred shadow forming still

in the darkening forest of memory.

He moved like a man on the run from the law,

tense and distracted – like someone I knew

once but had forgotten. But, it was only

when he stood out flush, under the lamplight,

that the shock registered at what I saw.

Now, I recognised him.

Half his gaunt, rotting face was bruised

blue-black and his throat wheezed as he began to speak.

‘You’re all right,’ he said, calming me.

‘I must look a sight, and there isn’t too much of a yarn to tell

if I still remember right…

One raw, wet night, I’d just driven home from Saoirse’s,

drunk as hell, when the strangest notion took me to phone

her – late. What she said then, I don’t recall.

But, when I came to, the receiver had gone dead.

I sat there ’til all hours of the night,

holed up like a wild dog in the dark den

of my head – praying, crying – all that shite.

I’d known hard times, and always liked a drop,

but this was different: my soused head was light

with the one thought returning,

-to escape-
Everything in sight provoked and tempted –

kitchen knives, crossbeams, a coiled length of rope

I’d stored in the attic.

I was so cold inside,

with this feeling the walls were closin’

in around me as I listened, hypnotised

by the clock’s tick and whirr and carry-on.

I watched the brass pendulum rise and fall

behind the glass, with a slow scything motion,

in the room, dark as a confessional.

A tape was playing in the background, a reel

or a…something Traditional,

when my whole life flashed before me.

Music at the gable.

The green seas rolling calm.

My Mother’s grave.

Cold sunshine

on the hills of Donegal.

For years I had walked the sharp edge of a cliff,

never daring to look forward or within.

I lost my grip

The rest you know yourself.’

The rain had eased now and the distant din

of traffic become audible once more.

The damp, night-winds whirled and moaned a low keen

round the headstones.  Fumbling with a lighter,

I turned again to face the broken man who’d

haunted me since I was three or four.

‘Could you not have talked it out with someone?’

I blurted. ‘How come there was no warning given?’

‘If it was as simple now as all that,

we’d both know.’ He winced. ‘My wits were astray.

Still and all, you can surely appreciate pain.

You’re no longer the scraggly wee scut I

remember lookin’ after –

Jesus, there were times you were contrary.

You nearly drove your Ma and me insane.’

He grinned, half-forgetting. Then he fixed me

to the spot with a sudden angry glare

that held a hint of accusation.

‘I shouldered more than I should have had to bear.

I blamed all round me – parents, ye, friends – the lot.

Guilt is the worst millstone I’ve had to bear.’

‘In the note…’ I pressed, but he pre-empted.

‘When herself took off that was the final straw.

But, there was more to it now than simply that.

No, I was tired of playing the outlaw.

On the run from nobody but

my own spooked self.’

And then that look again: ‘But you, why

should you be botherin’ your silly head

with this tired old shite now? Yesterday’s news

belongs to yesterday…Besides I was bombed

out of my skull at the time, on pills and booze.’

‘This one time with my father, after a few

shots, he’d sang Carrickfergus, your party-piece,

when he turned to me, and out of the blue.

‘That one always makes me think of Maguire.’

I thought that night your ghost was coming through.

He was smiling now, beginning to tire,

as he ruminated among stray thoughts,

his eyes burned like flames on oily water.

‘I did often wonder what effect all this

might have on you later on in years.

But you’re round the same age now as I was

the night I staggered up them curséd stairs

never to see daylight again…but, aye,

there were times too: whiskey-addled affairs

of lonely triumph.

Times when I thought I could see

deeper into the grand scheme of things than I

thought possible. Brief flashes when I felt free

of myself and the mental nets that bound me.’

He half-laughed, half-conscious of allusion,

‘- a freedom that lasted that moment only.

So, if you’re in search of some revelation

look to the facts, not what you want to see.

I was an own goal waitin’ to happen.

A waste plot. A man without a story.’

At that he turned, but, before he disappeared

into a fresh downpour,

‘Remember now,’ I heard him say,

‘you’ll be a long time dead.

Colin Carberry

Knower of the Field

in loving memory of John Carberry

I see you leaning still upon your spade

in a graced light.

A solitary shade in thoughtful silence,

happy with his lot.

The O’Cairbre moves the garden plot.

I enter by the gable, and my tongue

stumbles at its greeting, unfamiliar, flung –

‘God bless the work,’ I say with my head hung.

The old words well within me, still unsung…

Later, with the good seed sown, we’ll gather

at the dark hearth and talk of other days,

and you’ll not, attentive to my blather;

your defiant, still unfathomed gaze.

O, observer of weather, steadfast one,

knower of nest airs and snipe song and fox,

fare wild where you will, my glad green one

in your field without crescents or clocks.

The old words well within me, still unsung…

Colin Carberry

Lough Ree

A fish flares at dusk,

silver scales

in the heron’s ears

Colin Carberry

The Stallion

For days he bucked and reeled in the stable,

with me on his back pressed between the wall

and rafters, so it was a miracle

if you could mount him once without a fall.

Neighbours gaped when I rode him round

four acres of hard ground we used to call the garden

with my grandfather roaring, ‘hold the reins!’

But to say he was really broken in

You had to mount him, out in the open,

where he’d leave you seeing stars, arse over head,

till he fell snorting, grimed with muck and blood,

in pure exhaustion.

It was only then I saw, in that bloodshot eye,

I had killed everything in him that I most loved.

Colin Carberry

At Saint Faithleach’s Well

Again, at Sabbath dusk, I kneel before

this well, the faithful ply with daffodils.

Mesmerised by sunlit water,

gurgling slowly out of its own dark source

as it did long summers back.

As a child I visited, when fields were drunk with dew

and a ground mist ghosted thorn bush and flood.

Imagining a time when a lowly saint

raised a supplicating hand to bless

a site already hallowed centuries before.

The Babe was wrapped in swaddling bands

to contemplate his own dark mysteries.

I never much believed in ritual,

but now, as I stoop in to drink my fill,

that same holy, coin-filled, healing water

eases from the earth like children’s laughter.
Edward Denniston

Winter

For Nick

Earth, in space, leans back

as far as it can go. Sea,

heavy with moon-pull

gathers liquidly

into itself; now and then

an aslant of sun breaches

white-grey cloud and

on this beach, thin, bright

rays of warmth, happen, touch on

as I walk, the thought of a Benedictine

and what I’d forgotten – my name

somewhere on his prayer list

daily visited at lauds, matins,

in the English countryside

in a cold, damp chapel;

two syllables fleshed out

against stone, wood, stained glass,

in a modest gathering of monks

married to endless daily chores.
Edward Denniston

Service

The barman, who’s more than a barman,

Who’s an artist of space-time, volition, intention,

Who understands the preparation of espresso;

the particulars of pint-filling – whose hand sleight,

deft knack, sidle and shift between counter, till and shelf

is as light a touch on the surface of material things

as you’ll ever see.  Not least in the way he can move his body

in an opposite direction to where his words are heading.

Eye and nod the promise of one whose mind you’re in,

who hasn’t forgotten, whose scruple can see what blindly

might happen, or not.  Who tells me, in a matter-of-fact way,

in snatches – coming and going –  about the wisdom

of an ancient prophet he’s reading, whose

only happiness and purpose in life was the holy art of service.

Hayley Fox-Roberts

Dresses I Have Known

Purple as bruises, mauve as dawn,

black, plush figuring on a circular skirt.

This dress is the beginning of everything.

Feel the breathlessness of the boned bodice

and the reckless swish of the high-hipped skirt.

Thirty years is no time at all.

Cotton lace stitched in swags for a garden party.

Crocheted straps thin as the strings that hold a parachute,

pale as skin, holding this confection on my bones.

A yellow dress? Never again.

Brocade in hoops and bustle,

stitched into it beforehand.

It failed me.

Katy Haddy, Katy Haddy,

in a blue and yellow ball gown,

filling the room with colour,

Skirt souffled with net, shoulders bare –

I see each freckle on your skin, the

rise and fall of your breathing.

Miss Congeniality in a black sheath

that hisses as she walks.

Wedding dress of marshmallow

hanging limp in the art school closet.

Ring after ring of pink and white

Pooling on the floor. Hobbled.

Black Dior, off the shoulder, ruched like belly-skin,

laced into black silk, seven foot tall with head-dress;

Victorian ball gown, whispering against your suit

as we dance – each dress holds its memory:

Thirty years is no time at all.

Hayley Fox –Roberts

The Red Carpet

For my mother
I took the wool of three, hand-reared sheep,

household pets, of course.

Washed it in bog water gold with peat.

Untangled it with oily fingers and

carded it on a summer’s evening

on the doorstep, below the huge sky.

It was spun in autumn’s smoky light and

dyed with beet roots, poppy, pimpernel and

cherry.  Pressed under a long stone. A

Flat stone’s weight through the long winter.

When spring comes, I’ll unroll it.

Watch it spill red across the heather,

carpeting a path down across the bog,

for you to walk across when you come here.

June Murphy

Tease

Soft as the foam

of your bubble bath,

I melt in the palm

of your hand,

slip through your fingers

a  delicate fragrance,

lingering,

whispering,

‘Who do you

think I am?’

June Murphy

Job’s Comforter

When Mum died

the undertaker’s cat

came to live

at our house.

‘To keep me company’

Dad said, his logic

black and white

as the God-forsaken cat.

Jimmy Casey

Leprechaun

I know a man who saw a leprechaun,

just once, when he was young, –

but never since.

This man tells me seriously

would you believe,

that this is true.

And I believe him,

as with rural candour

he reasserts the fact that –

Yes

that leprechaun

revealed itself to him.

True to type,

in size and shape and dress.

A little man, in forward gait,

hastening along by a bog drain near his home,

as he and a friend explored their neighbourhood

in Drumnee long ago.

Anne Maher 

Not Good Enough For Heaven

Poor Uncle Nick

was born sick

reared in a shoe-box.

Never got

a fancy cot

or cushioned drawer.

His mother’s arms

a cradle.

When he died

his mouth was gaping

‘Not good enough for Heaven,’

‘Twas said.

I laid him out

in a clean bed,

put pennies on his eye-lids.

Propped

A Prayer-Book

under chin,

Prayed

The Man Above

would let him in.

Joan Sheridan

Clear as Gin

The fish have all come back again

the water’s clear as gin,

The tonic’s coming later on

We sure will wallow in.

Said the Perch unto the Pike one day

‘Have you seen the ‘Celt’ about?

They say that Sheelin’s  clear as gin

We’d better check it out.’

‘You might have seen the other night

A boatman on TV,

Sailing calmly oars in hand

For all of us to see!’

The trout spoke up and with a grin,

‘Get ready friends we’ll go

Back to Kilnahard and Ross

With our friend May Fly in tow.’

The fish have all come back again

The water’s clear as gin,

What a tonic ’tis for us

We sure will wallow in.

John Killian

Daffodils

with apologies to William Wordsworth.

No one to admire us now

as we stand radiant

in our summer frocks,

waving and swaying and dancing

in the sunshine,

despite the bitter breeze.

The crows,

high in the tree tops,

keep a watchful eye

as they chuckle

among themselves.

While the young lambs

prance and frisk and race across

what was once the lawn.

The once beautiful Beauty of Bath

lies prostrate on the ground ¬

victim of the ravages of time.

What a place to choose to grow,

sheltered from the frost and snow

beneath that fallen apple tree,

once the Mecca of the honeybee.

The closed door,

at which many a guest

received a hospitable welcome.

They gazed upon us

with admiration.

So as you stand and stare and think,

the past and present you try to link.

You’ll gaze and gaze upon us so

but your thoughts, I bet

Are of long ago.

Josephine O’Neill

Lady in Waiting

Patiently through rain, frost, snow

roots deep down nurturing, repairing,

rocked by storms, hurricanes, flash floods

All energies focussed on life.

Soon to be thrust on a tired expectant world,

senses suffused with birth of Spring.

Colour, shape, sound – entice us

to join in nature’s symphony.

Announcing the limitless possibilities

In every nook and cranny.

Kieran Furey

Idolatry

I worshipped her

golden calves.

Kieran Furey

Martin

He was

and wasn’t

one of us.

A lifelong bachelor.

He lived with his

spinster sister

in their small cottage.

Small, chunky, avuncular –

Thick-set in his ways and clothes.

He liked his pint, and several more.

He helped us saving hay

and cutting turf, and threshing.

He ate with us.

I remember well

the baldness under his cap,

the smell of sweat from him.

A marginal figure, at best.

But then, in busy times,

Every farmer desperate to get him.

Kieran Furey

A  Little Learning

A little learning

was a dangerous thing,

especially when one was young.

Privileged between lectures and libraries.

Soon it was easy to drift beyond the orbit

of common sense, to sit in judgement

in bars, baying at a communal moon.

It took a look at satellites, subsequently,

to drag one back, with hard collisions

towards the more sensible visions

of one’s own earthed centre of gravity.

The Third-World trains of Poland,

Slow like bureaucracy,

Packed with poverty.

The churches crammed,

As even Party members went to sing –

V-signs raised, the Solidarity hymn.

Weeks commuting from Budapest

to pick cherries and raspberries…

Or was it strawberries?

All red anyhow,

And it doesn’t matter now –

On collective farms by the

Danube’s chemical charms.

Budapest enchanted at night,

yet even then something

had long been rotten

in the parliament at Pest.

And those two, four-day stints in Prague.

The hots and colds of censorship, an ague.

The red-nosed east wind and rain like bortsch,

soupy with pollution.

A depressing, palpable blight in the air,

Its’ spores of slow corruption everywhere.

Prague a huge, magnificent museum,

A knacker for a knackered system.

And that day in East Berlin,

The look on peoples faces when

I asked directions to the Tiergarten!

And those two winter days in Moscow,

Marooned in airport and undocumented travellers’ hostel,

where a blathering babushka with a toothless smile

locked us in at night to protect the Revolution.

Oh yes, those two, frozen days in Moscow,

buried ideals under tons of mindless snow.

Too much red tape and red hype.

Too many barking KGB types.

Luckily for one, unluckily snowed in,

a travelling group of Swedes and Finns

Fed and vodkaed one like kin.

Years later, when the sun set on the East,

I was, because of what I’d seen,

No longer at that feast.

But still knew some in the Cold War deep freeze,

obliged to face about through

one hundred and eighty degrees,

to make the counter-revolution in the head,

to put the clock, wise after the event ,

Forward…

When the red dawn’s dream was dead,

to forget, or wonder, what the nightmare meant.

From a suitably safe distance

a silenced scream may seem a smile.

A scream misheard become a snatch of song,

and the rain on onion domes

Appear as tears of joy.

It is always best to take a closer look …

The contents, not the cover, are the book.

Kieran Furey

Decay

The little traumas about hearing aids.

The hi-tech tests and fittings.

The silences and buzzings.

The usings and forgettings.

The fraught matter of batteries.

Her replaced hips far gone again.

Her aches and pains.

Her heat sprays and patches.

Her aids for rolling tights on.

Her plastic gadget to retrieve things fallen.

Her special toilet seat.

Her support frame for the shower.

Her blood pressure.

The handfuls of tablets needed to keep her going,

and the heavy weight of drowsiness they caused.

Her mutterings and wonderings at why she was alive at all.

Her undying goodness and wish to be of service,

punctured sometimes by little stabs of temper

and peremptory commands.

The way she hated being in the way.

The Republic of Herself.

An independence increasingly besieged

by age, infirmity and medicine.

A failing state she was determined to defend.

Her blue, circulation-starved fingers

in which feeling came and went.

Her kitchen dabblings.

Her garden potterings with flowers.

Her indoor shufflings.

Her scary expeditions on the stairs.

Her petulance and wisdom.

Her unconcealed contempt for her old age.

Her dogged determination to remain,

the woof inextricably entwined with the warp

of her full readiness to die at any time.

Her worry for the dog when she was gone.

The iron in her will to live alone once he was gone.

Her bitterness at Death for taking him.
Kieran Furey

Drumcliff

I sniff the whiff of history here.

Round tower, high cross, church and graveyard

brooding by the Drumcliff river,

All noised and bothered by the road.

Certain context and perspective

are given by the town and bay.

Ben Bulben’s slab, evocative,

clouds cold, indifferent, gallop-y.

Bare, black branches bank the swift stream.

Two swans myth-ify the church door.

A finch provides a sudden gleam,

And real swans move me to the core.

Maeve Brady

Untitled.

O, Death,

Please come

when I am in bloom

and free and happy.

Come for me

before old age

sucks the marrow

from my bones.

Steal me

while I sleep and stray

in the land of dreams.

M.V. Horan

Walkabout

Eerie, creepy, weird-y woodland,

bower of cobwebs, gossamer fine.

Whispering leaves breathe netherworld.

Kindly wizard beams over all.

Hidden beings move lithely by,

drifting, wafting, weightless sigh.

Voices shatter mystical space,

grassy pathways lead apace.

Dream-time of no boundaries.

Magic carpet of woven hues,

soft and gentle fairy touch,

mushroom, buttercup, daisy crew.

Margaret Nohilly

God’s-Eye View

for Mary Melvin Geoghegan

Glass-domed quadrangle,

Atrium Gallery, Backstage

mirrored us on high,

the night of  Mary’s

poetry launch.

We listened

privileged, reverent.

Harp melodies interlaced,

remembrance, poetry, love.

Kate’s,

publisher’s strong

northern tone,

spoke avid praise.

Broke news she’d

heard on the radio

as she drove –

‘The moon

is closer to earth and brighter

on this night, than ever

in fifteen years, though

cloud obscured.’

God watched us drink him in,

in music, wine and word.

Margaret Nohilly

Focus at Myross Wood Retreat

A terrier, white and black,

defends the farmyard gate

before me, as I stroll uphill

to find the Glandore road.

Dog-wary, I stop short.

Observe him scrutinise me.

Hold my stance,

evaluate his mood.

He flicks his head,

attunes his ear

to tractor drone

above Rosscarberry Bay,

Then rises, runs to me,

allows me rub his head,

explores my face.

His eyes transport me home,

where situations wait.

Love-focus, honed

awareness, practised

in this tranquil place.

Marie Fitzpatrick

Frost’s Breath

Beware, for winds have no home and April’s not wintered.

But who would host a month that squalls through grey skies

and whose kiss chaffs flower-filled promise?

She is a shrew, but unlike shrews that sow their days,

she sews a shroud for winter wind.

It was April that bawled at March to make welcome for May.
But that was, in time before

when frost’s breath sweetened chill,

before she’d clear for rain to spill

and wind would come to hustle.

Sun won out to claim the day and

May sashayed through lighted fields that spoke of fun, for months to come.

Do you remember splintered rays that spun joy,

when light and night shared blaze

and we relaxed in lovers haze?

Then months fell-out when April dispelled May

driving rain to still the chimes of summer.

A love not gone. Just stood still in time, now that you’ve moved on.

Marie Noone

A Woman Waters Flowers

A woman waters flowers,

green watering-can spraying

mauve and yellow pansies.

She thinks their faces cheeky,

admires their resilience,

calls them her can-can girls.

Delicate golden-hearted violas,

velvety petals,

a mid-night blue,

shiver in the sun.

Making her want to paint,

but, she won’t,

can’t, anymore.

Somewhere a mower whines,

blades slicing tall ripe grass.

The mower dies.

Out of the silence comes

humming bees –

birdsong.

Beyond the cloud

is a patch of

Mediterranean blue.

A black cat rubs against her leg,

arches its back, stretches,

lies on the gravel path,

head cushioned by

mauve and yellow pansies,

paws patting the violas.

The woman sighs –

Lets’ her cat be.
Mary Mc Gushin

Old House Revisited

Rusting hinges protested as I made my way through,

to walk familiar pathways from memories I knew.

Gnarled branches formed an archway, darkening sunlight’s ray,

reminding me of scenes I’d read from some Gothic play.

The house was shabby, worn and old, like someone in despair.

Windows broken, slates blown off, everything needed repair.

The door swung open at my touch, there was nothing left to steal.

Even the stairs had been pulled out – it was made of varnished deal.

The room that I remembered most was a big one on the left,

Nothing remained here either, it was totally bereft.

Except one item caught my eye, in broken frame and glass,

Entitled, The retreat from Moscow, when Napoleon was out classed.

I closed my eyes.  It all came back.  The room it was renewed.

The old piano by the wall, the clock and glass cabinet too.

A central table well laid out for invited guests for tea,

Including lots of cousins, my mother and also me.

That picture which had caught my eye hung proudly on the wall.

I asked, and it was explained to me, the history of it all.

Two old ladies lived in the house, each graceful and serene,

It was hard to reconcile it now, with the way it had once been.

Before I reached the gate again, I looked back and it seemed to say.

‘Someone will look after me, I’ll live again someday.’

Mary Melvin-Geoghegan

In the Abbey Theatre

for Brendan Kennelly

In The Abbey Theatre,

listening to Brendan Kennelly

reading from his new collection.

In the voice he says of peace,

honesty, anxiety, prayer amongst others –

All I hear is my father,

the poet dressed in his shirt,

a bit loose around the collar,

the one I bought in Carrick.

Oh! I wish I could nip out to see him

stroll up the garden,

admire the tomato plants.
Standing in line waiting to get the books signed,

Suddenly, un-orphaned in a voice calling,

‘you’re in a hurry leave them to me.’

I beat a retreat to the Ladies

and dry my heart –

in time for the early train

back home to Longford.

Noel Monahan

Extract from Diary of a Town.

One

Is that another bell ringing?

Hailmaryholymary … Hailmaryholymary …Hailmaryholymary …

We love our sins and our bad humours,

We love to ask for forgiveness,

We love to get the spots off our souls,

Father forgive me for I don’t know what I’m at.

We love to hang our heads like daffodils

And nod away in the wind.

We love to kneel in black boxes

And mumble away at our sins.

Father I didn’t fast.

Father I said a wrong word.

Father I met a girl behind a wall …

Met her in a field … in a gripe

In the hayshed …under a lorry … up a tree,

Father I didn’t know what I was doing.

Father … Will there be sex in heaven?

Hailmaryholymary …Hailmaryholymary …Hailmaryholymary.

Patricia Farrelly

The Present

Life is for living.

To the peer occupants,

(friends), simply called MS.

Time to ponder and review.

Diagnosed nineteen ninety-three.

Thirty-three years of living gives

much to appreciate, accept, care and love.

Work colleagues called me workaholic.

No relapse for me only continuous remission.

So, I say simply, ‘Deo Gratius.’

Patricia Lovett

Untitled.

The moon was low in the sky last night.

Ten feet above the trees it seemed.

Soft gold reflected in the Thames

dispelling loneliness,

softer than any of the other lights along the river.

My son walks in Richmond Park.

Tells his friend

that I keep in touch

through the moon.

Pauline Flood

Peace

My soul soars high above this earth

Like a dove, gliding, carrying an olive branch,

wondering where to rest this peaceful token.

The world from its slumber – still unbroken.

Ungodly people of Sodom and Gomorrah,

have risen again from the vipers pit.

Medusa’s head still spits out venom

creating havoc, tossing out the heralds kit.

Jews and Gentiles, Medes and Elamites,

searching for that peaceful whisper,

hidden deep within immortal ravines,

like the Phoenix fleeing an ashy tomb.

Tranquil Spirit, soaring like the noble Erne

Above the heavens, a Cherub sent from him

whose firm grip knows no boundaries,

casting out devils, wickedness and sin.

Peace pacifies the hungry appetite,

soothing the heart, calming the nerves.

The seed of Adam and Eve vanquished,

the serpent now rears its ugly head.

Oh, flag of white, blowing in gentle zephyr,

majestic, untainted, simple and plain,

restore peace, serenity and truth,

tame anger, grant peace domain.

Philip Brady

Death of a Cyclist

Marco Pantani is dead,

found alone,

in a hotel room

in Rimini.

The Pirate fled the Pyrenees,

an Eagle lost his Alpine day.

Who killed Pantani?

Was it I

With my remote control?

Willing you on,

and ever onwards,

in a sitting room,

on the Alpe d’Huez.

Where others failed,

or clinging with you

to your fragile steed

as you fled, fearless,

down the Galibier.

Or was it you who killed Pantani

with your bandanas and your logos?

Your colours draped on hoardings,

hungry for a moving screen.

Was it you who stole minutes

with your Pirate

dancing pedals on Ventoux?

That dead volcano

Where nothing grows.

Or was it you

Son of Hippocrates?

With your pestle and your mortar,

grinding recipes and potions,

prescriptions for aggression

that propelled you through those searing peaks

And sped you

down below.

Or could it be yourself?

With ambition fraught,

till success became addiction,

and to win became the drug

your mind

could not control.

I thought of you today

On a fog and frost December,

with the tempo getting smarter

on a slope I hadn’t noticed before.

And, as the echelon was gaining,

with their cackle getting sharper,

like wild geese in their phalanx,

I thought of you.

As they escaped along an

esker that was waiting

and I heard their cackle fading

into receding fog.

This is how it must have been

when all the labs were done.

When other new pretenders

precocious on the hillside

attacked where you had won,

where you revelled in escaping,

till the glycogen was gone.

Is there more to life, I thought, than clamour

and reflected adulation?

And, as I pedalled homewards

thought of you who would not know

an autumn rising

or a ripening sun.

Colours faded,

glamour jaded,

Mistral gone.

I thought of you

In a hotel room,

Alone,

While the world,

its colours blazing,

Just moved on.

Philip Brady

Missing

For Michael

I faced the howling winds in anger.

I pleaded with the heaving swell

to take its answers back to harbour

And yield the secrets it could tell.

Then through a clearing in the searching

The wind picked out a passing tune,

the keyboard played its notes of memory

through the rocks with mystery strewn.

The music changed to heal the anguish,

with organ strains of hymns you’ve known.

You played for hearts and souls that waited,

in silent prayer, for you were home.

Rose Moran

Solstice Visit

On Uisneach Hill,

Under the cat stone

Aill na Míreann,

Two women

share bread and cheese

with other pilgrims

after the climb.

Cairn mounds more than

Three thousand years old

remind them

of Stonehenge.

Higher up

Ionad ríoga marks

the crowning of the kings.

The centre of Ireland

looks out over

Lough Ennell.

Summer solstice sun

bathes Rosemount.

Smoke silvers

from Lanesboro.

To the south

the Slieve Bloom range.

A pause to breathe,

connect with atmosphere

around hidden sanctuaries.

Note lone bush

and fairy fort.

Take part in peace prayer

for all the world.

Chief Orville Looking-Horse

and his followers

circle around the centre.

A drumbeat intones the ritual.

Mother earth is thanked.

Rose Moran

Summer Comer

On May the third,

I heard your double call

far off, then near for all.

I heard the thrills and spills,

the dawn commotion chorus

of your sisters brothers.

Hosts, hostesses,

wood pigeons hoarse from blessings.

Then your new,

Cuckoo, cuckoo

and I knew you, voice and bird.

The surprise you spilled

before the sixth hour

from your morning bower.

Another day, another year.

This May-time of new moon,

you are welcome.

Pink blossoms on the apple tree,

grey dew upon the grass.

Bent, withered-headed daffodils,

narcissi where I pass.

The daisy caps not open yet.

The tulips chalice raise,

cup all overflowing,

in this morning song of praise.

Cow-parsley stalks grow whiter.

Dandelions below,

with heads of grey,

from cold of night,

and others, bald, grown old,

their white beards,

shaggy by their ears,

where locks were once of gold.

Forget-me-nots in plenty.

Some candled chestnut cones.

More daffodils, all in decline.

The tulips petal home.

The cowslips and the celandine

delight in holding on.

The little birds step out with care,

a second’s look

a hop,

a run along a branch in green,

a motion-stop,

a drop.

A morsel beak-oned from the dew

a bush of Eden work.

Wells of bluebells,

deep in wood

with morning lady smock.

Sean Cahill

Me – A River

In a faraway time,

before the world was new,

that’s when I was called into being.

The tyrant Glacier,

the last of the fearsome monsters,

he held this land in bondage

for a hundred thousand years.

With his million ton ice mountain,

he ground the earth into submission,

dominated the whole country.

Killed all life at source.

Solid, in his frozen selfishness.

He drove out the hope of spring,

and froze the summer’s glory.

He forbade the trees to grow

and the flowers to bloom.

No smiling petals adorned the way.

No bird song charmed the empty day.

Who then could match this monster bold?

What power could face such a mighty foe?

When out of the void came a fairy sprite,

who in real life was a Princess bright.

Her chief delight was to warm

the hearts of all earthly things.

She flitted lightly on gossamer wings,

around the enormous icebound hulk.

Rising, betimes to provoke

great bellows of anger and icy smoke,

from the depths of his deepest caverns.

He thought to crush her into the earth

and freeze the warmth of her bones

beneath his hundred fathoms of ice.

But she swerved and wheeled,

and all the time she spun her web of warm spells,

until at last he lost his grip,

collapsed beneath his ponderous weight.

Slowly, at first, he crunches away

And leaves these parts for evermore.

The world can now begin anew

Then the warm Princess gave birth to me.

I am River,

born to be free,

born to dance in the glistening pools,

born to sing on the shallow stones,

born to laugh in the wild waterfalls.

 

Sr. Rosarii Beirne

Benedicamus Domino

What is that sound I hear,

that eerie tone reverberating

drifting into my unconsciousness,

calling, alarming, awakening?

The pious, the saintly, the lukewarm,

to greet the morning.

‘Benedicamus Domino.’

Convent bell, voice of God,

ringing out from oak pedestal

on Angel’s corridor.

Three double tolls and single strokes

to the count of nine,

sacred forerunner of knock on door

and invitation to bless the Lord.

‘Benedicamus Domino.’

Older women, first to answer,

hurry to choir in the grey dawn,

coveting precious moments before six

to bury their faces in their red hands,

tell God their stories and pull into

themselves strength and peace for the day.

‘Benedicamus Domino.’

For younger women not yet schooled in rubric,

the bell looses onto the air a chiller note,

a comfortless call from the fanciful world of dreams,

to journey from cell to choir and be lifted

into a land of mystery, young and old chanting

‘Benedicamus Domino.’

Ages pass, so too order and ritual of monastic rites.

Convent bell, abandoned, unwanted in the attic.

A solid hulk of bronze, blackened with age,

tongue rusting in its silent throat.

Rediscovered on auction day by the man

who gave it a second life and bid it toll again.

‘Benedicamus Domino.’

Sr. Rosarii Beirne

The Wee House

Like a ghost from another age

you stood there year after year,

a little way from the troubling town.

Keeping faith with Clynes, Scallys and Kennys

and black robed nuns, who chanted Latin hymns

across your open hearth.

No longer turf fire burning

or thin light glowing

deep within your tiny rooms.

Only bare brown walls,

a leaking roof and peeling jambs.

Seedlings blossoming in your eves

and black rooks on a nearby tree

crooning the circle of time.

Yesterday you were overthrown.

Where you fell, on the curving busy roadside,

stand two grey stone mounds,

identical twins, inviting me to stop

as they echo past memories

from stone to grey stone.
Isn’t it plain that had they tongues

they could talk all day

of the people of the wee house?

Sons and daughters of resilience,

who lived and loved,

worked and prayed there.

They could tell of their efforts,

one way or another to survive.

They. could spill out the closest secrets

of those they sheltered for a hundred years.

Sr. Rosarii Beirne

The Waters at Knockvicar

Sunlight glints and dances,

shimmering water pours its song

over limestone rocks,

un-spooling itself

into the quiet river below,

where shapely branches lean

to make a leafy gown,

cloaking mystery at Knockvicar.

I creep beneath the gown.

Dream-time visits me.

A thousand roots,

fed by an ancient rhythm,

grow into a magic kingdom

of ancient druids,

guarding our cosmology,

in the deep waters at Knockvicar.

Listening now,

I hear the druids’ lament.

Grief for a menaced world.

Lost rivers, poisoned lakes

spawning salmon too weak

to swim upstream.

Weeping for Earth, nurturing mother,

wounded, in sore distress.

Who will hear our cry, they sing?

Who will hear our cry?

My soul’s eyes awakened,

dream-time no more.

Deep in my being, I visit deeper waters,

the waters at Knockvicar .

Valerie Masters

John (Johnny).

Never Forgotten. 1950 – 2007

I must have left you,

for I watch you stand here

crying tears as my name

escapes your lips.

I must have been taken away,

for your eyes won’t meet mine,

can’t meet mine,

and yet I am close enough to touch.

Because I haven’t left you.

I can see you all,

hear you speak about me

and sense the sadness around you.

If I reach out my hand

I could trail my fingers

down your tears,

wipe them away

and stop more from falling.

I will never leave you.

And when the sun sets on the land I love

and the wind blows softly through Collierstown,

listen carefully,

for you will hear my whispers on it’s breeze

promising you the sun will rise again tomorrow.

Valerie Masters

Arms of Whoever

It falls closer to you

this death,

this ending.

Invisible arms

drawing down

to take you from me,

and yet I don’t believe it.

So I leave.

They came

when I was gone,

these arms of whoever,

gripping tight,

stealing your soul.

No goodbye from me.

No whispers of love

or gratitude

for all the times

your arms held me tight.

Grace Brennan

If I could tell you.

If I could tell you, would you understand?

If I could tell you, would you blush?

I could tell you stories and dreams,

would you know what I mean?

In the confidence of youth,

telling you would be easy.

As the years unfold the heart is confined,

disciplined and morally contained.

Oh, if only I could tell you what is in my mind.

Moving on

By Fionnuala Farrell

Strolling beside the fountain in the green,

in the company of my friend,

spray gently touching our soft faces

felt both refreshing and replenishing.

Admiring the beauty that surrounded us

on a sunny February afternoon.

With our inner thoughts and feelings

we sat in silence.

Near us, children were sitting on a bench

eating cones and laughing,

reminding me of youthful times.

Overhead, birds chirped high above the branches,

at my feet pretty tulips, snowdrop, and daffodil,

magnificent colour, sweet aroma.

All in all the day was wonderful

Past and present memories sprang to life

In this moment

A whole new life begins.