Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poem: Reality

Sheep do not look at eagles and wish that they could fly.
That would be stupid.
What I am is a real construct,
made up of memory and influence. 
Dreams are different.
I can no more take the things I want and live them
then the sheep can, 
it is not a question of determination
I am no more capable then them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Poem: We Wish for Impossible Things

There are some things you should wish for
With your half-baked, heart ached toss of a coin,
These are your wishing well moments, your bubble dreams,
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Yesterday, once today, is memory
And blue black bruises fade to brown
She wished for clean white kisses, yellow mornings
These wishes, they are impossible things.

You reach right handed, left bloody
And one time caress is a slap
She wanted soft touches, babies, white weddings
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Sometimes she is so much smaller then this
And curls in a corner to cry
And in the darkness, there pain sings,
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Once upon a promise they spoke magic
And led us then to believe
Beneath our shoulders were angels wings
And so we wish for impossible things.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Poem: Cantata

Fills me with something, better than sensation.
Pure. Use it to blot out the world, and to be of it.
Trade touch for this, sight, limb and sense
to live bathed in it. Rise and fall, stops breath
thought and reason. Wells inside, consumes, feeds.
Fulfills and makes me want, everything in this.
For a moment, perfection, echoing. Enough. 
Joyous. Living.

Poem: Kindest Thing

The kindest thing you did,
Was to draw me a portrait
Of someone who never existed.
Gone while she was still an idea
You gave her form, face and life,
Pieced her together for me.

The blue of here eyes, like mine,
You painted her smiling
So I could imagine giving her
A life where she was happy.
A delicacy in the curve of her jaw
Because she was to be beautiful.

The shell of her ear, curl of her hair,
You made her real again,
Instead of a sad story I think about
In the darkness before dawn.
In the absence of anything like hope
All I wanted was to see her face.

You made her into a person at last
Instead of being a secret
That went away namelessly
Before anybody had found us out.
You found a way to give her to me
And it was the kindest thing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Poem: Trade

Everything that I am.
All that I believe in.
If it means you are here.
Even if I do not get to see you,
Or know you,
Or love you.
They can have anything
Because this is too hard.
My heart is breaking. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poem: Billy

It was not that kind of loss.
Not like those gone before who left me,
breathless and broken in my grief.
Someone took me to one side and whispered it
you had succumbed at last to the dying,
that everyone knew was coming.

Quietly sad, I thought about about
laughing with you while we smoked outside.
Snatches of your life told to me in illicit puffing.
This shared habit having us hide out back in the rain.

You reminded me of my grandad, 
of an older Ireland and men
in crisp white shirts with dirty collars.
A few pints after work and a way of telling,
the saddest stories that made them a comedy.

I brought you books to keep you occupied,
while you watched the door.
Playing with your incredulity by replacing
murder mystery with modern philosophy.
Delighted to have you give them back, 
read and pronounced bullshit.

Gruff and unyielding in old fashioned prejudices,
there was a kindness to you
that made them harmless.
An unobtrusive goodness,
that the world is worse for losing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poem: Estranged

There was a time when we would lie
Wrapped in each other, knowing every dream,
Secrecy meaningless because I could taste your thoughts.
You found the small broken places that could not be mended,
Patched them closely with silver threads of desire and love -
Because I let you touch me the world was better. 

Often we did not need words, my favored medium,
You read me silently with your fingertips and told me to myself
With the flutter of eyelashes against my neck.
If I tensed a muscle in my cheek you saw a memory
That you could wash away with a kiss to my wrist
And one slow delicious roll of your body against mine.

Had we been able to lock the doors and shut ourselves in
I think we would have spent forever breathing each other,
Happily sustained by bright silent desire.
The world intruded of course and we lost sight of us,
One small lie and suddenly your shoulders were strangers -
A slow white blink of your eye I could not decipher.

Now I see you and it is as if I never mapped your history
In the smooth of your back and jutting sharpness of your hip,
You have crows feet that I am not allowed to taste.
I have forgotten how to read your body as I used to,
A cold handshake tells me nothing of the years that have passed,
Your perfunctory brush of lips on my cheek is incoherent. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Suicide Awareness Day

Tomorrow, 10  September, is national suicide awareness day and I'd like to talk about losing my friend to suicide.

When she died we were initially told that there had been a tragic accident. We knew she had been spending Christmas abroad with her family and set to googling to try and work out what had happened. We found a news article about a car accident where there had been one fatality, the age was wrong but we thought that might be a mistake and guessed that this was how she had died.

As the days passed the story became more confused. We discovered that she had passed away at home, and that she had died on New Years Eve. Even then, knowing her as we did we never imagined that she had taken her own life. 

 She had seemed so happy, when we heard what had actually happened the shock was immense. 

I didn't believe it. I thought a mistake had been made, that she had hurt herself accidentally or that someone else had harmed her. Even when there was no question anymore I could not accept it. How was it that my beautiful friend had been so desperate and none of us had seen any warning signs. How was it that she could have died, alone in such sadness when there were so many people, just minutes away, who loved her so much.

As weeks passed I would imagine her in that moment. What she was feeling, how she negotiated the moment between living and deciding not to live anymore. How she did it. Why she did it. I crafted a horrible image where she changed her mind only when it was too late to turn back. Imagined her trying to stay awake, to reach for her phone as it buzzed with New Years text messages so that she could be saved, only to find that she was too weak now to move. I imagined her crying, realizing that it was too late, understanding that she was going to die alone, frightened and sorry. I imagined she despaired at the end, that life seemed worthwhile again in her last moments. 

I hope that she just went to sleep believing she had found some peace.

We didn't talk about it. We always used that original story and talked about a tragic accident. I had the word suicide stuck in my throat, terrified I was going to scream it out for want of some truth. I felt like I was part of an elaborate lie, everyone knowing but nobody speaking. 

Months after she died a group of us sat together in a pub and she was mentioned. For the first time somebody said suicide and the conversation changed. We honed in on it, now that it had been verbalized. The conversation we had was filled with so much anger that it hurts me now to think of it. For a moment we were united in hating her for it. All of our hurt and confusion twisted into complete rage, what she had done to her family, what she had done to us.

I am not angry now, our anger in that moment can be understood. Now I just feel very sad that she is not here anymore. The reason she is not here matters less than it did. It was important for us to be able to talk about it, to make it real and lay it down, to accept it and move away from the way she died to a more honest grief.

Sometimes I think, what if I had called her on the phone. If it had been at exactly the right moment would something I said have changed that night, stilled her hand until the moment had passed and she wouldn't have died. She would still be here. But we cannot rewrite the past, we cannot bring her back with wishes and regret. 

Now, I find myself watching. I see a small sadness in a friend and feel a horrible sinking terror that they are hiding a bigger despair. I worry because I missed it in her. I fear getting another telephone call to say that someone else I love felt so lost in the world that they thought it better to leave it. Selfishly, I'm terrified that I will have to deal with it again, that I will have to relearn every moment I spent with them to the tune of their dying. 

If there was any magic in the world I would use it to bring her back, or if that was to big I would use it instead to be with her again for a moment. Not to ask her why, not now, but rather to wrap her in a hug and make sure she knew that I loved her. While everything else has been boxed up and put away safely it is the thought of her dying without that knowledge that hurts now. 

I do not know that there is anything we could have done to help her. There is no way to work out why she took her life. What I do know is that the pain of losing someone to suicide is a singular hurt, all mixed up with anger and confusion and regret. Talking about it is difficult, people do not know how to react, often there is a sense of shame. 

I don't know if awareness will help people in despair, or if our being more aware could have saved her; but I do know that awareness helps the people who are left behind. Being able to say, 'this is what happened to my friend, this is how she died' allows us to process it. 

Many people have stories like this to tell, or stories they do not feel able to give voice. The importance of awareness cannot be underestimated, nor can the importance of reaching out, talking and listening to the things people might not be saying. 

This week is world suicide prevention week. Tell someone your story. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Poem: Mont Saint-Michel

In the brochure they promised a spiritual experience,
Doubtful but I climbed the steps, scoffed at tacky shops,
Complained my legs hurt, but liked the shape of it
The imposing majesty of buildings growing from the rock.

I wandered the maze of rooms with the crowds,
Blinked at the impossible beauty of human endeavor,
That runs in a wheel to lift supplies to make monument
To the story of a dragon slaying angel.

I wandered the cloisters and for one moment was alone
By chance one noisy group leaving before another arrived,
Head bowed in the setting sun it would seem like praying
But I was thinking of the past, lost in imagining how it was
That such an impossibility was dreamed and made reality.

At the top was an almighty room filled with a single cello
Mournful and hopeful, haunting, it filled my mind
Until it blocked out everyone else and I was alone again,
Sat in a pew, eyes closed and dreaming of forever and the world,
Bigger than me, endless and always, magnificent without divinity.

Walking from the muted light into waiting dusk to stand above the world
I was no closer to God than before, soothed by the peace of it
I almost wished I could feel that too but as always it was enough
To look upon the beauty of reality and love it as a precious thing
That needs no pretending, that can be touched and can be cherished.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Poem: An Ordinary Day

How is it that it was just an ordinary day?
I sat on the couch and drank coffee
Reading one of the Brontes, again.

For breakfast I had slightly burnt toast
That left crumbs all over the floor,
Showered and dressed and went outside
To sit in the sun with more coffee and books.

A precious day off, a day with no urgency
Leaving me relaxed and calm and contented.
I tipped my head back, closed my eyes
And basked in the rare bliss of Irish sunshine.

The shrill summons of a ringtone interrupted,
Mildly irritating but I answered, my hello abrupt.
Then the day splintering around me, the world altered,
Rushing away to deal with intruding life.

Midnight before I staggered home again exhausted,
Worn out with waiting and the outcome of the wait,
The sun was gone, the dishes unwashed, the day finished,
The crumbs on the floor to be swept away before I could sleep. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poem: Baile Atha Cliath

It was the marching
heavy boots thumping through
what was once my city,
but a lot has changed here
since the last march.

Sing ‘rare ole times’
and lighters five for fifty
‘till your throat is raw,
it still won’t come back
and be our town again.

They thought hatred was orange
but it was only a way to mourn
what the tiger consumed
to bring us here
where we should not be.

It reminded us of what we lost.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poem: Urban Children

The smell of smoke lingers still,
do you remember
how it caught in our throats
and made us splutter?

Those games we played,
dangerous games,
we dared each other to run on the factory roof
and leap over the gaps in the rafters,
heart stopping now to think about the rot
beneath our feet and how we were unaware
of any danger, laughing while it creaked below us
and threatened to cave in.

Remnants of machines
left a rusted tangle of sharp edged
metal that we climbed fearlessly,
catching our clothes and skinning our hands,
eight foot, ten above the concrete floor
playing monkey bars, hilarious to catch someone
and tickle them while they held on.

Slipping in under the barbed wire,
it was our playground
hide and seek heaven if you could
pick your way up the collapsed stairs,
the best spot I found was
squeezed inside an old fuse box
listening to the crackle and buzz
and you outside calling for me,
screaming with laughter
and a chorus of ‘you’re it’.

The bigger kids,
they lit the fires and left a black shell
but we played there still,
attracted by the bleakness of it
and the fact it was forbidden.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poem: Reconciliation

Because we spoke 
the truth they burned 
the joy out of us.

Pushed us to our 
knees in small 
dark cages.

I feel the 
close smell of it 
still, all of the shame.

Sanctity in 
mumbled verses of
retribution and repentance.

The black veil falling, 
mesh distorting the 
face of judgement.

They made us 
sad and small 
and frightened.

Absolving us conditionally, 
feigning forgiveness for
 our imaginary wrongs.

We stopped speaking, 
too careful, a sin
this touching someone else.

a twisted, filthy 
black useless thing.

We stopped loving, 
a great broken pretending 
and so much unhappiness.

There was so much 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Poem: Storyteller

We will be honest about our dishonesty
weave a fiction,
make use of hindsight,
be careful of the tale we are telling.

Pick it apart,
this is the moment that defines me,
but this cannot appear in the story.  

We are selective regarding inclusion
plaster over the cracks,
paint the desired picture carefully,
thinking about propriety.

We will tell it warily
if tell it we must and
protect those who live in the past with us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Poem: An Irish Story

This is not a sad story,
this is something else,
a small voice saying she is worth more but another going,
‘ah go on, who do you think you are anyway?’

Its Fr Ryan, and her Da and one particularly cruel teacher
who used to take the ruler to her with no provocation.

She is adept at pretending,
the kids sitting outside the pub on Sundays
and calling that an outing.
She loves them practically,
clean knickers and (mostly) full bellies,
big loans from Tommo in number 6 for shiny white communion dresses,
but the youngest has her heart broken all the same,
what with the fucking language out of her
and continuous summons up to see the Nuns
who make her ashamed of the state of her best coat,
sneering at the her,
and no amount of smacking is any use in making her behave.

Just like her mother, not having sense enough to shut up,
mouth on her like a fecking fishwife, and useless to boot.

She is ruthless in her rearing,
dragging them up,
mortgaging all her hopes on them getting the Leaving Cert.
The eldest was pretty enough to be a model,
before she got herself into all that trouble
and ended up living down Stoneybatter
with a mewling mouth to feed and dirty boots under her bed,
so it was a waste of time,
all the nagging her to get to her books.
Jesus wept but she made eejits out of the lot of them,
going around with that bump under her school jumper,
such a clatter she got when it all came out,
she’d had to drag the aulfella off her,
damage done anyway.

I’ll teach ye, ye little bitch, you’re nothing but a whore,
riding God knows who and ye needn’t think it’s staying here.

She used to have hopes for herself,
a nice house in suburbs,
maybe her own little job in a shop
just for pocket money like,
get her hair done the odd time,
or bring the little ones for sticky buns,
but that was before all the babys,
one after the other,
and he wouldn’t hear of using anything,
saying it’s like washing your feet with your socks on,
and no chance of the other, not with the cost of it.
Once she joked he should tie a knot in it,
and he left her eye black for a week,
think you’re clever,
she should of kept her gob shut anyway,
by now she should know better.

Sure theres a pair of them in it, always caterwauling,
for all his fists, she's been known to take the frying pan to him.

The neighbors gossip about her,
there but for the grace of god
but sure, what else would you expect from a scut like her?
And those kids,
out and about all hours destroying the peace,
sure it's no wonder that they turned out the way they did,
and her with her airs,
her ma was a real lady muck too.
God forgive me,
she asks for it really,
but that man leads her a dreadful life.

Forgive me father for I have sinned, it's the thoughts in my head
but Jesus knows things are bad, likely I'd be better off dead.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poem: Glass Animals

Glass animals casting rainbows on the wall
And ceiling, I thought they were fairies,
Dancing in the sunlight, the magic of them was spellbinding,
When I was still just a little thing, at my beginnings.

Later, I hung prisms in the window,
Hoping that I could capture them again,
But this city apartment does not let the light in,
The walls remain grey, as is fitting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poem: Afterwards

We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try continuing. 
I have grey hat that makes my eyes look blue
And four hundred and sixty three books gathering dust
That swirls in the evening sunlight, as it always was. 

I launch myself into the evenings, the night is better, 
The days are getting longer and smothering us in light. 
I wear dark glasses and hide in the corner of the pub 
Waiting for the bitter sun to fade away. 

At midnight I come home and dance in the dark, 
I dream that I am flying over the city alone 
But when I wake my hands are clenched in fists, 
Head thumping and churning stomach sick. 

Whiskey in your morning coffee makes you warm, 
But the Winter is nearly over. I need to wear leather gloves 
So I do not touch the filth of the world, perhaps I can buy lace 
In summer colours, so it does not seem so strange. 

There are four thousand and seventy six paving stones between here and work, 
I am careful not to step on the cracks between them. Cobblestones are harder 
But I am trying to come up with another arrangement. 
Can you come back now please?

Afterwards, I carefully saved up every moment, 
They are bottled and waiting in the corner, when you return 
We will open them and let time flow out, it will be like music. 
I do not make big wishes anymore.

Monday, April 23, 2012


The bogeyman is dead.
Can we have the world back now
As it was? 
A time before we brought our children out
To dance in the streets and celebrate the creation of a corpse.
Can we have an end to wars with movie names
And sending boys off to kill and die for slogans.
Can we mourn without vengeance now. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poem: Uncanny Valley

Ticking clockwork roll of time, you unchanging 
You and not you, little boy laugh
Replaced by this. Hallow eyed, 
All darker now. I have found the right shape 
Your exact size, built a tangle of turning cogs
That work, powered by missing you.
If I can perfect it, can find the right construction
You will rise from your seat, you will be here again. 
I will take whatever version of you returns.
I want you back, for the death mask to light up,
Animate, your smile on that face will be the moment.
For now this mimesis must be enough. 
In the ring of a bell, movement
I can see shades of you still living.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Poem: School Reunion

I am not as foolish as I once was, as is necessary,
We arrange everything cheerfully – same old pubs
So we can be back again. One day you wake up
And find that you are jealous of the young, terrible.

We tell dirty jokes and drink cider from litre bottles
And reminisce about long hot Summers we made up –
Must have, all it does now is rain. Bills marked in red
Stacking up in the hall, ignored and mounting.

Sometimes one of us will go home with the other
And have fast sad sex to break the boredom –
Once or twice leading to trips across the Irish sea,
Both chipping in for terminations, shared Catholic guilt.

We never talk about the things we thought we would be
All remembering the time when we had dreams –
And how that turned out. We are poets and actors
Working in offices, weighed down with disappointment.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


As small children we were taught about it in baggy school uniforms and knee socks
and never wearing patent shoes lest the boys saw our underpants reflected in them.
We were taught about it at rare school dances,
where the nuns pushed us apart telling us, ‘leave room for the holy ghost’.

Later on we were taught about it in class with talk of a man and a woman,
being married and doing your duty, bearing children.
In not speaking about pleasure and desire they taught us about it,
leaving us confused, betrayed and alarmed at our own bodies.

We were taught it in girls disappearing from school once bumps began to show
and in scandal when one teacher was asked not to return.
In not talking about the diversity of sexuality they taught us about it
telling us lies about punishment and consequence.

In teaching us about it they took what was good and pure
and twisted and corrupted it until every longing was a perversity.
On our knees and confessing our impure thoughts in dark rooms
we were taught it, without their ever needing to say the word.

Later on, in trying to rebel against it we rediscovered it, deepened it
in the bottom of a bottle, a handful of pills or powder and bad decisions.
In being determined not to feel it we bargained our happiness against it,
driven by it we sacrificed ourselves to dirty dark rooms and misery.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Poem: Valentine

Briefly it made me a little sad
the lack of roses arriving, or chocolates in heart shaped boxes,
until lucky remembrance would have it recollected
how once everything was about you,
leaving me exhausted with the impossibility of making
someone else’s happiness my goal,
trapped in the misery of lost dreams,
the focus of your disappointed anger,
worn out by trying and failing, and failing again
to infuse some joy into our joyless wretched life
and calling this love despite all evidence to the contrary,
bar once a year when we pretended with flowers
that this is the life we wanted to be living.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poem: Grief

It takes a least two bottles of wine before I feel anything now,
stupidly crying changes nothing, you still not here.
I went looking for something to let me see you again, 
But it was all bright lights and twisting shapes and you are still gone -
And me disappearing into looking for you.

If this is what it feels like to have a broken heart, I hate it.
A stupid way to play with words, it beating through the hurt,
Not broken, but broken all the same and nothing makes sense anymore
But the flying away to a place that never existed to begin with -
I wish I could find where you are and live in it.

This was always what I did before, I've reason now,
Never needed the excuses, but they have proved useful.
Hurting myself is incidental, I would tear the heart from the world
And burn everything to blackened ash to have you here -
I would end it rather than be in it without you.

It is impotent, this determined rage, no chemical can restore you.
No deed so exquisite and perfectly terrible that i can trade
And no one to trade with, which was always the case anyway.
I will take forgetting and long numb days of drowning in oblivion -
It is better than all this pointlessly grieving. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blog Post:Poem: Potential

It broke my heart a little bit, talking to this lovely boy,
He is pretending for his friends, who know anyway and don't care,
He is worried about his Da’, an ‘auld bully of a man
And is so scared of what everyone is going to say.

I told him, someday you’ll leave here,
and all the terrible hard things about being a teenager
will melt away to nothing again, and you’ll be happy
when everyone loves you for who you are.

He can’t see it yet, but he’s going to be magnificent,
I can tell by the spark in his eye, the brightness of him
and the fact that he shines already, still putting himself together
and working out how to become a grown up.

In a year or so he'll leave school behind, where they bully him,
He'll not be afraid to be himself anymore, free of them,
Away from small minds and mean names he will blossom.
When he finds his place in the world he is going to be amazing. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Poem: What now?

I was supposed the be the one
Who did not know how to live in the world.
Years of abusing anything I could abuse,
And you worrying after me.

That time, you watching me
Come apart at the seams,
Too drunk to to make sense
And sobbing about something 
I could not explain.

Or the bleak dark days
When I was flying somewhere,
You putting me in the shower and feeding me
And waiting for me to come back again.

I should have been the one to leave,
Tried so hard to be lost,
Who would have guessed
I would get better at living
And you would be the one
That ended up being defeated.

What will happen to us now,
With no one left standing
To pick up the pieces
And keep our heats beating.

Poem: Dublin

How I loved you
and you tore the heart right out of me,
little things at first
just how we change over time,
but then that guy kicked black and bloody
down outside the George one Saturday,
and I thought to myself - is this my town,
and what happened to us
that we have these poor broken boys
wrapped in cardboard on the Ha'penny bridge?
And the man won't read the Gas meter because of the needles,
and the rest of last night
scattered across the streets in broken bottles
and puddles of vomit and piss.
So time to leave and my heart breaking,
wanting to bottle Temple Bar and take it with me,
just the craic, the shiney tourist bits
but not the desperation that ate away at us
after the tiger had fled
and Dublin was a broken thing,
a city like any other,
not my home at all anymore. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Poem: Little Things

If I have the ability at all to create something beautiful, then I will.
It is far easier to condemn and be critical, the world leans that way
And sometimes we are drowning in stupidity. 

Then there is a moment, a little thing to appreciate, 
Take it, a cliche, a rainbow, a sunset,
These are few and far between, but oh, they are magnificent.

Stop and breath it in, do not be clever for a moment, embrace it,
Soon it will fade away, as these thing are wont to do, 
And there will be another reason to be angry, or disappointed,
Something else to tweet about, another tirade started.

But if you have it taken a little time to smell the roses, savor red wine,
To paint a picture or love a friend, read a good book start to end,
Then when the world bites and your heart is broken, 
And you can not take back words in anger spoken, 
You will not need Gods or Horoscopes, fairy rings, mediums or empty hope,
You will have these moments you captured in time, 
When it was you and the world, and the world was just fine.