Guth An Anam

Where the Three Rivers Meet

Barnes Gap, Sperrins Region

Carved centuries ago
by the powerful elements
of wind and ice slicing
through the countryside.
Glazed now by a carpet of moss
and haunted by the hills of
Mullaghbane and Mullaghbolig
seem untouched by modern man;
apart from the odd sheep
that wandered under the fence
leaving clots of wool waving
frantically.
Tense atmosphere only solidifies
the cheek of my intrusion.
Sun plays hide n’ seek
behind rocks and crevices
cooling schists once again.

 

Aghascrebah Ogham Stone, Ireland

I feel its supernatural pull
working its way up from the earth
and out to the universe.
Laid by pre-historic man and
un-earthed by modern farmer
searching for rich soil.
Silver almost as the November sky.
Aiming towards the heavens
like a beacon over the boundaries.
Waiting perhaps in this empty field
surrounded by hedges and bracken;
for a gathering of a kind to recall
the deep rooted origins of its
sweat bearing creators. Their
words forever notched in stone.
Into this November air
a supernatural force
draws me to it like a magnet.

Curtain Up

The morning climbs above the house.
I admire the beauty of the lifting mist.
The bleached horizons above the rooftops;
steam floating of the dewy tiles
like smoke signals.
Winding roads too small for map
marking; cut paths through the county.
The crows and blackbirds
line up on the fence
making the most of the drying puddles
and refilled nut bags; meant for
wrens and robins!
The air blanched of spring with
the odd housefly busying about.
Much too early I think.
‘As long as the morning light
combs across your face,
as long as the curtains open anew;
there draws the breath of theatre’.

Waiting at the Station

The October frost drapes
the buildings in a cape
of Christmas lights.
Sparse maples asleep.
Yesterday’s newspapers
gather in circles at the corner,
catching every now and then
on the steel bench
glazed in the breeze.
A road sweeper
wrapped in thought
nods to himself.
Morning noises appear.
Milk floats, post vans,
buses stopping and starting.
The odd greeting from
one driver to the other
tired of the drill.
I think of your transformation
from country girl to
college girl.
How letting go was worth it,
seeing how beautiful you’ve grown.

Fire of the Gaels

She is every woman
who struggles for survival
in a world of prisons
of one form or another.
Her stories, etched on the
landscapes of the universe.
She is the mouth
of the Blackwater,
the secrets of the Alder,
the writing on the caves
and the shedder of light.
She is the blueprints
of the past,
the wishes of the unborn,
the spirit of the crops
and the heat of the sun
bursting on buds.
She’s the midges on the lough,
the guardian of the wells,
the bones of the earth
and the ties that bind
by spirit and blood.
She’s the songs sung so often
renewed on the lips of the young.
Her tongue fiery can cut like an axe
or sooth like a lullaby.
She is goddess of the people,
the fire on the hills.
She’s the shadow on the stones
glinting on river beds.
The breath of a new morning,
and a beacon in the night.
She is every woman.
She is Aine,
fire of the gaels.

Beurla *

In the confines of my mind
I converse in my native tongue;
recall early school lessons,
is mise, slan agat go foil, gradh.
They fade like my childhood,
warmed on knees by open fires.
Songs of Wexford and Vinegar Hill
fused with Tyrone’s bardic thrill.
Secondary school brought the troubles,
beurla, the fading of the Irish tongue
lost in the distance of war and
forbidden to utter out of the home.
My words travel through me
like the oak saturated in bogs
awaiting the re-newel of better times.
Acknowledged, embraced and refined.
* Beurla is Irish for the English language.

Bundoran, County Donegal

Embracing the salt curtain of the green Atlantic
sway to and fro towards me;
waves rest on the algae rocks rounded to a
smooth knob. Belts of seaweed find resting places
in pools of water clear as amber.
I hear the children’s screams from the ghost train
shuttling in the distance, but the Atlantic calls
me back towards it again. Stained by history,
there’s something about this ocean that calls
to me, healing my winter worn trunk.
Perhaps it’s there, deep in the blue where I’ll find
solace. Where old wrecks filled with tales
from when time began, uniting stories of inland
folk finding gods in the wilderness of boglands
and meeting goddesses of the deep.

Banba

Tara, Ireland’s spiritual home,
cries out to ancient hearts,
save her from the greed of fools
who’ll rip her soul apart.
In myths we recall our living past,
woven as carpet on the landscape.
In stones, trees and bog;
in birds, horse and dog.
The stitches of the wisdom keepers
relay story, song and poem,
secure in the bright knowledge
that their words will have a home.
Oh sacred bile, Oh graveyard Yew,
the Hawthorn and the Oak;
the Hazel, Alder and the Rowan,
the Willow and the faery folk.
Pay homage to the spirits of Tara,
the ones who went before
the Warriors, Bards and Kings,
the Queens and many more.

Losing My Religion

It wasn’t easy growing up
around the fortress
of a garrison town.
When the troubles
were our second coats,
fear our constant companion.
The instinctual things
a teenager had to know
by heart, by soul.
What side of the street
was yours to tread?
Cover up the school
uniform in the town,
or it sealed your fate
like a patriotic tattoo,
or a flag always flying;
when certain colours
out of safety zones meant
a potential beating.
Knowing to keep your
head down when the
landrovers followed you home.
Divided by a war we didn’t
fully understand.
When escape meant the border
singing Irish songs of freedom,
horslips and Celtic rock
without the watchful eye of
bigots.
Now the shroud of war is lifted,
I can envelope myself in the beauty
of my own country without fear or
regret.

Either Side of the Headlines

You waltzed on orange lino
between hearth and couch,
lilting like a spring sparrow;
securing a strong arm on Ma’s back,
not once out of step.
News headlines guaranteed silence.
Your face etched in thick lines
enhanced by concentration.
Ma presents corn beef and tomatoes,
which you eat noisily without teeth.
Coal spits from the unguarded fire, sending
smoke signals from the half-circle rug.
My daydreams, fractured by cutlery,
moving on the empty plates.

Haiku

Omagh from above —
a butterfly in full bloom,
spreading her wings.
Scars on the hillsides —
gorse no longer wave
careless youth.
Spiders’ patterns
on conifers
wearing a fine shawl.
Cracks in the pavement,
ants pulling
a fly.

Daughter Dear

Must you count every calorie?
Every ounce of fat in the shopping bag?
She’s disgusted at the amount of them
in one lousy biscuit.
We argue the toss about the taste
of full milk and creamy butter,
and ‘How in the hell do ye eat fried bacon?’.
I know she has a point; yet
I play it down just in case this
takes over her life and she eats
nothing at all, she at that age
when everyone in the magazines are whisper thin,
and without blemish.

Whisperings

Our ancient bloodlines
are calling to us;
interrogating us
with wisps of insight.
They are turning
in their boggy graves,
surfaced over time.
They rise out from
small lakes hidden
on the land.
Through dreams at
night, and ponderings
of the daylight.
Among glen and forests,
and from branches of the
thorn and elder.
From the angler’s rod
cast on rivers. On salmon
longing for the open seas.
In tales, myths and poetry
their marks will not fade
like snapshots in the sun.
Our lands are piled
high and low, deep and wide
with blue prints of a time when
spoken signals were the headlines.
Our ancestors are turning
in their graves.

Luna

Losing shadows that follow
from these troubled acres
is hard going at times.
When it’s those same shadows
you seek to understand
what it all came down to.
Three in the morning brings relief;
nature is more calmer and cools
to a creaking lullaby.
Some birds sleep sound.
The urban ones
blether through the night.
The moon solemnly gives orders
to orchestrate the night crawlers
on missions. She casts shadows
in dimly lit corners of the globe.
She’ll never be the sun,
blitzing the crops, warming
the shadows.
But she’ll always be the catalyst,
calling you back to the past.

Loneliness

Loneliness has a bite,
not a nibble,
but a razor sharp bite.
Morning flounces openly
showing off its tie-dyed light.
The hills beyond my window,
glazed by the mist
blown in off the Atlantic,
fusing Donegal, Sligo and Tyrone
in a painters paradise of shade.
The starlings argue for space
on the corrugated garage roof.
Unnerved by the chatter on the floor-court,
they’ve made a tiny field on the roof,
green as the hills.
Loneliness has a bite, razor sharp,
and I need it like the views I see.
It calls me back to nature,
makes me more aware of the innocence
and beauty of the forgotten.

Mise Eire

Talk to me of bogs,
of blankets on the land.
Talk to me of myths
you have at your command.
Tell me of Cu Chulainn,
the hero hound of Ulster,
the battles of the Tain Bo
and the warriors of Munster,
the progress of the firbolgs.
The De danaans on the hill
remind me of our legends
of folklore through the quill.
Talk to me of forests,
of flora and fauna there.
Talk to me of mountains
in Tyrone and in Kildare.
Tell me now of the future
of equality in the land.
Speak to me of serenity,
so the tribes can understand.

Oak Lake, County Tyrone

It’s easy to imagine
these scooped out hollows
were once filled with ice;
melting as the did stamping
kettle holes on the landscape.
The lake waltzes to and fro
like a child mesmerized
by magical stories voiced
by an old teller of tales.
Its edges flanked with an audience of
purple moss, pink cranberry flower
and the burnt orange of summer gorse,
all paying homage by showiness.
A clump of rushes moves slightly.
I think of childhood tales of
the watershee luring one off
to the silver world of faeries.
The light of the day now slipping
ever so peacefully behind the
peaks of the Sperrins. I shall go now
and take its essence with me,
to sooth my night quests ahead.

Morning Has Broken

The early morning frost leaks
through the old frames.
Frozen webs leave intricate patterns
that should be framed for prosperity.
Shadows flank the hills as mist
gathers like midges on Lough Muck.
Cows huddle for heat at the hedge,
leaving billowing clouds of breath.
Below, the newly built Texaco garage
begins the alien noises of the day.
Car doors slam, hydraulic breaks scream,
and school kids fill up with energy.
Then like an open wound, the horizon
splits the grey morning, bringing with it
a baked setting full of challenges and hope
for coming hours.

Mirror Image

I see him stroll along Bridge St.
in his chef’s outfit,
with his I-Pod firmly
placed in his ears;
hair growing out of one style,
curls at the collar.
He’s got his grandpa’s dimple
pressed urgently on his chin;
touched by the angels I’m told.
The spitting image of the grandpa;
the way he nods hello,
head slightly lowered,
eyes raised in a half-shy way;
a moon crest grin.
His arms swallow me
in an umbilical comfort.
Strong now, his surly grip
releases worries that I carry
.
Morning Stroll

Petrol spills from engines
glisten like magic rainbows
in the wind cursed mid-day.
Red robins leave watery drips
on jeans and T-shirts
flapping on clothes lines,
dotted at the gardens of Okane.
I’m annoyed still at the
new great Northern road,
carved seven miles into
the Tyrone countryside.
Still, there’s snickets and
fences to master before
I’m on the old road again.
Traffic now slows for the
odd tractor and a pair of
fast walkers with earphones.
A crafty sheep dog darts
along the hedges, ushering
rebel sheep. A whistle in
the wind brings them into
line again.
My shawl catches on the overgrown
Brambles. I laugh as if somehow
they do it for badness.
Crows squabble high in roosts.
Leaves shower the road and me.
The heat has brought out midges.
They hover at the burn that creeps
along the bank, making
its way to the lough.

Night Falls Soon

The powder pink evening
combs the sky of summer,
like a comet trailing.
My eyes dance the last waltz
of daylight hours.
A fiery thrush bobs its tail,
singing out its last chorus
whilst gathering up the young,
dallying below in town.
Trees in eyeshot
fan the horizon in gestures
of a soft wave, calling the
night creatures, return to
the hedges and stone walls.
For the sun has retreated,
and the mistress of the moon
has beckoned her night creatures
on missions over field and stream.
The wail of the sleek tomcat
serenades the urban air, drifting
out to rural pathways — on the prowl.

Old Societies

Rain takes on a silver sheen
thundering past the window,
encouraging the worm to rise.
Already the blackbird furrows
with his yellow beak, knowing
what lies beneath.
I think of pre-historic societies
leaving their stamp on the land in
stone circles, megalithic tombs,
standing stones and raths.
I imagine they were signposts
pointing the safest way ahead
to the nearest village; gathering
points, perhaps. Their own
creations dotted about
the landscape.
I feel a
certain kinship with them — those
who came before.
The worm: I wonder what its
aura holds? What has it come upon
whilst pushing clay,
slipping into worlds unseen?
I wish the rain to cease,
the blackbird to scarper
and the worm to live another day.

Oldcroghan Man *

This island is a living carpet,
worn by clans of cousins who
weaved into the land
a pattern not for the
the untrained eye.
Oldcroghan man,
baked in this oven of peat,
symbolizes our spent lineage
of boundaries and fields.
Beheaded and tortured,
he stood tall as a pine tree.
Who was this nameless lad?
A high king, killed in ritual,
or killed in a jealous rage?
Was it a warning to other youths
who may yearn for the new,
denouncing the old?
I wear a leather twang like his,
woven with love on May Day.
The hands of Croghan man
hold no labourers welts,
but groomed nails; ideally cleaned.
He joins others that came before:
Meeybradden Woman and Gallagh man.
They come to remind us to read the bog
chapter by chapter; learn from ghosts of the past.
* Oldcroghan man is the latest body to be unearthed after 2000 years in the bog. Found in Co. Offley Ireland.

Endings

The teens have called time on life
before it’s even begun.
Slavery of a sort hangs in the air.
They starve themselves
in a time of fruition;
convince themselves that
they’re too ugly to go out.
Trapped by their own demons,
visual demons that scrape
at their youthful bodies,
drilling, thin, thin, thin,
from the magazines on news stands;
from the plasma screen
in their bedrooms.
They don’t believe in flaws,
the odd spot, scar, ruddy skin,
eye slightly bigger than the other.
They have bought into perfection;
captive also to drugs that alter their minds.
For some, there’s no way back.
They’ve called time on life,
before it’s even begun.

Lough Derg St. Patrick’s Purgatory, 1979

Tricha and I were punks
in the war years.
To rid us of defiance
our Mas’ sent us
off to Lough Derg.
The basilica rose out of
the morning mist like a vision
out of a Hammer horror movie.
The boat ride fearsome,
as the oldies prayed with the bishop.
This was it three days fasting,
no sleep and no shoes allowed.
We followed the elders,
kneeling, praying and walking.
The all-night vigil blasted us like
a raging argument.
Rain fell hard off the Pettico Hills,
wind from the Atlantic.
Stopping at cells with names
of early missioners: St Brigit, Brendan,
Columba, Patrick, Davog
and Molaise.
For three days food was black tea and dry toast.
We touched the resources of spirit within.
We thought of home, of
‘My perfect cousin’and ‘anarchy’.
We were heroes then,
amid the barricades.

Black 47

Often in times of deep meditation,
walking through the Tyrone hills,
I’ll stand at a fence and ease my eyes
out over the Sperrin mountain range.
The fields so lush and full of fertility,
the hum of agricultural goings-on.
The views take me by surprise.
I think of the “starvation” that swallowed
my ancestors — an image that stings the air still.
Spirits roam these hills covered in mass graves,
or deep in lanes were they fell, starved of food;
food that was packed in ships bound for England,
to feed the chosen few,
whilst the poor, here, ordered to eat only potatoes,
died of structured starvation.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to go hungry,
to be tortured by the power of it,
to watch your child fade and die,
to see a race almost wiped out; a race who
tilled that same fertile land.
Who is culpable? What of the mass exodus?
Was there trickery involved? Greedy landowners
offering ships bound for new lands
where land, food and pay was promised.
Thousands died on the rough seas.
Others settled, always loving their spiritual home.
Who will acknowledge this crime
against the Irish nation, a nation whose scars
are plain to see even to the present day?
Healing will begin only when we look
into the past, were shadows linger and questions
hang in the air. Dark Rosaleen still awaits an apology.

Remembering

When old ladies in
sheepskin jackets and
headscarves walk by,
I think of you.
The secrets of motherhood
drift into the air,
in wisps of violets and
wild roses.
On the bells, too,
of the sacred heart chapel,
ringing out the angelus,
in the click of rosaries
in lofty chapels, in
the call of the corncrake
from distant hills,
and from the headlines
in newspapers
that drift along dusty streets
of sleepy inland villages.
Your headscarf knotted tight
under the chin brings a
narrowness to your face,
framing the Viking nose and
Vinegar Hill pride.
The wisdom of motherhood
dwells deep inside of me
like a well I can dip into,
when sorely needed.

St Colmcille

I think of this monk
born on our barren lands.
A time when blanket bogs
covered most of its surfaces,
and the sea the only way out.
How his mother was visited by an angel
saying he would spread faith
and an understanding of Christianity
throughout Ireland and beyond.
Colmcille understood both tribes.
Pagans he knew well, Christianity
he was learning.
A foot in both worlds.
I think of Jesus wandering in the desert,
battling demons in the baking sun.
Colmcille’s desert: a horizon met with
deserted bog lands and mountainous hills
from Derry to Tyrone.

Mother

I seek you in the lakes of Tyrone,
the lesser known ones whose beauty
remains unblemished by progress.
In the curling streams at war
with the elements, and whose
very existence is threatened by
housing developments.
I look for you as summer coughs up
its last songs of the season.
I seek your words in her breath,
in the secrets of motherhood
asleep in the elderly, yearning
recall once again.
I seek it, too, in the faces of youth,
in the songs they sing from
the concrete forests they live in.
I also seek it in me,
when dark clouds
gather up a storm.

That Age

I think I’ve reached it:
this middle ground in life.
Crows feet emerge without
negotiation; bunches of
greying hair hover like
mist on the October hedge.
My offspring have fled the
roost, making their own now.
Wasn’t easy being Ma and Da.
I think of the failed mixed
marriage, the 80’s being a
time of change —
fusing bodhran and lambeg
was no easy task.
I’m beginning to resemble
my mother. Her frown and
pondering nature, her hand on
hip, stares out to the horizon …
my father’s need for the headlines …
I stand still in a changing field,
like the Ogam stones of Tyrone,
grey and pointing skyward.
There are many tracks before me,
all leading down some road.
Morning pains subside in
the summer heat, like the
creaking wood of the stairs.
I think I’ve reached it:
endured the dark nights of the soul.
What now?

Thoughts on the Wing

It’s 4.30 in the morning.
Wild birds sleep none
nowadays. Their talk
in the moonless night
takes my thoughts,
as dawns sheet appears
among the diamond sky.
They float over brook
and riverbed,
under ancient bridges
amid fools gold that’s
smoothed by salmon and
rainbow trout.
The May bush lifts them again,
further afield to Lock Erne,
Devenish Island, Killybegs
where the fishermen gather
to read the ocean;
to the sifting sands
of Rossnowlagh Strand
were winter dwells, awaiting
spring’s coat;
returning home refreshed,
just as dawn bursts her seams.

Torn

Between love and hormonal shoals of friends.
Estranged from birth flock
without the pack seem lost.
A fawn dislodged from mother,
struggling to locate semi-safe ground.
Her heart warmed by another’s fiery arrow.
Confused, yet amused by gestures and similarities
of thoughts.
The angst inside I assure will subside,
when no longer can she play tug-of-war
in the playing fields of youth.
A warm smile displays, like a cabinet,
newfound pearls of wisdom:
that one day she’ll walk without the safety net.
Sure of balance
Sure of love.

The Fiddler

He cosies it under the chin,
or thereabout,
like a favourite scarf
from college days.
The music already forming in
his mind’s eye.
He’s played this air a thousand times,
yet each time it surges from
a different notion.
The horsehair bow
gallops a few times in practice
for the main event.
The listeners, young and old,
heed the waltz with arms
outstretched.
He rests on the waltz.
‘Give me your hand’
The dancers glide in perfect
sway to the fiddler’s tune.
Like a shaman he leads them
to another time when music
filled the night air under stars.
His ears are on alert, watching
for one wrong beat.
The dancers care not,
they are lost in the music of the fiddler.

Annaghmakerrig 2002 *

The big house greets with an air of mystery,
petitioning to the gods a poem or song
to touch all our yesterdays.
The lake pretends to scowl at night and
wraps the waiting horizon in thought.
The ruthless breeze is laden with insight.
Songs find their way through the air.
The hearth inherits the fallen spruce,
whilst artists gather their cares.
Spoken signals gather like crochet,
fermenting works that ooze out in dreams,
and filter into daylight masterpieces.
* Annaghmakerrig is a house in Co. Monahan, left in the will of theatre director Tyrone Guthrie for artists of all
disciplines to “create” away from the interferences of the world.

My Sort of Day

This is the sort of day
that memories weave a carpet
in shades of fallen leaves
or in tones of winter’s coat.
The sort of day
when love greets
with a pregnant smile
below the baked horizon.
The sort of day
the Tyrone hills emerge
through the mist like gods
awaiting the day’s offerings.
The sort of day
cobwebs freeze lunar patterns
on hawthorn bushes
like maps to the silver world.
This is the sort of day
wars should end,
haters make amends
and disease should be no more.

The Sin Eater

Together we sat on the confessional bench,
listening to the click of heels on mosaic tiles
awaiting the queue to die.
A lady who lived in God’s house
watched us girls with her salmon eye
and every move we made.
Whispered penances showered the chapel.
Orderly shuffling from oldies denoted
our turn now; our sins would be eaten.
The gridded partition creaked like old knuckles.
I almost forgot: ‘Bless me father’, as my
knees located a softer spot on the floor.
Beads sang in a distracting manner.
Father Brown’s pressing vowels asked after my sins.
My soul now white, I returned to the bench.

Starlings at Dawn

They flounce into my morning,
just as dawn crawls over the roof, and
squawk to locate their newly found songs;
eager to appease mother who shimmies
to and fro with mother’s pride.
The corner of my roof carries noises.
Claws scrape pleadingly on wood,
discontented squabbles from one who lost the worm.
Mother squeezes her narrow body through a corner crevice;
her silhouetted wings accurately glide into place.
It quietens for a spell, until its time for a coaxed flight.
Then it’s my turn to rouse the household sound asleep in the far room,
away from the bird songs.

Dear Sir

Dear Sir,
please excuse my son’s absence.
He slept in.
We slept in.
The night before he studied into the small hours
the mechanics of skateboarding,
counting new bruises and fading others.
How he can “ollie” sets of steps without broken marrow.
It releases his anger,
how the words of Curt Cobain relate to his 180-degree kick-flip,
and the thrill of a half pipe,
that being 16 messes with his head and
no one understands.
And how is it fair his girlfriend lives ten miles away,
and he’s no car?
Why work at the weekend tires him,
and grunge pulls him through.
So Sir, may I call you sir?
I hope you understand my son’s absence this time.

Wet July ‘07

The late evening sky
clamps its joyless cloud
upon the market town.
Cattle in the field beyond
trudge towards the gate
looking depressed.
Without the TV forecast
I read the patterned clouds.
Plain and purl columns
knit their way towards me.
Smoke signals, from the Victorian
houses on Gallows Hill.
That’s all it takes
to ignite the fires here.
I await the storm, prepared.

Stones

I can’t pass a stream,
river or seashore today
without seeking them.
The smoothed shapes,
worn by the waves
or carried by the escape
of mountain springs, flowing
toward brooks and burns,
drawing upon them a golden glow.
They take pride of place
on my window sills,
on doilies made of lace.
Others might collect pottery
or bone china,
I have an indoor rockery.

Omagh: Seat of Chiefs

Housing secrets down the ages
in its under-belly, and
in the layers of rock
and street names:
Castle Street, Gallows Hill,
Goal Square, Canon Hill.
Well below, the street’s scant
passages lead to the heavy courthouse whose
presence dominates the town.
Voices of the past muted through its
thick granite outpouring.
The essence of its history also embedded
in the gravely basins where the three rivers meet:
the Drumragh, Camowen and the Strule.
Rivers that unite in finding their way to the
Atlantic — to cast their sins upon the waves.

Tree House at Sloughen Glen

On our way to Sloughen Glen, deep in the hills of Drumquin,
we hardly notice the climb; yet feel it in our fume-filled lungs.
Out of the side of a hill, amid brambles and giant ferns,
a shell of a house appears with postcard views out over
the Tyrone countryside.
The gift of life still grows from its un-thatched roof: a gift
in the form of a blackthorn tree. It grows with pride
up through the rooms holding, I’m sure, stories in its trunk.
Memories of a time when its hearth was lit and life flourished.
I think of the family who may have lived there:
children playing in the yard, a few livestock, life.
I listen to the quiet sounds of spring, and remember that
the regeneration of small towns has crept nearer and nearer
to the beauty spots. One day this may well be gone.
Perhaps great grandchildren will return one day,
seeking their ancestral home. They may;
and find life grows there still.

Where Man Fails

 

I see the beauty in the clear winter moon,
spraying its steel haze over the old town.
Where man fails,
nature does its best; instilling life among
the rubble and ruins of houses and parks.
Where man fails,
the elements rage at the world with warnings
and threats of disasters.
Where man fails,
again, I see these familiar blanket bogs;
and find hope in the solitude of them.

A Prayer to the Integrity of Words

Bless the verbs and nouns that
carry rivers of verse in their hour of need.
Bless their totality of wisdom,
greeting morality with novels amassed.
Usage, bringing tribal flouncing and
indecent drifting.
Without the integrity of words
our clans may never meet or greet,
for many ensembles would slither unheard.

A Cheated Spouse

I study your eyes;
they waltz slowly,
exposing the pain
and sorrow of a
cheated spouse.
With the stubbornness of youth
you refuse a tear,
like a star dulled with the
desertedness of distance;
memories of love, then,
when hearts leaped in unison.
The tribal greeting of dewy lips,
the sting of the lovers’ tiff.
It’s the eyes that dance death,
lost in socket and bone;
the cheated spouse now alone.
I look into your eyes;
with no surprise you refuse
animation of memory with rage —
as I think I would.

Native Speakers

I envy your tongue,
how the silvery words evoke
the layered past of home.
Snippets recalled from early
youth slip out in dreams
during the day-light hours;
in particles of conversations
on radio Telefis Eireann,
wheezing from Da’s old wireless
that needed time to heat
for clearer contact.
I can’t translate without
a book to help me,
yet I don’t want to.
The words
of your poems
speak for themselves.

 

 

 

Guth An Anam (Voice of the soul)

“Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – Bobby Sands
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Oscar Wilde
“I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because
you tread on my dreams” W.B.yeats

Guth An Anam (Voice of the soul)

I carried you; or we carried each other
over ancient sites and thorny bushes
to recall your forgotten voice
lost through the layers of time.
I carried you to Yeats County; with views
of soothing Benbulben Mountain and you
sang such beautiful tunes.
You sang out too when I located the
weather worn court tomb at Creevykeel.
An ancient connection was made.
When birds left the trees for sunnier climbs
as winter caped above the house you were with me.
You gave me music to open my soul
again to the beauty in the landscape.
Music; you are the voice of my soul.

Aisling

Often in the music of the wind
in some stony place recalled to mind
neglected tombs that now are seldom traced
hold celtic knots and swirls upon its face.
Knockmany passage tomb in all its presence
instills in me the beauty of the ancients
whose skill and art have traveled land and sea
to keep our spirit in its company.
I stand against this tomb of Carleton’s valley
surrounded by the mountains, bog and beauty.
united we sing songs towards the wind
delighted at my growth of soul within.
Leaving now this tomb of pagan origin;
heightened thoughts renewed in earthy vision.
The mindful song than sings along the breeze
is forever placed within my memories.
Note: Aisling – vision (Gaelic)

Muscailt

Awakened, made it through
the veils of pitch,
threaded with wars, flags and
tribal intolerance; fixed
on the horizons of my mind.
In dreams the inland rivers claw
like hunger towards the Atlantic coast
gathering with it clotted memories,
of a torturous past in every blast;
rousing the shadows of Irelands ghosts.
Tuatha de Danaan, the pilgrims,
the famine and her coffin ships,
the uprisings, internment, the troubles,
the hunger strikes, sons, daughters……
Muscailt (“The Awakening” in Irish)

A Prayer to the Integrity of Words

Bless the verbs and nouns that
carry rivers of verse in their hour of need.
Bless their totality of wisdom
greeting morality with novels amassed,
usage, bringing yet; tribal flouncing and
indecent drifting.
Without the integrity of words
our clans may never meet or greet,
for many ensembles would slither un-heard.

Night Aria

Sounds of closing time ring out from the garage floor court
the dog groans in her sleep at the distant sound of tyres
spinning wildly in circles on the tar. Someone’s idea of fun.
Reading late into the night the air gets colder just before dawn.
In the company of birdsong; they care not for time on a clock
out do each other in a frenzy of thrills, defending territories.
They seem to snooze very little as night blends into day yet
songs of the scolding black bird in the undergrowth
sends me over the mountain to sleep; eventually.

All for love

You said you never cared for walking over boggy hills
over rusty styles with bulls on the other side
only to find a crumbling stone etched in lines
you do it out of love.
Watching in bewilderment as I spy a lone ogham stone
in the centre of a field in Mountfield in the middle
of nowhere and my spirit lifts at the sight of it.
My mind gets to work on the stories this stone carries in its aura.
My camera clicks many times.
You do this out of love you say; like I do
when the wilderness calls and I succumb to it’s voice

Draiocht

Magic happens in the cool waters of healing wells
making the journey under clay; to offer up
cures within its life force.
I’ve seen it as winter blends its end of days
into the arrival of spring. On mountains
and boundaried fields as morning mist
vanishes.
Within myself when i forget the world a while
do nothing except listen to the order of things
or stare into space.
Within the lunar cycles when moon phases
stir the spirit in an ancient way; as it passes
on its journey.
Its there too on the faces of new born babies;
reddened from the delicate path taken
from womb to world, dark to light.

Chicago

Lake Michigan seemed to spread out
like another Atlantic before me
the river a hem; traced along the tall buildings.
At night from Sears Tower; we saw the city lights;
grids like lay lines as far as the eye could see.
It was the year the cicadas appeared
the drumming deafening.
I preferred the cicadas to the noise
in the North of Ireland then.
They come with their love chorus
every thirteen years.
When the fireflies got a look in;
how beautiful they were, their bursts of light
reminded me of the fires on the hills at Beltane;
or all hallows eve.
I thought that paganism was the way to go;
the on/off ceasefires seemed to run tally
with the mixed marriage that ended a war within a war.
In my mind again I’m sitting on the warm wooden step
outside the new home in Chicago.
The night sky bleeds constantly from
the low flying planes of O’Hare as they routinely pass,
you joked that you saw your mothers purple rinse
at the crafts window waving the union jack

and me Da the Tri-colour.

Ireland and the north lingered still;
on my clothes, hearts and brogue;
there was a drive-by-shooting in the area
we hadn’t a clue as to why; but learned later
it was to do with bandanas and their colours.
It comes down to colours and flags in the end I thought.
Our outer landscapes may have changed
our place of birth; of memory remained.
“Cicadas are insects belonging to the family Cicadidae in the order Hemiptera*. Cicadas are
recognizable by their large size (>1 inch) and clear wings held rooflike over the abdomen. Their
life cycles are long, usually involving multiple years spent underground as juveniles, followed by a
brief (roughly 2-6 weeks) adult life above ground.. As adults, males produce a loud song using
specialized sound tymbals. These sounds are among the loudest produced by any insects roots”

Island Home

I’ve traveled very little from this island home.
My native land grounds me keeps me in contact
with the rhythms of nature, the sound of the winds,
the call of the wild birds and the dialects of its people.
Tyrone’s inland landscape of moss clad hills and flat bogs
break every now and then like an ocean wave.
Small towns and villages emerge lively and loud
against the woven landscape
One can drive for miles across back roads criss-crossing
town lands whose names mean; stony path,
fairly coloured field or hill of midges; before
a village appears out of the hedgerows.
Fintona, Seskinore, over the mountain to
Fivemiletown. across the side road to Sixmilecross,
Carrickmore, Gortin and to Omagh again, the view
always lifts the spirit.
Gortin village is one such place, hidden within
the protective fauna of the forest and rough mossy
hills flanking the road into the village.
Fiddle music sails up from the music store.
Cont’
I may not have traveled far; but this island
Home; were the ancestors have left their marks on the land;
in the form of art and awkward names,
This will take me far away in my mind at times.

Love Diminishes

She watches their love die quietly.
No storms or rough waters to master
no acid looks or misfired cups
but silently as bud in spring.
The house they built on with love and hope
a library of snapshots charting the years
spent loving, laughing, raring the brood.
Each picture a story, each flake of paint
an unsaid feeling; left dormant.
Wallpaper fades behind the silent gloss.
She watched their love die quietly among the
layer of years tending room by room
in fancy décor, empty now of the children.
All she can do is watch their love diminish.
dried fruits
on the bird table –
bees hum
soft raindrops –
spring sings her lullaby
heartbeat on paving stones

Memories

I hear her voice
in the minds eye
as I re-pot the Geraniums.
“Keep them by the window
they’ll get more light
and water sparingly in winter”
It’s funny how a flower or
the faint smell of something
familiar ignites a memory.
Like a song even, that escapes
at the right time from a car radio
just as you pass,
can stop you in your tracks, combing
back a time of instant love, perhaps
a first love that had vanished.
Messages are found all around us
if only we’d take the time to listen
Our lives so busy.
Learning to be still is a skill, quiet the mind
once in a while, the messages will come;
from the most unlikely places.

Closing of Day

Reminders of winter brush their wings against me.
The sky lavender as day passes on this world of mine
The last of the light dissolving into careless shadows
that play foolish games on the eye.
Moon is missing and stars fret her return to fullness.
Closing times ring out in the faint frost
carrying voice tones up into the air.
Pockets of youths gather at the garage shop
each singing their own song; each dressed for battle.
Mr Clark totters past the gate breathing heavy;
the hound in tow-showing him the way;
the usual way; no free run of things.
He catches my presence and waves; hand above head,
filled with thought he continues.
A car hurling like thunder on the road below
does its best to do the ton, screaming almost
like a banshee.
I watch as a spider parachutes her web, it’s her time to work
and the moths time to be on the lookout.
I close the door to the wintry night.

Seekers of truth

Truths like crystals lie buried under earth
under ancient oaks and long forgotten pathways
leading to the ocean.
In the songs of yesterday adrift on the spring mist
as I gaze out over the hills.
In layers of prayers petitioned to sky that soar
to the universal spirit.
In cosmic shifts, of the soul’s migration; from before birth
to beyond the end of life.
We seek it in books; in passing thoughts that nudge us
towards a face in the crowd.
In the faces of the old.
With others on the journey, embraced, entwined
truth emerges out of the dark returning as the light
within.

Starlings –
under the roof space
claws on wood
spring cleaning.
rose petals floating –
small puddles reflect summer
in sun drenched pools.
flowerless Hawthorn
bending against the winds path
farewell to litha.

Mind Maps

The county swirls evermore into winter.
Evenings; old blanket grey smears the sky.
Lightening threaten its Amethysts strike
across the small market town.
Driving along the back roads to Fintona
Omagh dissolves in the mist blown off the fields.
A tin shed orange with rust appears out of
the darkness. Fog; like ghosts; suddenly appear.
Trees along the curling roads make tunnels
before my eyes. Empty of cars i turn the lights off
for a second. The scuttle of a hare startles me it
stops for a look before scampering to the hedge.
On the ten mile drive i meet no other drivers.
These roads are the sneaky back roads over
hills and through forested glades.
Never found on road maps; but mapped on the mind.


Returning to stony ground.

I drove to the Stone circles at Beagmore
an instinctual journey and need.
The alignment slightly mossed over
blown off the hills and boggy land.
Passing the five sisters kettle holes
reminded me of the many who died when
their car drove off road into the bog at night,
no lamp-posts on those roads then.
These stone meant something to someone
a calling to the tribes.
Empty now of people apart from the odd person
who climbed briers and stiles, without much help from signposts,
just to enrich their soul, it’s that kind of place were the
hustle and bustle of daily urban life vanishes for a while.
A place that talks to you; not you to it.
Takes you back to an ancient time.

Disappearing world

I can drive out of town
and within minutes get lost
amid the Tyrone landscape.
Often in search of some stony
place I once new
and find it gone.
Replaced by a house with
Sperrin Mountain views
right on the doorstep.
The news of Gold mining at the
beauty spot, Pigeon Top saddens
the heart and eyes.
Huge scoops of earth carried away in
ignorant lorries leaving dirt trails
as far a s the eye can see.
In daydreams I weep for the land.
Now that peace has come
prospectors want a piece.

A haven in the mind

This land has molded me
has scolded me like my father
in shades of grief unspoken;
spiritually tethered to it’s acres.
Divided from one another by boundaries
walls, flags, street names and the
isolation of tribal words.
My thoughts often turn inwards.
The landscape of the soul changes
when i wander the Tyrone hills
filling my soul with moss coloured
songs; of how nature always finds a way.
Seasons blend into one another without
much argument; they have a spirit of
their very own and follow it no matter what.
a headgehog
looking my way
lost in grief
out of nowhere
a bee
hungry for summer

Remembering

When the ould pair died
the music, for a while
went also.
A worn fiddle hangs
by the chunky accordion.
Airs recalled,
in snapshots of scenes
fiddlers night on
local radio.
Clearings on the lino
waltzing to the beat
one, two, three…
Under the watchful eye
of Blessed Oliver Plunkett
they glided.
I feel again the music
swell in me where
winter visits often.
Like rivers that flow
to the cold Atlantic
the journey long.
I listen to the waves
I hear them, the
music of the ould pair.
(the ould pair, A way of saying the parents)

Hares,

at twilight arrive ears dive sky ward
alert to any and every noise as they steal
into the summer garden.
Larger than my childhood memory of them
inching through the grass in some
ancestral way.
Their grace and beauty blend with the landscape.
Every so often standing upright
like a warrior of old.

On Main Street

In the stillness of early morning, maples on Main Street whisper.
Signs of life move into the air. Milk vans shuttle door to door
of side streets. Steam from the Carlton bakery; begin its snail’s ascent
over the roof, warming the alleyway as it rises.
The Strule River ripples over flat stones catching the lamp lights
perched antiquely on Bells Bridge.
Sheela Na Gigs or look a likes stare from the corners of the chapel
walls made worse by the blinking glare of the festive decorations.
On the footpath by Greasy Joe’s café; the remains of a curry chip
decorates the way, the culprit long gone.
There’s something special about this time of the morning when the
town and its occupants begin to rouse.
There’s order, there calm, before flushes of life begin again with the
torrent of youth thundering forward like shoals of fish all heading for
the school gates. The courthouse hill a mass of uniformed brown and
blue.

Our stories

We carry them on our faces like some visible vail or invisible back
pack that travels with us from pillar to post. Staving ahead; making
room for a few more on the journey. We hold them in our souls.
We lay them on the hearth of a friend or maybe someone we meet by
chance and our energies swap them for us, without the need of words.
They are carried on footsteps drifting along on the night breeze taking
them further a field again.
Like a mothers knee they warm us on nights of pouring rain that’s
beating hard against the window pane.

St Teresa’s primary school ‘69’

Almost sheltered from the world
by an umbrella of prayer.
Smallish veiled nuns with lines
mapped out on olive skin;
wore over sized Crucifixes;
pierced at heart level.
Whispered prayers echoed
through the boarded floors
resonating in the old heaters.
They taught of the starving babies
in Africa; the droughts in India.
Each girl handed a Trócaire box
to take home. Every swear word
uttered; a penny went into it;
boxes were filled often
without much argument from sinners.
They taught a bit of everything;
Needlework, cookery and historical facts
about Henry the 8th and his many wives;
but nothing of the 300.000 Irish sold
to slavery in the new colonies of the West Indies
and America’s, Nor of the fate
of Ann Glover; sold to the planters;
the first witch killed
in the Massachusetts witch trials of 1688.
Her native language
confused as the devils tongue.
I imagine she thought Cotton Mathers
mad for thinking such a thing. Her a
a mere washerwoman.
The 60’s by-passed St. Teresa’s I think.
Through the nuns we learnt the bibles history,
the litanies, love for others; Respect.
“You’d rarely see a nun dressed in habit these days”

The Sperrin Mountains

Take a dander over peat clad slopes
Find the ancient past alive
On the fringes of the Sperrins.
Pigeon top, a silent view.
Absorb, sponge like, the secrets
of the mass rock were hooded priests
pray in whispers.
Beagmore stone circles retell
hardships of bronze age man
strong, creative
protective of family clan.
The Ogham stone of Greencastle
notches ingrained, communicators
of the barren landscape.
Take a dander over the Sperrins
sense the myths hidden in bedrock
hear the echoes of the past re-claimed.

Touched by madness

In the first signs of spring
the thawing frost
the thawing wintered heart.
When the words of a poem
wrestles about in dreams
lost in daylight hours.
I’m touched by madness
my madness, your madness.
My friend madness
that comes and goes
as it pleases, wraps me
in a shawl of bog cotton.

The news at ten

There was in our house a silence
it banged in my eardrums
followed me to bed under the watchful eye
of Oliver Plunkett.
Ears pressed tight on the hard feather pillow
the eiderdown wrestled with coarse blankets.
Silent drums paraded, fractured only by the ‘news at ten,’
“Whist”
‘13 shot dead in Derry’
Never much liked the news after that.

Heirlooms

If willow patterned plates could talk
the stories they would hold
given from mother to mother
words ingrained on the soul.
It would carry tears of an uprising
from the home at Vinegar Hill
‘Basket women’ some called them
mopping their men’s blood spill.
They too became fighting women
took all sorts to the men in the fields
hidden in wicker baskets
on the bars of their bicycle wheels.
It sits with friends in the hallway
the pattern now faded to grey
almost a century; come Easter
with a life time of tales to convey.
under the moons light
a hedgehog walks alone
journeys end.

Casting off

Getting beyond your land mass of hills, bog
and the binding of a strict catholic upbringing
takes some working.
When mother poor of purse filled diligently
the chapel envelopes for mass
I rebelled.
Shamefully I begrudged giving
when wicker baskets were passed
from row to row.
The clink of coins set off a clink in me
a change that has developed since
and continues still.
Mine is not a raging god who casts out revenge
sending me to the fires of hell.
I know that, feel it in my soul.

Imbolc

Loitering out there somewhere in the heavy frosty air
spring awaits. Among these familiar Tyrone hills
fauna once coiled attempts to unfold in the morning
mist.
Underfoot in the dark rooms of the earth; a miracle
is at work. Bulbs burst forth; ready to catch that light
and spark of springs arrival. Life rumbles on unnoticed
at first.
Trees along the riverbank sing woeful songs about the noise
of coughing cement mixers and lorries that cut trails into
the valley; readied for tall shops and over priced flats.
They sing at night in a low manner for the lost order of things;
cows and sheep leaving for pastures new; hedge crawlers have
all but disappeared from their view.
A thousand years has passed its trunk, catching tales on the wind
Secrets and shames of love and loss in childhood games.
The mighty oak sing to the beat of re-generation.
winters coat
birds unable to furrow
come close.
against the window
melting snow
melting the moon
May Eve.
Beltaine on the lands
hawthorn blossoms catch the wind
air dressed in Mays’ coat
swanning past the window pane.
With simple fragrances blown,
with it comes the butterfly.


November Storm

The wind tonight is merciless,
tearing up the yard and throwing its
damaged ego against the doors.
Branches whip against the window pane,
bin lids flap with dangerous jaws
grabbing all that lands its way.
Afraid to venture out for a sniff about
the dog curls her back to it like a cat.
We hear the leaves circulate at the door.
Coal in the fire argues with the wind; hissing
and spiting stubbornly; casting shadows on the wall
like warriors or better still, angels.
The wind tonight is merciless.

Loretto convent primary

Dress code was strict
like the cataclysms repeated.
Gabardine in navy blue;
kimono, crisp white shirt, tie.
White or black plimsoles
a customary slipper bag.
The nuns guarded the grounds
like penguins on parade
on the lookout for impudence.
Our lady’s’ grotto, daisy chains
Come mayday.
Respect was a good thing.
Mother Mona bent with age
bore no warmth
although welcomed us always.
Married to god
her happiness traced as
lines on olive skin.
Never liked a chatterbox
more than once I had to hold
my tongue at the blackboard;
or stand for ages with arms out
shoulder length, crucified, like Jesus.
I think of Sister Joanne
fresh faced, funny, light of
heart.
I couldn’t understand her calling then.

The Magpie

Two tone thieves gather like senators
or tenors, slightly tipping as if heavy bellied.
Green and purple smudged feathers glint
as the sunlight catches them.
They chatter on the trapeze of a fairy thorn.
Ever vigilant, a salmons glance towards glinting
treasures, presumed below in suburbs.
They come, silent now, a pilots precision
gliding towards the milk tops
shining like fools gold on the door step,
cute enough, they scan the house for noise,
I stand; still as an Oak tree.
Carefully they pluck the silver lid
lap up the cream stash the lids in their beak
and make off for the hill top again.

Litha

Longing for the coming solstice
in celebration of the light
the suns warming rays aid
herb gathering in honor of mother earth
and her fruitfulness.

Snapshots

Life now is consumed by words;
snapshots of conversations
lingerings of a dream recalled
from many moons ago
wandering in and out of mind;
returning with flashes of insight.
The note book I carry tells
the tale of a woman possessed
with knitting words into something.
They carry me through the days
the way others unearth weeds
and rake the soil for new beds.
I take these snippets on trips
to the five sisters lakes or to
Beagmore stone circles; hoping
bronze age man might throw pearls my way.

A walk through the town.

The bells on the sacred heart chapel
ring out the angelus in the faint frost.
Brightly lit; the chapel dives skyward.
Friday confessions, they somberly walk in.
The world on their shoulders and within the
hour emerge smiling again.
Ready for the weekend; a clean slate, the sin-eater
swallowed the badness and served it on a plate
to old nick.
The pavements glitter like reflected stars
only it’s not stars, it’s John Street on a Saturday
night and already the clubs filling up.
Noises rise into the moonless night, Rock, club sounds
traditional, Ambulances siren and loud shouting.
A hen party arrives under the courthouse clock.
Someone has already thrown up in Georges Street
between the taxi office and the Chinese.
Teens in spangley heels and boob tubes shiver,
I want to wrap them in Mohair jumpers to keep warm.

The Hillman Imp

(a.k.a. The scottish hill-climber)
‘A devil of a wee car’ Da would brag.
The embarrassment I’d think
cube framed and as small as.
It took us on weekend voyages
crossing the border into Donegal
coughing and percolating into Pettico,
over rocky clumps, it wrestled the bendy roads .
Killybegs meant fish forever
poached, fried, boiled.
Da, re-juvenated on the journey
Ma delighted at glimpses of her flag.
We took the long route home
the air fused of trawlers, old holborn,
whiskey chasers and sea weed.
We stopped at intimate villages
devoid of pound signs and iron fists.
Native speakers greeted warmly in soft tones.
‘Where the sea met slate rock, we breathed salt air
into fume filled lungs, returning inland more refreshed.’

On the windy hill

his shell lies in the modern graveyard
devoid of flowers and over the top
headstones. Another parochial rule
even in death the papal orders are
engraved in the soil.
Although entombed there on that windy hill
with views of Gortin Glens and the Sperrins
in every direction; his spirit is not there
It’s here among us, with family ties.
Striding along side me in my daily deaths
Watching my unfoldment.

Before I was born

Not much of a honeymoon serenaded by
the invaders in war stance; on the hunch of
rebellion you were herded like cattle and
interned on a pre-war prison ship!
So; the bloodlines inherit the tremors.
Barbed wire horizons greeted the sunrise
your morning ‘taibreamh’ , a few songs away.
Wedding bells now a stunned memory.
So; the bloodlines inherit the tremors.
Letters from home faintly scented with images
and languages know in heart and vein;
brought some comfort as the storms gathered.
So; the bloodlines inherit the tremors.
The lough; draconian to the boat full of women;
jeered at from the shore as they approached the fragile
wreck of the Al-rawdah. Assaulting your nostrils
the cruelty of the oppressors.
And so; the bloodlines inherit the tremors.
‘taibreamh Dream

Ma’s Piano

Apart from the regular news bulletin c/o my father
music surrounded the home like a comfort blanket
each of us had our own beat.
In the living room pride of place a grand looking piano
that mother had bought in an auction, thrilled her
the very sight of it; never mind the sound.
It was a big deal to have piano in the home then.
Contentment to fathers’ erratic fiddle playing I thought.
Together they weaved our childhood songs.
She’d often on one hand play a song she’d learnt years ago
before coming up North when life went by
at a slower tempo.
Sometimes at the end of the night her key on piano
stirred a song in father; Sean Nos singing ensued
and emotions took over.
“Sean-nós singing is a highly-ornamented style of solo singing defined by one source as:
…a rather complex way of singing in Gaelic, confined mainly to some areas in the west and
south of the country. It is unaccompanied and has a highly ornamented melodic line….Not all
areas have the same type of ornamentation–one finds a very florid line in Connacht, contrasting
with a somewhat less decorated one in the south, and, by comparison, a stark simplicity in the
northern songs”

This song remembers…

A song drifted from the neighbours’ yard
volume high…
I was back again at the disco.
My sister sneaked me into the hall
“Just copy me”
The flashing light from the DJ box
caught my eye.
A lonely mirror ball floated above
a lit up crossword styled floor, every now
and then flashing on the beige walls.
An out-of-town DJ clad in denim
wearing cowboy boots and moustache;
flipped his LP’s; then in a radio voice,
“The first number of the night kicks off
for all you lovers out there,
“Love Is Like Oxygen “– Sweet

Teachers

Are we ready for them?
They come to us through life
some stay only a while
whilst others stay a life time.
Some in a passing word
or expression others
we have come to know gradually
whose expansion of soul
reaches ours.
I often wonder
if we appreciate those teachers
who impart the knowledge
we lack? I hope so.
I have sensed it in their energy
wrestled with the connection, tuned into
their radio frequency; a message
will come if we are alert enough.
Bath a while in this beautiful transmission;
adrift on the creation of ones soul
for these teachers may only stay a short while.

Night falls soon

The powder pink evening
combs the sky of summer
like a comet trailing.
My eyes dance the last waltz
of daylight hours.
A fiery Thrush bob’s its tail
singing out its last chorus
gathering up the young
dallying below in town.
Trees in eyeshot
fan the horizon in gestures
of a soft wave, calling the
night creatures, return to
the hedges and stone walls,
.
For the sun has retreated
and the mistress of the moon
has beckoned her night creatures
on missions over field and stream.
The wail of the sleek tom cat
serenades the urban air, drifting
out to rural pathways on the prowl.

The Sniper

Watching the morning rise above the house
I open my eyes to the beauty of life’s offer
The amethyst sky seriating the landscape
the winding grey of the country roads wavering
like smoke through the hills.
The Victorian houses on Gallows Hill
appear out of the fine mist, scary almost
as the ghosts of the hanged, who perhaps; loiter
through it’s red brick buildings, old yards
and unevenly paved alleyways.
Cattle balance their hooves upon a sphere
of grass. A farmer in dungarees drives his
quad bike against the wandering cattle
unafraid of its scrambling in the mud.
Winter loiters behind the hedges and hill sides
a sniper awaiting Autumns’ end who cares not
for the order of seasons or ancient god Lúnasa;
But for his frosty breath to kill the germs that
have gathered all summer.

Aine MacAodha is a writer and amateur photographer from Omagh,
situated in County Tyrone; North of Ireland. This is her second
collection; her first collection ‘Where the three rivers meet’ was
published in 2008.
Poems first appeared.
World Haiku Review, Vol. 6, Issue 3, Enniscorthy Echo, Peony
Moon, The Glasgow Review, Celtic Myth Podshow, The Toronto
Quarterly, Issue 1&2 of soylesi poetry magazine, Debris
Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Essays and poetry at Luciole Press,
Shamrock Haiku Journal.
Also a keen photographer and member of, Saatchi online, Redbubble, Fotolibra, My Art space
and Printpop.

About the Author

Aine MacAodha was born Ann Keys, in the North of Ireland in 1963. Her sense of place growing up amid the war in the north, and the beauty surrounding it, inspires her writing.
This is her first collection of poems spanning ten years. The title of Where the Three Rivers Meet refers to the three rivers in Omagh that meet in the town’s centre: The Strule, Drumragh and the Camowen. She also draws much of her inspiration from The Sperrin Mountains, in her native Tyrone.
Her work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies throughout Ireland (most recently in A New Ulster ), the USA and the UK. She is a founder member of the Omagh Writers Group, The Busheaneys and The Derry Playhouse Writers, and is also a member of Haiku
Ireland. In 2001, she received the Tyrone Guthrie Bursary from Omagh District Council.
She is also an avid photographer.

She has three grown-up children, Michaela, Penny and James.

WHERE THE THREE RIVERS MEET by AINE MACAODHA
JEFFREY SIDE Reviews

Where the Three Rivers Meet by Aine MacAodha
(Lulu Press, 2008. Free download available.)

Where the Three Rivers Meet by Aine MacAodha is a collection of poems linguistically evocative of 17th century Irish Gaelic poetry, although written in English. This is not surprising as MacAodha is an Irish poet intuitively connected to that rich poetic tradition. Her poems are rich with references and imagery that evoke the mythos of Ireland’s ancient history and Celtic traditions. She also writes about the landscape with a sincere affection and respect not only for its actuality, but for its vitality and mystery. In some respects, some of her poetry has a connectedness to the ancient traditions and concerns figuratively expressed in various earth religions, as well as in Celtic Christianity.

The vocabulary of the poems is interesting. MacAodha uses words that are largely unfamiliar to most readers, such as “dander”, “beagmore”, “alder”, “lough”, “gaels” and “firbolgs”. She also makes copious references to Irish mythic figures and places, such Cú Chulainn, a legendary Irish hero and demi-god, and “Tara”, which was the ancient seat of the high kings of Ireland. The obscurity of these words and references should not impede the reader of these poems. Far from it, they function as intertextual metonymic ciphers to be appropriated by the reader for his or her own personal exegesis.
The supernatural is never far removed from the poetry, and is largely expressed in refreshingly rhetorical terms:
I feel its supernatural pull
working its way up from the earth
and out to the universe.
(‘Aghascrebah Ogham Stone, Ireland’)
Into this November air
a supernatural force
draws me to it like a magnet
(‘Aghascrebah Ogham Stone, Ireland’)
She is the blueprints
of the past,
the wishes of the unborn,
the spirit of the crops
(‘Fire of the Gaels’)
Here, the physicality of the natural environment is “spiritualised” and enlivened by the poet’s consciousness, and words like ‘pull’ and ‘draws’ signify a forward (and perhaps upward) movement suggestive of a monistic narrowing of the “gap” between “heaven” and earth; spirit and matter.
Additionally, the landscape is made to resonate with human and non-human “energies” implanted long ago. For instance, the Sperrin countryside (a region in Northern Ireland) is described as if it can “record” past history, as is seen in the following stanza from ‘The Sperrin Mountains’, where dander (a material shed from the bodies of animals) is imbued with consciousness in order to recognise the latent “recorded” historical energies present in the landscape:
Dander over the peat clad slopes
find the ancient past alive
in the bones of the Sperrins.
This is again seen in ‘Banda’:
In myths we recall our living past,
woven as carpet on the landscape.
In stones, trees and bog;
in birds, horse and dog.
Here, sentient and non-sentient matter become amalgamated and seen as (to a degree) functioning as geological recording devices. Yet, in this poem, the recorded energies develop into personalised “ghostly” manifestations, and accordingly the poetic register is made to complement this transformation by taking on a more archaic and almost biblical tone:
Oh sacred bile, Oh graveyard Yew,
the Hawthorn and the Oak;
the Hazel, Alder and the Rowan,
the Willow and the faery folk.
Pay homage to the spirits of Tara,
the ones who went before
the Warriors, Bards and Kings,
the Queens and many more.
MacAodha’s use of poetic language is interesting in that it exists within its own self-demarcated boundaries, not reliant on mere description for its affects. For instance, in ‘Fire of the Gaels’ we see the lines:
Her stories, etched on the
landscapes of the universe.
It matters not that the universe has no landscapes (it being the sum of space and time); the lines convey the intransience of the “stories” through imagery that signifies solidity and durability. A slighter poet would have taken greater pains to minutely describe what MacAodha, here, has achieved in just two lines. One of the distinctive aspects of her poetry is that it uses Gaelic words and imagery that, as mentioned earlier, most readers would find unfamiliar. The poem ‘Mise Eire’ is an appropriate example, with such phrases as: ‘Tell me of Cu Chulainn’, ‘the battles of the Tain Bo’ and ‘the progress of the firbolgs. / The De danaans on the hill’. It is of little import that a reader may not know what these lines signify. It is, of course, easily possible for such a reader to find out what they mean, but to do so, in my view, would not significantly add to an appreciation of the poem’s use of such language. Poetry is, after all, not prose and to expect it to operate similarly is to misunderstand the nature of poetic language. The lines are best approached in such a manner as to allow readers to decide for themselves what words like, ‘Cu Chulainn’, ‘Tain Bo’, ‘firbolgs and ‘De danaans’ suggest to them, rather than turning to a dictionary or an encyclopaedia with each line.
In ‘Oak Lake, County Tyrone’, MacAodha displays a more conventional lyricism:
The lake waltzes to and fro
like a child mesmerized
by magical stories voiced
by an old teller of tales.
Its edges flanked with an audience of
purple moss, pink cranberry flower
and the burnt orange of summer gorse,
all paying homage by showiness.
A clump of rushes moves slightly.
I think of childhood tales of
the watershee luring one off
to the silver world of faeries.
Yet, even here we notice a transcendence and mysteriousness, as the poem concludes with the “disappearance” of its speaker; a disappearance which parallels that of the daylight:
The light of the day now slipping
ever so peacefully behind the
peaks of the Sperrins. I shall go now
and take its essence with me,
to sooth my night quests ahead.

We are placed in doubt as to who, or what, this speaker is. Is it a sentient being within nature or is it an aspect of nature itself?

Like all good poetry, we are left with more questions than answers. As a first collection of poetry, Where the Three Rivers Meet is noteworthy and I highly recommend it.

Jeffrey Side studied English at Liverpool University and Leeds University, and has had poetry published in various magazines such as Poetry Salzburg Review, and on poetry web sites such as Underground Window, A Little Poetry, Poethia, nthposition, eratio, Ancient Heart, Blazevox, Lily, Big Bridge, Jacket, Textimagepoem, Apochryphaltext, 9th St. Laboratories, P.F.S. Post, Great Works, hutt, ken*again, Poets’ Corner, The Dande Review, Poetry Bay, Dusie and CybpherAnthology. He has reviewed poetry for New Hope International, Stride, Acumen, and Shearsman. From 1996 to 2000 he was the assistant editor of The Argotist magazine. He now edits The Argotist Online. He has two poetry collections out, Carrier of the Seed (Blazevox) and Slimvol (cPress).