Selected poems, including from Caveat and All of the Spaces
scroll right to read more
The green glass vase will break
so smash it now;
either you will try
to carry your memento, and it will crack,
or you will refuse to leave it behind
and never travel.
broken is the only way to carry
each piece a doll’s house saucer
each a palm open
to the room where you pack to leave.
Beat the light into crystals
so that you are free to move –
and when you travel,
fold them in a cloth.
At your destination,
don’t try to reassemble
its old form has gone –
but in the workshop at the lough-side
tip out the crushed pieces
and fuse them into something new.
Sculpture of Nine Verses
(Inspired by Saloua Raouda Choucair)
by interlocking pieces
grace between each line
how space alters every note
how each limb
is softened in shadow
when lying down together
I listen cannot recall voice until
the rise and fall of your imperatives
we are in umbra now
gaps between take shape
open and close
like verses –
we elide –
nose our mouth clavicle
nape the cages of our hearts
the pit of us
our bald scars
because I am typing your words
on tracing paper
typing as slowly
as saying a prayer
so that you
are the fixed centre around which
my eye moves
because I am doing this
in a room I have made white –
because there has been too much blood
in our years together –
and because it is only in this solace
of white in this slow action
that the next word will come
because of the space –
created by the time
all of the spaces white
and because of the echo
of the typewriter
in this empty room empty
save for a bed
white of course
because of this
you have delivered pink roses
with an abundance of leaves
their petals small tongues whispering
their firm hearts layered
and beautiful to peel
it is because of the white
that the roses are here
imploring dancing dancing
under a candelabra of white papers
It’s November and half way through the Our Father
when Richie lifts his head and slurs ‘Halloween
be thy name.’ We serve plates of food –
little rescue rafts on an uncertain sea.
Even the homeless centre reminds me of you:
the way you talked to the man on the street in Dublin,
bought him a meal in The Bleeding Horse and told him
you’d just lost God. I didn’t know who was helping who.
Richie shovels bolognese, his head hits the table.
Coaxed into standing, he slides
backwards and forwards in unlaced shoes,
‘Come on lad! Come on mate!’
A bruise for a face. He falls and rises, slips
and staggers away between unsteady men.
The chairs are wiped, the floor is brushed,
we wash our hands, and the room steadies.
I remember O’Shea on the steps of The Merrion Hotel –
clean-shaven, his hand out for money, his soft voice.
I gave him five euros just to listen to his story
and wondered if he knew you:
the Good Samaritan from Fermanagh
clutching National Geographic shouting
‘There is nothing. Only this.’
Our table is vacant at the Walker café
I pray for you
before Dante’s Dream
retrace our steps
beyond The Sense of Sight
walk back past Pietà, rest
in room five, and tell you
how the cabinet of amber and ivory
created in 1700 to hold treasures
is too heavy for me now –
all riches too much to care for
when all I want is weightless
First published in Issue 1 of The High Window
In The Kasbah
they eat sliced oranges
bright with sugar.
He pours mint tea from a height,
loves the drama.
She’s in his darkness.
A purple shadow makes a thumb print,
a smudge, a small mistake.
It’s a squall of white that captures her attention,
like the promise of a covenant.
She could speak
or take the lemons from this scrubbed table,
but she doesn’t want to disturb
First published in Crannóg, 2016
I saw a bowl of peaches on your desk,
no books, there were no words, no heat,
no candles spilling light. My life
was closed in your still hand,
I moved a finger slow across washed skin,
held fruit in my hands, rain fell soft,
small drops appeared above your lips
and hail hit windows.
First published in Crannóg
The Paper Tree
I thrash from a sea bed to the surface, breathe,
backstroke through dreams. Last night –
Oxford. Jericho, cafes lit
in the afternoon. A panini, an Americano,
and I’m in every cafe where I talked with him
from here to Rosapenna.
The years flicker – notebook pages turn –
the story sleeps. I dig into my bag
for scissors, shred and quill paper. A tree rises
from the pages’ heart: its branches frayed.
The table is scattered with paper remnants –
the book won’t close:
I hug it to me, leave
and wander through crisp air. The tree
in my arms as my boots echo
I am with him again –
late at night in a cellar bar,
drinking till we fall.
First published in Prole
A high pitch of mandolin and bazouki,
the clack of backgammon counters;
some place drenched with mint,
jasmine, and sweet coriander;
where night is absorbed into morning,
where the sound of the tide
is soothing white noise;
where there are no borders –
streets fall to the beach,
cedar watch waves, know secrets;
where there is no distinction
between memory and dream:
I pour myself, an offertory –
wake with incantations on my lips.
First published in Issue 1 of The High Window
Liverpool Lime Street, Sunday Night
A wind like a paring knife peels the platform,
lights are dim and two androgynous guards
pace, cheeks bulging before the next blast,
a screel of suitcase wheels, a last minute stampede,
high pitched yells, a pause – and the whistle –
a semibreve as the train pulls out.
Boys and girls, men and women,
two by two, pressed against railings,
arms hidden inside each other’s clothes.
Slow angel kisses, eyelids and cheeks,
then, Eskimo style, and sometimes, a change
of beat, butterfly kisses. My queue is single file,
chins to necks, stamping feet,
blowing into fisted hands. Vacant eyes.
I want to be in the kissing queue.
First published in Crannóg, 2014