Achilles in the farmyard
He set down a round of ash
with exact concentric rings,
quickened his mind, swung the axe
We seldom speak of you in this house
where you stabled your plough horses.
You are that silence between sounds we rarely note.
The grocer sits and smokes behind his counter
- pock-marked lino top with tobacco burns -
explains to any listening idler
The barn door
I shove the barn door. Half off its hinges, it pushes back.
Its face is implacable, like the face of an old Sioux chieftain
contemplating endurance, loss, my inadequacy.
Sunday tomorrow. The house goes still.
Her father steadies himself at the basin,
foam like January snow on his face.
The blue guitar
When the blue guitar came
your dolls had already
become strangers to your hands
Bodies in the machine
He must have put in his nights in this chair
in front of the Bakelite wireless and smoked
while nettles clustered in his front porch
The Calf Man
Three or four times a year a van drove into the yard,
the calf-man climbed out and unlocked the doors
to show to my father, who pretended scepticism,
Canis lupus familiaris. That’s dog
in Latin, he’d brag. Too bloody familiar,
she always threw back, resenting his mongrels
The hairdresser pauses
The hairdresser stands behind me,
her hands flowing over my hair.
We could be under water
The infant Jesus to his mother
I watched you pick up a feather
out the back, beyond the shed.
You smiled at it then hid it
Jesus loves Angela
It began on the beautiful day,
that's what she called it, the beautiful day
an angel stopped her on the Newbridge road
A Letter from John Morrin, Royal Airforce Base, Aden
Khormaksar, 28th October 1949.
The heat in this place thins the blood.
The doctor says watch out for colds
for six months after going home.
He flits from the butcher’s stall across Main Street
unbuttoning his beige coat. The usual need
drives him to Kelleher's discreet side-door
The new calf
My father knots a rope behind the calf's hooves
- only the hooves have come out so far - tells me: Pull!
The cow jumps and bellows, the calf seems to resist,
A night out
They have made the effort all the same.
Spruced up in fresh, pressed clothes
in the beige of the Corrib Lounge
Since the final fight, details now forgotten,
when pride sealed up their hearts and mouths
they have made their own mute liturgy:
On a burning childhood day
in that corner of a field
where our small, slow river
The red heifer
The river field sinks into the dark,
raindrops drip from the slates of the cowshed,
the paper sprawls across the kitchen table,
The doctor's pleasure on Saturdays
was to drive out to the hotel
and behind its ivy-veiled facade
Taking the plunge
The boy in the photo hangs above the Atlantic
like a drop of rain from the edge of a leaf,
paused in mid-air between diving board and water
You've been great
A bronzed man pirouettes
on the TV in the corner
for his afternoon audience
Watching you walk to work
I watch you walk down the South Circular Road.
In dappled shadows, leaves and sunshine
you seem to dissolve into dancing dark and light,
With Niamh in Harcourt Street Children's Hospital
The intravenous drip machine doggedly
hums through the night,
breaks into fits of frantic ticks
A woman runs along city rooftops holding her hat
She flits past blackened angels,
chimneys higher than houses,
walls heavy with wealth.
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I have been writing poetry since around 1990. My work has appeared in Irish and British literary journals and has been published as a collection in The Blue Guitar (Salmon Poetry, 2011) and previously in a short collection called You've Been Great (Smith/Doorstop, 2008) which won a Poetry Business prize the previous year. I have an MA in English and Creative Writing from Lancaster University.