Friday, 1 October 2021

For These Days

Though our cat lives a life I can only dream of
there is a certain steady freedom with his reign.
No killing sprees on the flocks of local sheep or
the barking that accompanies the postman every day.
The cat is pristine and insists on an access-all-areas
cycle of cleaning that he must repeat ad nauseum.
He makes a point of ridding his fur of the human rub
that he claims by force as and when it is required.
We can drive away without a thought for our cub,
and return to find him safe and well and dry.

But the dog. I miss having a dog so much.
It is a parcel of preparation and plotting,
and flea-and-tick treatments that don't work.
And training, and grooming and washing
to no actual purpose.

Now walks to the woods are the ways of my daughters 
and I feel they must
have a pet for adventures.

Thursday, 30 September 2021


Adjustable paper guide, blackberry picking,
Barry's Tea and red wine, neighbours carol singing.
October winds and matchstalk men, a yellow Renault five,
Mossie the old milkman, and a pocket full of rye. 
Orange kitchen cupboards, cod liver oil,
potatoes for the next day, peelings for the soil.
The kettle's always boiling, jars crammed full,
tomato plants are spoiling, salt in handfuls.

A corner full of beehives, mint sauce and chops,
a black rabbit on the driveway, six crowing cocks.
Guitar frets and card decks, bunged airlocks,
rows of earthed strawberry beds, the oven drying damp socks.
Carbon copy paper sheets, headscarves in the rain,
line-space lever, sink full of ware again.
A little mouse with clogs on, script deadlines,
borage and parsley... sage, rosemary and thyme.

Frances filled forms,
won awards,
She pulled letters from scrawls,
print from shorthand;
all while a small child crawled
on to her lap.
Each submission
meant typing up twice;
no copiers or printers,
just mornings and nights.

I got my fingers stuck between those keys, 
until the electric typewriter muffled their clacks. 
And then a stream of clunky PCs
were replaced by laptops that went fast, fast, fast. 
The technology improved in leaps
of too much change at too much speed.
Arnica and aconite just when you think 
you can make both ends meet, margin release.

(Explanation: On 30/08/2021 my mother, Frances O'Keeffe, passed away. She was 72 years old. She had been very sick for a very long time, really since 1998, but with long periods of wellness between then and 2010. And she hadn't been herself for years. I am one of six children, she is a huge loss to us all, and no less for her seven grandchildren, who she possibly loved more than us. They were lucky to meet her and she them. RIP Frances, 1948-2021).

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Fresh Plaster

The smell of fresh plaster,
the seamless poured floor;
the swallows from the rafters
flying in and out the door.

The buildings now fulfilling,
a producing little brood.
Already there are gardens,
already there is food.

Already on these acres
there's gravel and there's lawn.
Only early days,
but the fresh plaster smell is gone.

(Explanation: We waited through a lot of lockdowns to visit our friends at their new home. It was a series of ruins when we saw it in 2019, with our friends living in a mobile home on site. Fast-forward to July 2021 and we thought we'd arrived at the wrong house).

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

All The Same

Flatbed trailers clatter by,
silage through brambled ditch.
We watch out and identify
the haylage and the baleage.
A four-hour call of everything,
a fifteen-year rectifier.
Lola still threatening
the big move back to Glanmire.

All the time, all that changed
all the same, just re-arranged.
Silk Cut Purple stolen days
tossed and stored, just like the hay.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

A Plea To The Cat

To be fair to the robin chicks,
the sparrows and the rabbit kits,
to the naked newborn crying shrewlets,

you were once a little kitten,
who took all the chances given
by visit upon visit to the vet.

Shots of antibiotics,
hoping and finger crossing,
care like you had never known.

Prescription narcotics
at costs verging on chronic,
so you might give this life a go.

Spare a thought for the unwary,
you are a cat who grew up safely,
favoured by some overloaded dice. 

Try to live life fairly,
pick on creatures not still babies.
But, all bets are off in terms of rats and mice.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

The Jay

After so many local strolls,
only so many local ways,
the children had given up hope
of stumbling on anything rare.
Then all on one path
a red squirrel, a crossbill,
and a caroling blackcap
thrilling in tuneful trills.
The best of the show
at the end of the day
was the painted crow,
the colourful jay.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

An Fhorrach Liath

Not Kealfoun or woody Crough,
Ashtown of the ash trees, Mahon of the coomb,
not Graiguerush, Kilclooney, 
Currabaha West or East
can hold a flame for that terrain
known as Furraleigh.

There are rabbits there, like everywhere,
like all the townlands 'round.
But grey ones without just can't compare 
to the ones within its bounds.

The grey place has big black rabbits,
uncloaked for all to see.
There they live, there they persist,
in exotic Furraleigh.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Man And Dog

The waiting room man
told me about his fifteen-year-old
sheepdog, recently attacked
by a vicious roving canine.
I felt guilty as I sat
waiting for the pampered cat
to be boostered and elicit delight.

Across me to his man
leapt a glossy exuberant dog.
A whole animal
with an energy I coveted.
The plastic cone in place
now the only trace
of how that life had hung by a thread.

Friday, 12 February 2021


Rushes in February a reliable sight.
A flash of salutary mountain life.

Fold the first, then the second,
fold the third, a layer of blessing
if you like,
Hello, Mr. Magpie, and how's your wife?
Tradition only happens
when repetition matters.
The original fidget spinner,
an artwork without tape or scissors,
is sliding to reunion
in a natural conclusion.

The last rush bends,
the beginning meets the end.

Friday, 1 January 2021

The Shortest Day

Even the evergreens
look faded
before the shortest day is seen.
The fruit trees look like they've barely
ever glimpsed a sunny beam;
the branches bare suggest
they can't go on without the leaves,
and the robin's grubby breast
needs a good old-fashioned clean.
Everywhere everything's got tougher with the cold
The rabbits stare the cat down,
they've time to settle scores.
The heron in the clouds
blends its grey into the woe.
The flowers' stalks are rotten,
they've given up the ghost,
and all colour is forgotten
save for one unlearned rose.

Days stretch, shoots reach,
light drenches, life seeds,
time turns, things change,
a rose learns when to fade.
Flowers die just to strengthen
days darken just to lengthen.
Nature sleeps, insulates,
digs down deep to reinstate.
All energy returns within
and the world still spins, still spins, still spins.