Thursday, 1 October 2020

Fancy Dress

It was dark
in O'Leary's
paved back yard. 
I was sporting
my togs, 
and legwarmers.
A length 
of wool secured
a notice
attempting to
explain the motive 
of my costume:
I'm gonna live forever,
Baby, remember my name.

My sister then,
in furry mittens,
knitted layers,
the perfect kitten.
Hair contrived
to look like ears,
her sign
relaying the already clear:
'Puss In Boots'.

A recent recall
of her fluffy shoes
while I wore socks
revealed my mother's weak excuse;
Averil had thrown together
her own costume.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Flaherty's Lament

I went there myself
for the safety and health
of the VIPs.
But then I forgot
all the training I'd got
as we played the green.
It's all fine and well
for the plebeians
to be quarantined.
Covid-19 is much worse than a cold.
I mean, what's it to you,
you're the dirt on our shoes
after playing the course.
We shook sweaty palms
and gave zero damns
about feeling hoarse.
We shouted the odds,
just like demi-gods,
as we scoffed our roast.
Covid-19 is much worse than a cold.
We sneezed and we coughed
as we fought for the trough,
no heed of risk.
We guffawed and we pranced,
rubbed shoulders and danced,
'til our droplets mixed.
Not one thought for our families;
huddled up clammily
taking the piss.
Covid-19 is much worse than a cold.
We can feed them all day
with a PR parade
and a good old show.
We can keep a straight face
and repeatedly say
that together we row.
We don't give a feck
that we're on the top deck
and they're down below.
Covid-19 is much worse than a cold.
We kicked up our heels
though the many bereaved
couldn't mourne.
We played with the faith
of those who remained
all alone.
We laughed at the lives
that have been sacrificed
in nursing homes.
Covid-19 is much worse than a cold.

(Explanation: The rhythm is based on Adelaide's Lament from Guys And Dolls. The refrain in that is 'A person might develop a cold' or slight variations on it.
Flaherty is a reference to John Flaherty, The Captain of the Guard in Leinster House, the person with responsibility for health and safety for the staff there.
As to the content I will just say #golfgate, and provide links, I am too disgusted to explain:

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Water Daughters

My girls have often paddled
in the River Mahon,
they can hear it roaring after heavy rain.
They have walked down to the bridge,
got too close to Crough Wood's ridges,
they have traced it from the falls and back again.

They have summered at Clonea
going day on day on day,
they have swum like they couldn't get enough.
They have scooped up black sea snails,
watched them make their little trails,
they have chased the herons to the sky above.

Where ancient ruins dwell
they have stood at holy wells,
they've learned about the rituals of old,
They have seen the coins thrown
to offer or atone,
they have climbed over the stile and steps of stone.

At the first beams of dawn
they have hiked to Coumshingaun,
they know the rocks and trees along the way.
They've breakfasted at water's edge,
walked the winding narrow ledges,
they have dipped their toes into the freezing lake.

(Published on Water Heritage Day, 23rd August 2020).

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Breakfast In Bed

He lies on his blanket
and I push my feet underneath.
I eat my breakfast in bed
and then it's time for second sleep.
When the children wake
the cat and I are fortified.
We do this every single day
because we've had worse morning times.
We've seen the other side,
we've been waited on.
We've had to smile and lie
through the burnt toast plastered in cinnamon
that even when eaten with the utmost care
spews crumbs on the quilt.
For me it's even more unfair
because the cat is not expected to eat it
eventhough I do not like toast either.
So, we have our breakfasts in secret
ready to truthfully attest
that we have already eaten.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The New Foal

When leaving the field
the children wanted to climb
over the gate, five feet
up then down the other side.
The eldest sprung over,
it was the first time that she
did not wait for her younger
sister to prove the possibility.
She had tall confidence.
The youngest, frustrated by her
shorter legs,
pointed out that we weren't
there to climb the gate,
but to see the new foal.
They felt they had a stake
after feeding the mare nextdoor
for the last few months.
We had seen the pair were safe and sound
so that was a good result.
Such things matter more in lockdown.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Stones And String And Shells

For all of our hiding the mess,
filling the recycling bin,
for all the preparation for our guests,
and all the anticipation,
Holly insisted on going kneeless
in her leggings that were beyond faded,
she refused a plaster for the bleeding
finger, in tissue and tape instead.
Her face glowed a green hue,
the result of two attempts at face-painting,
and twelve at removal.
And to finish the look the chunk of hair
she had cut out of her scalp, for the drama,
could not be persuaded to look unshorn.
Paddy and his sisters detailed the saga
of their aunt who doesn't like sweetcorn.

And now juggling shows and magic acts,
trading lego bits,
a day of churros, a slime-filled pack,
made-up jokes of hit-and-miss,
Sadie, Susie and Fiadh drawing,
cracking codes is all the rage,
plans to rap before the masses
may not play out so well on stage.

Post in myriad methods,
dispatches of suspense.
hand-delivered messages,
stones and string and shells.
Voice memos and a trail of notes
weave a tender spell.
Stamps and franks and envelopes
delight, bewitch, compel.

(Explanation: In March 2019 we had a visit from another homeschool family, Ciara and her children, the Glaveys. We have had many meetings since then, and many lovely postal and electronic exchanges. A wonderful store of happy memories.
We miss Ciara and her children a lot. When I wrote this I had no idea that the COVID-19 emergency would see us all in lockdown).

Friday, 1 May 2020

Prospect Of Flowers

In the near-deserted petrol station
we took turns going to the hatch.
When the other car started
Oh, What A Night was blasted
into the emptiness.
My mind couldn't help but go
to nightclubs and dresses,
gyspy tops and purple eyeshadow,
and I thought I want my daughters
to have memories
that can be jarred like that;
back to make-up, and mistakes, and meeting,
and making promises, and keeping secrets,
expectations, phone calls, stops and starts,
high-heeled shoes, and higher boots, cash,
and waists, time for waiting and for chances,
time to kill,
and all the dancing.

The man with all the memories
joined the supermarket line
behind me
but kept shuffling back down the aisle.
We were all giving each other space,
but I swear he thought I had it.
He kept edging away then taking his place,
and I felt I was covered in lipstick kisses.
So, here he was back again,
the old man with his wheelie charge,
all he had was fabric softener
and a bunch of big bright purple flowers.
He was old in a raffle-ticket manner,
with dinner-dance authority.
You've your priorities straight, I observed,
in a world of fevered panic-sprees.
And then I regretted the word fevered,
and told him to go ahead of me.
Oh, no, he said, I'm waiting for half ten.
It's our anniversary,
I've a bottle of wine to get.
Herself likes a glass, I like it myself.

I feel suddenly young
unlike recently, when I became aunt to an adult.
I want to play The Weight and jump
with the crowd that has reclaimed the planet.
I want to stand on my old road, in line
as Ursula Cogan passes
in silence, and for the last time.
Oh, the nights we had in her kitchen.
While they stand I watch flashes of yellow,
a life of painted faces prevails
as the goldfinches pick at the heather,
alive and uncontained.
May we all have the prospect of flowers,
and if wine is the choice of your other
I hope you will queue until the tills allow it.
Let our children have the time
to join the world and live their lives
and be summoned by the sweet surprise
of a sometime scent, a sound, a sight.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020


Sometimes, I can only march.
Not physically.
In my head and in my heart
with mustered energy
I put one foot in front of the other,
and see myself gliding
effortlessly forward,
then walking, then striding,
like someone with purpose.
And though it is a set-up
I can make myself certain
for just long enough.

Sunday, 1 March 2020


The hot press
is full to the brim,
but the actual mess
is dealt with.
Clearing, cleaning,
debating of merits,
sorting and screening
by two young creatives.

Would we ever see our surfaces?
Would we ever clear the hall?
Can you imagine the state of us
if no-one ever called.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Sandwiches For Breakfast

Nora came like a beast of burden,
trafficking all manner of treats,
and sandwiches in the hundreds.
Juice, butter, milk and cream,
chocolate to feed the five thousand,
a piping bag set and her bichon frise.
If there was a herd of wild cows and
goats in the boot I'd have believed it.
Brown bread, candles, an extra cake,
certain items must have become rare
in her purchasing wake.
Certainly, someone somewhere
was out of crisps and popcorn,
and all disposable cups, bowls
and spoons were gone.
It was our first and last such occasion,
planned in lists and ticks
and passed, like all good celebrations,
in what seemed like minutes.
I heard the South African accent
and the Irish ones mingling,
so I knew who was present.
Aedan played the violin,
Oscar the baby flaunted his talents.
It was mostly a day of bad weather.
Sadie and Daniel, Holly and Ellen
decorated their cakes together.

The wet day of children in bare feet
went better than expected.
There were sandwiches for tea
and sandwiches for breakfast.

(Explanation: We had birthday party to mark four birthdays in September 2019, my two and two of their friends marked their 2019 birthdays with their mutual friends).