Sunday, October 23, 2011

456. Ireland in October


The relentless rain
hard and cold
lashes against the windows.

We pull across the curtains
lay more sods of turf
upon the flickering, sputtering fire.

We say nothing, pay attention
to our drams of single malt.

We hear, for we cannot ignore
the half-human howling shrieks
of the wild Atlantic winds.

I don't know, says Uncle Liam,
how much of this you can understand.


in this whitewashed cottage,
planted, perversely,
on the edge of nearly nowhere,
sits a four-poster bed
with sagging springs
in a room no longer used
nor visited; it is occupied now
by dust and sepia photographs.

The procreative urge:
a man and a woman within this room,
unleashed seven generations
of this failing family.

The pounding rain, the howling wind,
in times past, now, and in the coming times to be,
deride all our decent hopes, laugh at our faltering sense
of connection, mock our humanity.


On that upstairs bedroom wall
hangs a faded stitching sampler:
"God Bless Our Happy Home",
accomplished, by her own hand,
by Emily May MacCarthy,
on October 20, 1843.

She was the fifth of eleven children
and one of the seven
who starved to death
along with her despairing parents.

Tadgh and his brother Michael
crossed the wide and unknown ocean,
that angrily rolling sea beyond these windows,
and landed in Ameri-kay; they were lucky
to have missed the war in Mexico
and sent for their two surviving sisters.

Both brothers were killed in the Civil War,
not quite able to pay for "replacements",
and so died, bewildered, for Mr. Lincoln.

I descend from Maureen.
She was the second sister.


there are many many old photographs,
framed here and there on top of stolid furniture.
Dapper gentlemen with large moustaches.
Ladies with long dresses and wide-brimmed hats.
They stare into long-ago unforgiving lenses
with comical expressions of puzzled defiance.

At other times they pose stiffly,
arranged among the most tasteful studio
backdrops: a small side table,
a pillar or two, potted palms.
James Boyle Roche. Photographer.
15 Bridge Street. Ennis
is stamped discreetly, a faded oval
in the left-bottom corner: the building
still exists, the ground floor
is now a fast-food restaurant.


In some photographs
there are wedding couples,
tense and unrelaxed, they stare
sightlessly at us from the past
across a chasm of years
we can never never even begin
to comprehend. He sits, she stands,
but she places a tentative
pleading hand
upon his rigid manly shoulder.

There is another
out-of-place picture
of my great-uncle Marteen,
shot dead in our civil war.
A cocky 24-year-old
with a cheeky grin.
He sits, brandishing
an enormous revolver,
smoking a jaunty cigarette.
I can tell from the look of him
we could have had a drink.


Then there are cloche hats
on rather dumpy women,
the baggy suits on the gents
who grin and squint in the harsh sunlight
of long forgotten days; they sport
ridiculously shortened neckties
and all seem to be having
an awfully good time:
my unknown, unknowable
dead ancestors.

A flicker of empathy
if not of recognition
slips through
this threnody of regret.


Liam is uncharacteristically
subdued, even embarrassed:
he shifts from foot to foot, in front
of the now warm and blazing fire.

Listen, I think I'm going to bed,
it's been a really long day, I say.

Liam frowns. An awkward
silence ensues: Emmmm ...
Listen to me. There's something
I really need to tell you.
It's about the family ....

It's OK, Liam. No need.
It will keep for another hundred years.

455. The Joy of Creation

Three years ago, on an October Monday,
as rooks sarcastically called down from the trees,
he went into his final freeze, lost it, went gaga.
This cataclysmic event is recorded, we have it on CCTV,
downloaded, with GPS, faithfully burned to DVD.

Yet he regales us still with those tired familiar themes,
a combination of medium-grade pathos and low parody,
in those oh-so-catchy, rather tricky combinations,
so utterly repellent to his gaggle of critics,
so attractive to his growing legion of fans.

In a recent interview in Hello magazine
conducted in the artist’s rather dingy home,
stars of Daytime TV declined the offer of tea,
surrounded by cats (and quite possibly rats),
and half-eaten containers of ancient food.

The hirsute, the rather scantily-clad poet,
oblivious to winds whistling through broken windows,
insisted that inspiration came from the Attic Dance.
Rising from his bed of rubber, rather stubbly thorns,
(while admitting that nails were still rather beyond him)

He adopted a rigid and rather slantwise stance
at an angle of approximately forty degrees.
He had his left elbow on the windy window ledge
and his right leg gently waving in the air.
This, we were told, is how all good poems begin.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

454. Liberty & Security v Endless War

Don’t get me started on the Israelis, tearing their robes in sorrow. I’m as sorry as anyone about the Nazi Holocaust during WWII but why do the Palestinians have to pay for German sins? Why did America and European nations refuse to take in Jewish refugees from the Hitler terror even before the war broke out? Simple answer – didn’t care, didn’t want to. So now we dump the problem on others.

Palestine - A Land Without People for a People Without Land. Total and utter nonsense.

To this day the Irish government recognizes the State of Israel as ‘de facto’ and not ‘de jure’ which means that we accept the fact of its existence but not the ideology that lies behind it, i.e. Zionism, which we correctly and accurately describe as racist and selective.

We know all about this Chosen People brainwash from our own experience with a “Protestant State for a Protestant People” in the north of our own island. This kind of thinking is unacceptable in the modern world and the longer the Israelis persist in their persecution of the Palestians and their usurpation of their lands the longer our sympathies will remain with the Palestinians.

So-called terror tactics (all War is unleashed terror) bring no results without a strong political structure. A weaker power cannot afford tanks and airplanes (never mind uniforms) so it goes to war on the strength of a collective ideal – usually a fuzzy idea of liberty and the shape of things to come and a very sharp and focussed wish to expel unwelcome foreign occupation. You take horrific casualties and you wear your enemy down, and in the end you bring him into a negotiated settlement which is what happened not only in Ireland (first South, and then North) but also in Algeria and Vietnam. Also America in the 18th century, come to think of it. Other examples are there to be found. Try Google. Without a strong and united (and popularly supported) political structure behind the armed struggle, ready and able to negotiate with the Other Side, the guerrilla fighters are left out on a limb in a cycle of endless slaughter. This is the basic and essential factor that the Palestinians so far have not been able to get their heads around. And so the cycle grinds on.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

453. Iffy/ Jim

Biddy Maloney down the road had a cat called Iphigenia, Iffy, and they were a bit of a literary family and not above letting you know of it. There's a fox in the story as well, young Seamus, known as Jimmy, whose poor father, Pronsias (Francis) was eaten by the hounds of the wicked English when they were still hulloing hulloing about the place which was before the homemade landmines went in, the kind your granny could set off with a little red button. That was great craic altogether with everyone's granny blowing the shite out of the local landlords until there were none of them left at all at all. So we sent over a message to ask would they not send a few more across to us, but they said NO, in a rather bad-tempered way, and that's when we stopped paying rents and the like and it was a very depressing time altogether with no landlords shooting up into the air. Up in Dublin they call it the War of Independence but down here we called it Granny's Revenge. They were all raped as serving girls for this is what the English did and some (let's be fair) enjoyed it because if you don't ask for it, it's not your fuckin fault. Some of them were faultless 28 or 40 times before marrying 84-year-old psychopathic local farmers and glommed up the land when their husbands laid down on the road for a rest and got run over by the Clonakilty bus or else went off in the hills to talk to Lugh or Emer or Mananaan and got struck with lightning bolts for their pains. You don't want to be talking to ancient Celtic gods with short attention spans. Annyway, after the Red Button revolution didn't all the grannies die, one after another, all fuckin dead. God be with them, acushla mo chrói. Sure there was no more excitement, do you see? They had no interest in sex whatsoever, the average age being 85, and with no more landlords to blow to kingdom come, sure, what was the point of living? They died and the fairies came in. This aroused the community because the fairies wear very short dresses, stop growing at the age of 20, and look like Kylie Minogue on a very very good day.
Kylie says Hello ... what am I doing in this poem?

Well, things happened. There's an awful lot of good-looking kids skateboarding around the neighbourhood.

But there was always Iphigenia and Seamus. Never mind the grannies and the fairies and the English. These are passing things. The fields and the forests and the sky are forever.

Iphigenia was restless. She was lepping about like Biddy Maloney's goat, with the tail lashing hither and yon, the divil between us and all harm. Will yeh get off the fffn, (cough) table! Another cuppa? Yerra, Jayz and wouldn't I love one? O the split yellow eyes on you, you little so-and-so. Wait till I get you home! Tis in with the hens you'll be put waitin on Jimmy the Fox who'll come dashing in with the darkness of the night upon him and all the outraged hennies will be going chook-chook-chook and won't he be taking you away to Las Vegas, girl, or to some other strange and peculiar foreign part? Tis the long hard stroke of a father's hand you'd be needing, gerrl, but sure Jimmy will put the restraint upon yeh, and he but a young lad but the true son of his blessed father, God be good to him, taken up in the Hunt by the blashted English, God's curse on them for seven generations, and may their childer come out in spots and boils, but isn't he the good-lookin buckaroo with his eyes like diamonds and the flahhhoo of the red hair carefully set down, pomaded and ribboned in the way of a ginttleman, a squireen of the Old Blood, Dear God and Holy Mary, (ahh, would you stop your oul gallop?) Well then, sorr, isn't it like the Dana? Tuatha de Danaan, them as has gone below the ground?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

452: RWC - Ireland into the Quarter Finals

Ireland gets through to the Quarter-Finals of the Rugby World Cup on a sterling second-half performance by the Lads. Brilliant defense and great discipline in the face of several provocative incidents as the Italians grew ever more frustrated. Great teamwork with no glory-hogging as last second handoffs guaranteed the tries. O'Gara steady as a rock in the opening phases and best of all his replacement Johnny Sexton landed two difficult conversions in the closing quarter to lay to rest all those nagging questions about his loss of kicking form. An excellent performance and if the momentum holds we should just about edge Wales -- it will be a very tough match! -- and face either England or France in the semi-finals. Personally, I hope it's England since we get on OK with the French .... !!