Category Archives: Poetry

A Villain in a Villanelle (edit)

A Villain in a Villanelle

he was a villain in a villanelle
a doomed lover in a sonnet
he played his part , yes, he played it well

he once did a bit with Howie Mandel
he played Wallace, he played Gromit,
he was a villain in a villanelle

a costive mule for a drug cartel
‘tho he does not like to dwell upon it
he played his part, yes, he played it well

he shared an elevator once with Kristen Bell
she’s not available for comment
he was a villain in a villanelle

he had a career without parallel
no low point and no summit
he played his part, yes, he played it well

he liked a glass of zinfandel
ice cream with caramel on it
he was a villain in a villanelle
a doomed lover in a sonnet.

The Fallen (An update after hearing about Steve Bannon’s Conviction)

The Fallen 

Today I thought about Reince Priebus
not so much the man,
more the strange music of his name;
those slender vowels reversing
that echo of wince
the possible meanings
a salve, an ointment
put some Reince on that cut, son;
the Latinate portliness of Priebus
a writ to slap someone with – Habeas Priebus
a complicated skateboard manoeuvre
he executed a perfect reverse Priebus;
then I thought of Anthony, dear Anthony,
Scaramucci, Scaramucci
will you do the fandango,
you were not long with us
but still the smell of aftershave lingers
and it was you who let us know
about Steve Bannon’s auto fellatio,
alas, poor Steve
abandoned on the side of the road
like a rumpled sofa
a rumpled sofa smelling of yesterday’s sweat
and stale doctrine;
and what about Spicer and Huckabee
cartoon characters
Plucky and Angry
your souls will be in the repair shop
for some time to come.
They appear in waves,
the arrested –
Flynn, Cohen and Stone,
the ones who once were serious people –
McMaster, Kelly, Bolton.
In years to come when men and women gather
to talk of greatness
your names will be long forgotten.
The list of the fallen goes on and on
and still Humpty continues his slow and tortuous fall.

A different version of this poem appeared in Oddball Magazine

Heavy Metal Heaven (Edit 2)

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Heavy Metal Heaven

Slim plugs in his guitar
sets the dial on his amp
to “heavy metal”
hits an E minor seven
walks out of the room
makes a cup of coffee
drinks a cup of coffee
checks the football results
texts his brother in England:
what’s up, mate?
his brother doesn’t answer
he starts writing a novel:
The sun –
a red ball of anger on the horizon –
shouts through the brown chemical haze:
“that’s it, I’m outta here”.
Then, and only then, they hear a baby cry.
That’s all he’s got
He returns to the room
that E minor seven
is still going
but faint now
like a rustle of paper
like the distant chatter
of dead drummers
in heavy metal heaven
he picks up his guitar
hits an A minor seven
walks out of the room
starts his taxes……

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Having a Coffee and Reading Tom Wolfe on Chomsky in Harper’s

Having a coffee
And reading Tom Wolfe
On Chomsky in Harper’s
Riding the express train of his prose
As he hurtles through Chomsky’s early life
Circling back all the time to linguists in the jungle
Linguists in the jungle some where
Until finally he pulls his linguist out of the jungle
To attack Chomsky’s theories of Universal grammar and Recursion
With news of the Piraha tribe in Brazil
Who have no time for Jesus or Crooked Head tales
And no concept of the future or the past
There is only today and the other day
And together they conspire
To chew up Chomsky
and spit him out.

The theme for this week over at earthweal is “Wild Language”

This poem first appeared in The Galway Review

A Hoedown for the Pronouns (Grammarama 2022)

A Hoedown for the Pronouns (Grammarama 2022)

This year for Grammarama
we attempted to organize
a hoedown for the pronouns
they, she, he
but we couldn’t get the verbs to agree.
Things got very tense
they kept dredging up the past
getting all conditional on us
every time we seemed close to a consensus
they would run off into corners
and conjugate.
Then it got melogrammatic
the pronouns them, her, him
announced they were tired
of being used as objects
and refused to participate.
In the end we threw up our hands
and gave up.
Give me a bunch of nouns any day.

Foraging with Farage (Co -starring Boris Johnson in Happier Times)

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Foraging with Farage

In his new television series
Foraging with Farage
coming soon to The Bollocks Network
Nigel laments
the influx of foreign fungi
to the hallowed fields and forests
of the Kingdom By The Sea
and the subsequent decline
of the Great English Mushroom.

In the final episode,
under the influence of psilocybin
Nigel takes a walk in the forest
and encounters a naked Boris Johnson
sitting on a giant toad stool
in a sunlit glade.
Boris, Nigel exclaims,
full of chagrin
and psilocybin,
I thought you were a natural blonde!
Has it all been a lie?
This is dream sequence, you fool,
Boris replies
The writers have run out of ideas.
He then tumbles off the toad stool
and bounds on all fours into the forest.
I tell you folks
if you miss one television series this year
make sure it’s this one.

The Doggerel Days Of Summer, Part 2

The Doggerel Days of Summer Part 2

Oft on a still summer evening
I take my doggerel
for a long, long walk

looking for rhymes
in all the wrong places.

I bring with me
a small, beige, plastic bag;
when I finish the poem I’m composing
I place the poem in the plastic bag
and deposit the bag
in a trash can deep in the forest

a trash can known to all the local poets
a trash can where moon always rhymes with June
a trash can where clouds
are as fluffy as mashed potatoes.

The challenge over at earthweal is to write about ‘wild stillness”. So this is a poem about an attempt to write a poem. Check out earthweal here for poems that actually meet the challenge!

Relatives

Relatives

Slim* has an aunt and uncle
who fight all the time
like Simon and Garfunkel

they have a son
who looks like
Russ Kunkel

the session drummer
who played with,
among others,

Joni Mitchell
and, yes,
Art Garfunkel.

Slim also has a cousin
who likes to snorkel,
at the local swimming pool.

She is constantly amazed
at how pale the human body looks
when viewed under water.

I’m amazed at how pale
the human body looks
when viewed under water

she says,
every time she returns
from the pool

her name is Rachel
Rachel, who likes to snorkel.

*aka Slim Volume, real name Reginald Dwight…..not really, think that’s Elton John’s real name. For more about Slim, see here.

Father’s Day()

Father’s Day

A low metronomic plash
waves flat-lining on the shore
sailboats tacking
kayakers kayaking,
someone talking loudly
about the cost of child care,
two blankets down.
It’s Father’s day
and all the dads and kids are out
throwing ball, kicking ball
building elaborate castles in the sand
and they are not alone,
the ghosts of fathers passed are here too,
including my own;
pale-bodied, they roam the beach
wearing old-fashioned swim trunks,
grinning widely
at the continuum
of dads, kids, sun, sand and sea.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse.

Also taking part in Open Link weekend over at earthweal.

Forest Gumption

Forest Gumption

Sometimes driving by an empty field at evening
on an island somewhere
where we have gone to get away
from whatever it all is
I experience, out of nowhere, a primal longing
and I imagine stopping the car
and crossing that empty field
to enter the forest beyond
a forest that is shutting down for the evening
all rustle, chirp and squeak
and walking through that forest
I encounter in a clearing
a deer illuminated by a shaft of sunlight
the deer stares at me doe-eyed as I pass
but does not move,
as I continue down the trail
a ball of white gas darts between the trees
keeping pace
there’s a whiff of sulfur in the air
in another clearing I come across a log cabin
moss on the decaying cedar roof,
a thin wisp of smoke exiting the chimney
I walk across the slick green of the porch
and open the door to a room
smelling of mold and mouse shit
there is no furniture except for a table,
a chair, and an old fashioned typewriter
I walk to the table, sit down
and start to write this poem
I get to the point in the poem
where I sit down to write the poem
and there’s a knock on the door
I walk across the creaking floor
and open the door to a tall stranger
dressed in black, his wide-brimmed hat
pulled low over his eyes
“I’m in your poem”, he says,
in a voice that has travelled centuries,
“I’m in your poem, what happens next?”

(apologies to Stephen King)

Over at earthweal, Brendan asks us to write about “wildness”, that’s what I started with!

Also, taking part in Open Link over at dverse.

Poem (Zlatan) in Cyphers Magazine

Cyphers magazine has published my poem –  “Zlatan”– in their Issue 93.  I am really pleased as always to be published in Cyphers . Thanks to  Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, for accepting my poem.

…Jim Feeney

Cyphers is a Dublin based print only magazine which has been in existence since 1975. They publish poets from all over the world, both new and established and this issue features a number of translated poems.

Cyphers can be found at http://www.cyphers.ie

Hiram (Poem for Earthweal)

Hiram

Hiram likes to drink water
direct from the spigot
on the front wall of his house;
he hasn’t had to connect a hose
to that darn spigot
since he converted the lawn to artificial.
Good times.
In the evening,
he sits on his porch
staring out at the Christmas tree green of the lawn
drinking lite beer
and polishing his assault rifle,
this gives him comfort.

Not that he’s afraid,
he ain’t afraid of nuthin’,
he ain’t afraid of AOC
he ain’t afraid of Antifa
he ain’t afraid of that girl from Sweden
the one that never smiles
he’s vigilant, that’s all;
vigilance is of the essence.
He likes the sound of that,
maybe get a T shirt made
put that on the front,
‘G.I. – God Incarnate’ on the back.

No, he ain’t afraid of nuthin’,
but sometimes
in the early hours of the morning
he lies awake
his gut gurgling like a drain
as it processes
the Outback appetizer
of deep fried onion rings
that the waitress
piled high on his plate
like a jumble sale
of used Olympic symbols;
he lies awake
stalked by a fear
he will not name
the fear of being left behind,
left in the dust,
by the twenty first century.

This week I’m hosting the weekly challenge over at Earthweal (Title “Fiction? Don’t be a Stranger”). So head on over there and prepare to be challenged.

Also taking part in Open Link over at dverse


The Universe Can’t be Explained (or can it?)

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I re-discovered this post just the other day. It was written back in those heady days when Slim and I thought that slimverse in all its 12 syllable glory would sweep the internet and replace the haiku as the verse form of choice. Needless to say, this hasn’t happened and I have to admit that even this blog has succumbed to the luxury of those extra 5 syllables. I’m including the interview with Slim from the original post to re-capture the innocence and optimism of that time.

The Universe Can’t Be Explained 

1

The engine

does not know

where the car

is going.

2

like a frog

down a well

we only

know the walls

An Interview with Slim

So Slim, what inspired you to write this poem?

Well, I was watching the Stephen Hawkins bio, “The Theory of Everything”, and it got me thinking about the Universe. By the way, I’m also thinking about writing a book called “Managing Expectations – The Theory of a Couple of Things”.

Very droll.

Indeed.

The poem is in this new form which you are working with, are you excited about this?

Yes.

You don’t seem excited.

I have a condition, I’m auto-impassive. It used to be called ”acute solemnity”. I’m incapable of showing emotion, and in my case, the condition is limited to positive emotions. I can display anger and irritation as you are well aware.

Is it hereditary?

Yes, on my mother’s side. Half of my family has it, that’s why in family photos one half of the family is smiling and the other is not.

Fascinating. Now tell me more about the poem.

Well it’s quite simple, four lines of 3 syllables each. I look on these poems as poems for the 21st century, the smart phone era, the era of distraction. Something you could read on the bus, on the subway, something that can be enjoyed without too much effort. Like a small square of chocolate with your morning coffee.

Cadbury’s Milk or Hershey’s?

Cadbury’s or maybe one of those artisan bars, you know, 70% cocoa, or a peak from the Toblerone mountain range.

When did you first get the idea for this form?

I was out drinking with a group of fellow poets and one thing led to another and I got home at 4 AM and sat down and wrote “Magic” which was blogged a week or so back. It’s a clumsy attempt, I think we should trash it.

What were you discussing until 4 in the morning?

Enjambment.

“Magic” has an uncharacteristic cod-mystical feel to it, were there other substances being abused?

I can’t remember.

What do you call your group of poets.

The Poet’s Circle.

Really, isn’t that a bit literal, a bit prosaic for a bunch of poets. It’s like saying “a party of plumbers”, “a coterie of carpenters” and that at least would be alliterative. Very disappointing.

Fuck off.

What?

Fuck off!

Okay.

Photo: Laptopia.

High Plains Sushi (2)

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High Plains Sushi

This bar’s insured by Smith and Wesson
Says the sign upon the wall
Vern studies his empty beer glass
Time slows down to a crawl

Audrey, the lank-haired waitress
Watches from the bar
Order something soon, she yells
Or get the hell out of here.

There’s a special on at Wanda’s Ranch
Tuesday night 2 for one
But Vern doesn’t have the appetite
He doesn’t have the wherewithal

There’s only one thing that he wants
And he’s going to get it soon
High Plains Sushi
High Plains Sushi
Hot Sake in a cup
Five thousand feet above the ocean
And he just can’t get enough

Two guys from the goldmine
Old Arsenic and Rock Face
Have journeyed up from the centre of the Earth
To join the human race

But no matter how hard they try
No matter what they do
In the glow from the pool table
They’ve still got that subterranean hue.

Something’s warming beneath a heat lamp
Looks like deep fried road kill
Beside a tub of mashed potatoes
It’s making Vern feel ill

There’s only one thing that he wants
And he’s going to get it soon
High Plains Sushi
High Plains Sushi
Hot Sake in a cup
Five thousand feet above the ocean
And he just can’t get enough.

I spent a little time once in Elko, Nevada. There was a sushi restaurant in the town which served individual portions large enough to feed a small Japanese village. Elko hosts an annual Cowboy Poetry Festival. Interesting place. The theme over at dverse is food poetry.

This version of this poem appeared before as a dizain, one of those poems that keeps changing shape.

Rapiers and Pistols and the Sequencing of (Whiskey In The Jar, a Deconstruction)

Rapiers and Pistols and the Sequencing of (Whiskey In The Jar – A Deconstruction )

I have often wondered why
when he encounters Captain Farrell
while going over the Cork and Kerry Mountains*
the protagonist first produces his pistol
and then produces his rapier.
Surely the rapier is redundant
once the pistol is produced.

(*In the Dubliners version, it’s “the far-famed Kerry Mountains)

Whack fall the daddy o.

Apparently people occasionally wonder what “whack fall the daddy o” means. Well it does not mean anything, it’s kind of like Irish scatting, what singers do when they run out of words.

I once wrote a sea shanty in which I used a variation on whack fall the daddy o. Here it is :

Sea Shanty

Oh. the herring were running wild and fast
as we sailed out from St. John
and the cod were plump as Mary’s arse
on a Sunday morning after early mass
with sausages on the griddle-o
and rashers in the pan
whack fall de diddle dairy oh
whack fall de diddle dan.

Take it away, Phil….

Scenes from a Restaurant in the Time Between Variants

Scenes from a Restaurant in the Time Between Variants

the guys from finance
hold their wine glasses by the stem
and every now and again
they do that swirl and sniff thing

the girl in the tight dress
is two drinks away
from feeling comfortable

a couple out on their first date
have discovered too late
that they have nothing to say to each other
the long evening yawns before them

the bathroom door bursts open
two bros wearing dark suits
and built like refrigerators
emerge, their eyes pulsing
with guilty energy

it’s happy hour

cocktails are fifty per cent off
and all the cocktails have jokey names
Insane Moose
Milantini
Rogue Zamboni

nothing on the menu escapes description
the Market Crashin’ IPA
has a dry hopped finish with a touch of citrus
the Failed Priest Sauvignon Blanc
is full bodied with gooseberry and melon grace notes
and that beet and feta salad we’ve ordered
just happens to be a personal favorite of our waitress
she loves that hint of sourness
the cheese brings to the dish

she’s a dancer, by the way,
lived for a while in Saskatoon.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse.

Bucket List (a ghazal, sort of)

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Bucket List (a ghazal)

mountain climbing in County Meath
put it on my bucket list

fly fishing in the Sahara
put it on my bucket list

snow shoeing in the Serengeti
put it on my bucket list

surfing in Saskatchewan
put it on my bucket list

stop hiding behind a shield of sarcasm
Really? Put that on my bucket list?

write a ghazal about everlasting love
aw fuck it, put it on my bucket list

stop peppering my poems with profanity
that’s a prohibition, it has no place on the list.

Why I have difficulty writing haiku (again)

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Why I have difficulty writing haiku

problem with haiku
definite article is
first casualty

next casualty
indefinite article
makes me sound little

like Japanese guard
in prison camp in movie
world war two movie

who for some reason
is speaking English (how? why?)
with staccato voice

or perhaps I am
po-faced guru on mountain
dispensing bromides:

crow flies at midnight
in front of luminous moon
affair ends badly

all because I am
in service to, at mercy
of, syllable count.

Sound Heard While Replacing The Basement Toilet (plumbing tanka)

Sunrise over Planet Cistern

Sound Heard While Replacing The Basement Toilet

a ghostly whoosh
echoes down the open pipe
a toilet flushing

in a neighbor’s house uphill
yes, we are all connected.

I hardly ever do this but here’s a challenge to all you poets out there: write a poem about plumbing. There are no rules, write about anything – an ode to your favourite plunger, a sonnet about a dripping tap, a haiku about flexible hoses!

Link back to this post if you like, so I can read your poems.

Savannah (extended version)

Savannah

At night, the rotund tourists
roam the street below
drinking light beer from plastic cups
and watching the river flow.

And Chuck, he’s in a restaurant
playing his guitar
for the plaid shorts and polo shirts
and salesmen at the bar.

And life is neither good nor bad
it’s somewhere in between
Chuck thinks that one day
he should leave this river scene.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Karla’s in the house again
trying to catch his eye
her hair is blond and crinkled
makes Chuck think of frozen fries

and when he hits another chorus
she stands upon her chair
chugs back her mojito
and punches the empty air

and he knows that in this deck of cards
we all can’t be the ace
and if you’re going to take a fall
then try and fall with grace.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Jane, the late shift waitress
her husband’s out of town
Chuck thinks that later
he might ask her around

and he’ll forget about alimony
and the rent that he owes
he’ll forget just about every thing
if Jane comes around.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you heal every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

This is based on a short poem I had published in Cyphers magazine. There are other versions of it, even a sonnet, but I think it’s finally settled down.

Taking part in OpenLinkNight over at dverse.