Tag Archives: poet

Saints and Underwear

Saints and Underwear

By the time religion got to me
all the joy had been filtered out
by censorious priests, soporific sermons
and cavernous churches
with names like St. Michael’s, St. Theresa’s, St Ann’s.
Why, even my white Y front underwear
had a saint’s name on the tag, St. Bernard.
His name was also on my vests, my shirts, my pyjamas;
I just couldn’t get St. Bernard off my back.
Where I found my true congregation
was on Sunday afternoons
with my dad, my uncle, my brother, my older sister
on the terraces of Glenmalure Park
watching Shamrock Rovers play.
There were binaries there too
heaven was a victory
and while defeat wasn’t exactly hell
it cast a pall over Sunday tea,
a pall that was quickly relieved by the sugar high
from the flotilla of cakes my mother
had been baking since Saturday afternoon.
Now St. Bernard has been replaced
by someone called Denver Hayes.
I doubt if Denver is a saint
and I’m fine with that
I like my underwear to be secular
my joy to be unconfined.

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal is to write a Michealmas Festival poem. This poem really doesn’t do the prompt justice, but it’s the poem that the prompt prompted.

September and Everything After

Summer has left the building
is already in the limo

snorting white powder
drinking champagne

dupes, fall guys
we wait for the encore

ignoring the bouncer
pointing to the door

the door marked winter

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

Also a note to my friends over at earthweal, I have two poems published in The Galway Review, if you have a chance take a look here, (Jim.)

Slim’s Sudbury Vacation ( a poem and a post-poem interview) 3

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The Stack

And what a
beautiful
plume we have
here, Nigel,

a plume with
time on its
hands, look at
it loping

across the
sky like a
giant Chinese
dragon, let’s

hail a cab
to find the
plume’s end, where
the last wisps

of vapor
drift upwards
and a blue
mist hangs, yes,

there it is
in the sky
to the west
stalking the

cars in the
parking lot
outside the
big box mall

while the sun
bawls and the
sky gets all
indignant.

Post Poem Interview 

You played well out there tonight, Slim.

Slim: Well, you know it’s not about me, it’s about the poem, I’m just part of the process.

Are you suggesting that you are perhaps some kind of conduit linked to some higher power, some higher resource.

Slim: No, I am just mouthing platitudes, isn’t that the idea?

Quite, so I am sure everyone is wondering, who is Nigel?

Slim: He’s my cousin.

That’s a very English name.

Slim: That’s hardly surprising, he is English.

Do you call him ’Nige’ for short?

Slim: No!

It sounds like he could be a member of one of those floppy-haired synth bands from the eighties, you know, like Soft Cell or Human League or The Pet Shop Boys. Didn’t XTC have a song about a guy called Nigel. Is he in a band?

Slim: He’s a welder.

Does his hair not get in the way?

Slim: He’s bald, where is this going?

(mumbles) somewhere slow or nowhere fast. So tell me about the structure of this poem.

Slim: I took the 3 syllable line, 4 line verse , I have been using, and applied it to a poem that I was never happy with and it worked, at least it made me trim a lot of the fat and I came up with a better poem, I think?

……….what? Sorry I nodded off there for a bit. Well, I’m sure you are itching to get back to the dressing room and join the rest of the lads in a lukewarm bath of diluted sweat.

Slim: Can’t wait!

 

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse.

Joy (a double septo)

JOY

always there’s another task
joy lies in the avoidance

The theme over at earthweal is “Joy”.

My syllable count is low at the moment, so I have opted for a form I call “a double septo” or “a quatorze” – two lines of 7 syllables each. See here for another example of the form and here for more syllabic discussion involving Adele.

Talking About Evolution (2 poems)

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Watching the Knowledge Network

The earnest English anthropologist
is talking about evolution.
He shows a film of long-haired men
digging on the shores of a lava lake in Africa.
Later, one of them appears wearing a big collar,
a big tie and bushy sideburns.
He has a collection of bones
which he assembles into a skeleton.
A debate follows
about the significance of tools
in our leap from ape to man.

On the coffee table is a copy of “The Little Red Hen”
as retold by Maria M. Southgate M.A. B.Com.
I make an astonishing discovery.
On page thirty-six, the little red hen
is cutting her field of wheat
with a very sharp knife,
and immediately I think:
those idiots, those bell-bottomed fools
as the clamber over each other
into our bollock-naked past
they have completely over-looked the tool-wielding fowl.
All the degrees in the world,
and they miss something so barn-door obvious
I found the above poem today in a box in my basement, while doing a pandemic purge. It was probably written in the late eighties. The odd thing is I was trying to figure out how to respond to Brendan’s prompt over at earthweal, in which he asks us to write about ”evolution” and this poem turns up out of nowhere. (There was a rejection note from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin of Cyphers magazine, saying she liked it but it was too much of “a one idea poem”.)

In the same box, I found another evolution related poem, which again I had completely forgotten about. I had to ask myself, have I actually evolved as a writer since then……and, you know, I’m not sure…..there is still that tendency to be facetious….talking of facetious, here’s the other poem..

Gorilla

There was a young lady from Orilla
who fell in love with a gorilla
in Toronto, at the zoo.

She could not stay with him
or have her way with him,
she did not know what to do.

Then the government
gave her a grant
to build a halfway home,

a micro-climate
for the primate,
a keeper out on loan.

With visiting rights
and hot jungle nights
all her problems were solved.

Until one day
I’m sorry to say
the goddamn gorilla evolved.

Orange Peel

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Orange Peel

While lunching on rice and beans
I became aware of
the orange on my table
its thingness
its facticity
its outer skin
both verb and noun
but not noun
until it is verbed.
so I verbed it
and discarded the noun
without tasting it
on the grounds
that I don’t find
its taste appealing
or, to paraphrase,
its taste
does not
appeal to me.

 

Bjorn’s prompt over at dverse is all about verbing nouns

Is Joe?

Is Joe
the rainbow
after the storm
the light
at the end of
the tunnel
the bar man
who will create
a cocktail
that is better
than the current mix
of braggadocio and bile,
garnished with a licorice stick
of lies, the Orange Russian?
Is he the man
to drive the sedan of democracy
straight down the middle of the road
to remind us of what
we used to regard as order?
Or does he have to be that?
It would be enough to be
the ornament on the hood
of that sedan,
because the thing is
he doesn’t have to be the thing
others can take care of the thing
he just needs to be
a symbol of the thing.
Is Joe
the rainbow
after the storm
the light
at the end of
the tunnel?
Jesus, I hope so.

The challenge from Brendan over at earthweal is “Write about storms and rainbows from whatever vantage seems most appropriate to you.”

New Horizons (A Lads’ Poetry Project Update)

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Well, a lot has been happening in the Lads’ Poetry Project since we last checked in, we have two new additions to the project, both from the UK, and both of a quality that the project doesn’t deserve.

First we have Sarah Connor who gives us the view from the other room where there is a party of a different kind going on, find out more here!

Next we we have Kim Whysall-Hammond who gives us the perspective of the only woman in the room (she uses the word “engineer” in a poem which is a fairly rare occurrence), find out more here!

Sarah and Kim are both fine poets, so be sure to check out their other work when you are over there…and remember the Lad’ Poetry Project criteria are simple:

the poem must start with the phrase (or some variation of it): “Me and the lads…” and the tone must be somewhat less than elevated.

Tadpoles, Dead Cats and Seamus Heaney

 

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Tadpoles, Dead Cats and Seamus Heaney

I wrote a nature poem once
it went like this:
You call yourself a tree?
My bank has more branches!
Not much of a poem really
I wrote it at a time when the Irish poetry scene
was dominated by rural poets
or to be more precise, by Seamus Heaney,
whose childhood memories
of peat bogs, tractors, ploughed fields, hard won harvests
of curlews and corncrakes of snipe and gannets
did not resonate with me
my childhood having been spent
in the newly spawned suburbs of south Dublin
where my friend Dermo and I roamed back lanes,
and vacant lots that promised prosecution to trespassers
a world of nettles, thistles, dock leaves for the stings
crows and magpies, a rumour of foxes
gardens of roses, dahlias, rhubarb, gooseberries
the ubiquitous potato
tadpoles in jam jars,
their embryonic frog legs kicking
and let’s not forget that dead cat we found
half consumed by maggots
in a cardboard box in the woods
behind the cavernous church
where Dermo liked to sit of a Sunday
close to the aisle, listening to the sound
of the women’s girdles as they strode up
for Holy Communion, according to Dermo
this is the sound that the girdles made:
whick whick
whick whick
but I digress…

I met Seamus Heaney once
north of the Liffey
a creative writing class,
this was before academia
and Nobel prizes
he was living in a cottage in Wicklow
he came, read some poems
and joined us in the pub afterwards
where I asked his opinion
of some of my heroes:
ee cummings, “a bit of a lightweight”;
Roger Mc Gough, the Liverpool Scene,
“a bunch of tricksters”;
James Simmons (a firebrand contemporary)
“does not understand the finality of print”.
These judgements were delivered
with a smile in a soft Derry accent,
a nicer man you could not meet
and one of two Nobel prize winners
that I have shared a drink with…
buy hey,
that’s more than enough name dropping for one poem.

 

Taking part in Sarah Connor’s challenge over at Earthweal.

Here’s Sarah’s prompt”

“So, for this prompt, I’d like you to think about how you first felt connected to nature – maybe as a child, or as an adult. Some of those lost words may inspire you, or you may have your own lost word (or world?) that gave you a sense of wonder at the natural world around you. Maybe you collected caterpillars, or watched birds on a bird-table, or squatted down to watch beetles, or looked up to see squirrels in the treetops.”

Dog in a Tartan Skirt (Redux)

 

 

Dog in a Tartan Skirt 

There’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s;
a tartan skirt, a belt, and a knitted white sweater.
Its little dog legs are moving frantically
on the wet pavement,
while across the slick road
and the sodden green park
the ocean sits
like a slab of lead
having clearly decided
to take some time off,
no crashing on the shore today.
South of the border
America blunders around
trying to remember
where it parked
that big ass car
that everyone admired
and envied.
The people look to God
but God, once again,
is moving in mysterious ways
and I, for one, wish He would knock it off,
could He not for once in His eternal life,
clarify something?
I mean, for fuck sake,
there’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s.

 

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse.

Also taking part on Open Link Weekend over at Earthweal.

 

Bike Ride by the Fraser River

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Bike Ride by the Fraser River

tug boats and log booms
the plaid twock of a golf ball
a band playing soul

the sweet, sweet smell of Purell
backyard wedding, guests on Zoom.

 

The challenge over at earthweal is

“STRANGE WORLD is the theme of this challenge. Take the opportunity to assess what’s become so strange in your world……”

Of Statues and Limitations (Edit)

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Of Statues and Limitations

As we round Lee’s Circle in New Orleans
talk turns to statues
and the topless monument;
the shuttle bus driver tells us
that Robert E. Lee’s statue was removed
under the cover of darkness
by a crew dressed like ninjas,
to avoid recognition.
People woke up the next day
to find the statue had disappeared.
A photograph on Wikipedia
shows the statue being removed
in broad daylight by a crane;
reality is nearly always more prosaic.
She also tells us that she grew up in the neighbourhood;
as kids, they just called the monument,
“The Statue”, they did not know or care
who Robert E. Lee was.

In 1966, the IRA blew the statue of Horatio Nelson
off its pedestal on top of Nelson’s Pillar
in the middle of O’Connell Street, Dublin.
To my parents’ generation
Nelson’s Pillar was known simply as “The Pillar”.
(Dubliners are very fond of the definite article:
“How’s the head?”
“Are you still playing the soccer?”)
To them, The Pillar was a landmark
a place to meet your date
en route to one of the cinemas
on O’Connell Street to catch a film (2 syllables)
and perhaps a humid snog
in the back seat when the lights went out.
To the IRA it was a symbol of British Imperialism
of British oppression,
an insult to our patriot dead;
blah, blah, blah, boom!
The IRA was a particularly unsubtle organisation.

Is all this just facile juxtaposition,
chopped up prose
masquerading as a poem,
or is there a point?
Yes, yes and yes:
see what I think is
there are people who look up at statues
there are people who believe
statues are looking down on them
and there are people
who look straight ahead
and keep moving forward
into the future,
leaving the past
to its state of disrepair.

 

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Top photo taken at the Takashi Murakami exhibition (The octopus eats its own leg) at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Bottom Photo taken in Medellin, Colombia, statues by Fernando Botero.

Luminescence

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Luminescence

The stars are out
luminescence rises
from the surface of the pond
I think of Tommy
Tommy Tumescent and the Hard-Ons
yes you could say
they were big in the fifties
yes you could say
they rose to stardom in the fifties
all pompadour and pointy toe
and to counter this puerile nonsense
I also think of iridescence
finesse
obsolescence.

This is one from the past, Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

 

One Bison, One Skunk (Close Encounters)

 

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Sherry, over at earthweal, asks “Have you had an encounter with or a visitation from a wild creature?”. Here’s a couple….

Old Bull Bison

an old bull bison,
morning, Yellowstone

(still dark)

caught, out on the move
in the headlights glow

the arc

of life turning down
no seed to be sown

no spark.

 

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Skunk

struts across the lawn
with a cleric’s confidence
tail cocked, sphincter primed

I think I made a mistake

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I think I made a mistake

baselines, fault lines , paradigm shifts
ignorance has been weaponized
what will we do, what will we do
when all the nouns are verbed?

I think I made a mistake
how is there still doubt in that sentence?
A man goes to a party
to get infected with a virus
in order to prove
that the virus is a hoax,
the man dies.
It’s hard not to be harsh.
Is this a new baseline,
a new low?
Is it an intelligence deficit?
Is it lack of education?
No, this is something different
this is a sea change
the beast has left Bethlehem
the malware has been activated
the human race has started to self-limit.
Whatever god, assembly of gods
or conglomerate of alien scientists
malevolent or benevolent
that designed this whole shebang
that opened this can of worms
has had enough
the malware has been activated
the fix is in
it’s past midnight and the eagle has flown
Aunt Mary is hanging out the washing
the human race has started to self-limit.

A man goes to a party
to get infected with a virus
in order to prove
that the virus is a hoax,
the man dies.

 

Brendan over at earthweal poses the challenge: Observe shifting baselines in your world, in climate change, your nation’s governance, the pandemic. 

Dead Seal

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Dead Seal

slumped on the tide line,
mottled pink, exposed,
something has been picking at it;
six city workers
in high vis vests
with a garbage bin, a shovel
and a shroud of clear plastic
discuss the path forward.

 

The challenge from Brian over at dverse is to write a poem …… “capturing a moment in your verse”

ROB (The Lad’s Poetry Project 3)

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Rob

Me and the lads are in the Beagle
carbo-loading after the game
we’ve got pitchers of pale ale
plates of chicken wings
nachos topped with something
that looks suspiciously like cat food.
It’s pulled pork, I’m told,
which seems somehow apt
as I look around the table.
It’s the usual conversation
goals scored, goals missed
an unresolved conflict lingering
like a fart in an elevator.
Two of the lads are saying nothing
engrossed in stroking and poking
small rectangular tablets
as if expecting a message
that will change their lives
a revision to the ten commandments, perhaps,
one that sanctions the pulling of pork.
Whatever it is,
they can’t leave those little slabs alone.
Opposite me, Rob, an uncompromising centre half
with little skill and a liking for the long ball
is tucking head down into a plate of poutine,
fries covered in cheese curd and gravy,
suddenly with uncharacteristic speed and accuracy
he fires a gravy covered fry at the phone boys
“put down your fucking phones”, he says quietly,
and out of nowhere I’m consumed by a wave of emotion
and I realise this is my community
and this is why I come here,
the level of discourse,
this is why I come here.

The challenge from Sarah Connor over at dverse:

This week, I’d like you to think about that balance between the individual and the community. Where do you stand on the spectrum between lone wolf and team-player? How does your community support you? What are the communities you’ve chosen? What are the communities that have been thrust upon you? Can we be human without other humans? What are the threads that stitch us into place? They may be good or bad, or somewhere in between, but they are certainly there.

This is poem number 3 in  a series of poems called The Lad’s Poetry Project. The goal of the series is to give space to a subject that is not normally encountered in poetry, Lad Culture. The only guidelines are: 1) The poem must begin with the phrase, “Me and the lads” 2) The tone must be somewhat less than elevated.

 

 

 

The Fallen (2020)

 

 

 

The Fallen (2020)

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 sits on his wall
and still we wait for Humpty’s Great Fall.

A different version of this poem appeared in Oddball Magazine

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal . https://earthweal.com/2020/07/03/earthweal-open-link-weekend-27/

Writing Poetry for The Times That Are In It (more unsolicited advice)

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Writing Poetry for The Times That Are In It

Avoid the polemic, the rant,
the bromide
be all you can be
avoid the hackneyed phrase
the weak-kneed phrase
the self-consciously poetic line
the moon, a pale orb in the evening sky
never call the moon “an orb”
never call the sun “a fiery ball”
your waves should not
crash on the shore
they should collapse
like marathon runners
avoid foliage
excessive leafiness
too many trees
the reader needs to see the poem
and remember it’s unlikely
that your poem
will be an agent of change
no one is going to march through the streets
chanting your poem
unless your poem is a three word slogan
but your poem can chronicle change
bear witness to change
and one day someone might read it
at a rally in front of a large crowd
if the lines resonate
if the lines generate heat
meanwhile concentrate on
impressing yourself
avoid lines ending in “ution”
the rest will take care of itself.

 

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal is as follows:

“For this week’s challenge, write about the challenges you face as a poet trying to write sufficiently to the moment. What is most difficult to capture about the time? What new tools or calibrations might be required?”

The above poem is a stab at it. It’s a very interesting question, because is it possible to write sufficiently to the moment? Yeats wrote his poem “Easter 1916”, about the Irish Easter Rebellion, between May and September of 1916 but the poem wasn’t published until 1921 in the collection “Michael Robartes and the Dancer”. Undoubtedly the poem must have gone through countless revisions in the interim period and of course is a better poem because of this. If Yeats had a blog, he might have turned out something more immediate and inferior. But it’s interesting to look at how the first verse ends:

Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

The last two lines are repeated at the end of the second and the last verse, almost like a chorus. I think there lies an answer to how to write more immediate poetry, poetry of the moment – use a form that is close to that of a song, get yourself a rhyme get your self a chorus. It may not turn out like Yeats but hey you don’t have the time for that.

Here’s one from a little while back:

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Drain The Swamp Rag

(Walk that back
walk that back
I know I said it
but I walked that back.)

Attack dog surrogates
inveterate invertebrates
re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

Post logic, post truth,
snake oil and kool-aid
re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

Mike Pence, John Bolton
Rudy Giuliani
re-stock the swamp
with old white males

Inveterate surrogates
attack dog invertebrates
re-mail the stock
to the old white swamp

re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

 

On Reflection…. Donald Trump (again)

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On Reflection…. Donald Trump

America has given birth
to a giant orange child
a zaftig infant Gulliver
striding the ravaged earth
of his own imagination
trampling whole villages
swallowing villagers whole.

 

This poem was published previously in Oddball Magazine. Taking Part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

 

earthweal open link weekend #26