Tag Archives: poetry

Palinode (for dverse)

Palinode

I wish I hadn’t written
that poem that I regret
what I regret the most about it
is that I haven’t written it yet.

I wish I hadn’t written
a verse that makes no sense
you can’t regret the future
regret is past or present tense.

Grace over at dverse asks us to write a palinode.

“A palinode or palinody is an ode or song that retracts or recants a view or sentiment to what the poet wrote in a previous poem. “

She also quotes Ogden Nash which kind of inspired the above bit of nonsense!

Living Off The Grid

Living Off the Grid

The sun with rare generosity
beats down on the solar panels
on the roof of Vincent’s log cabin.

The first sentence of his organic novel
The abattoir, for once, was silent
sits alone on his laptop screen.

This is the seed from which will spring
plot, character, content.
He gets up, walks out through the kitchen door

through the tortured arch of his driftwood arbor
and into the vegetable garden
where he urinates in a jagged arc

sprinkling life-giving nutrients
on the unsuspecting butter lettuce.
Returning to his desk

he taps out another sentence:
With his mother’s mop, he wipes
the blood from the kitchen floor.

Why so morbid?
It’s warm, he’s feeling drowsy,
he detects a faint signal from a long-dormant source

like the distant ping from a submarine
at the bottom of the ocean.
He should invite someone for dinner,

the lady who sells jam at the Saturday market, perhaps,
or the angry sculptress – she of the tangled hair,
the scrap metal raptors, the acetylene scent.

The jam lady it is.
Bottle of wine from the retired lawyer’s vineyard,
salmon from the gnarled fishermen down at the dock,

try a little humor,
ask her if raspberry jam is a male preserve,
make a nice salad. What’s the worst that could happen?

This poem first appeared a little while back in “The Basil O’Flaherty” .

It was also published previously on this blog, thought it was worth another look.

The Wrong Way Home (a ghazal from the past)

IMG_1385 (3)_LI

The Wrong Way Home

happy hours and peeler bars
he’s taking the wrong way home

a friendly toke, a line of coke
he’s taking the wrong way home

the night is young, pass that bong
he’s taking the wrong way home

a McFlurry, an Indian curry
he’s taking the wrong way home

a pounding head, a stranger’s bed
he’s taking the wrong way home

early dawn, suitcase on the lawn
he’s found his way home.

Wander List

Slim’s Trip

he was appalling in Nepal
patronising in Patagonia
fractious in Frankfurt
stoned in Estonia

he was paralytic in Paris
he had a toke in Tokyo
he was hammered in Hamburg
stoic in Stockholm

apoplectic on the Appalachian Trail.

A version of this poem was posted in 2018.

Moth Balls, Skunks and Cedar

Lichen on Cedar

Moth Balls, Skunks and Cedar

Last night it teemed with rain,
now the garden fence steams in the morning sun.

That fence has been there
oscillating between disrepair and repair
since we moved in.

The posts are the weak points,
when you dig down
the ground teems with wood bugs and weevils
gorging on that succulent cedar.

The garden shed is also cedar.
One summer, a family of skunks
made their home underneath it.
They would regularly strut across the lawn in single file
father, mother and two young skunks
tails cocked, sphincters primed
afraid of nothing or no one.
I wrote a haiku about them
and then when they were no longer
of literary value
I spread moth balls
all around the entrance to their hole,
an internet remedy which did not work.
It’s a tad quixotic or ironic or both, isn’t it,
trying to use smell to get rid of skunks.

All that summer
as we sat drinking on the deck
and the evening sun warmed the cedar shed,
the odour of skunk and moth balls
that naphthalene-mercaptan cocktail
would hit us in gusts, in waves
like halitosis at a party
and inevitably, invariably
I would turn to anyone within boring distance
and say,
as our noses twitched in disgust,
“Isn’t nature marvelous? Isn’t nature marvelous?”

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal is:

For this week’s challenge, TEEM. Write a poem that introduces the reader to the environment you live in –a landscape shaped by time with a culturally diverse ecosystem (with human, animal and non-animal elements). Widen the focus, deepen the gaze and green the voice. Be wild. Gallop and fly and dive a textures of suburban spring afternoon. Language is your friend and opponent here: be florid and peculiar but particular. What is in the petri dish of the verse-captured moment that undulates and cavorts and cha-cha-chas at the end?

The Note

Here’s a video of a live performance of a song I wrote with my friend John Mitchell. I wrote the lyrics and John did the rest, the hard part! That’s John and his band down in Olympic Village (Vancouver). I was in charge of taking the video (no self-respecting musician would let me near a stage and with good reason) and as you can see Martin Scorsese has nothing to worry about! Listen on headphones, this was recorded on an iphone! John and the band sound great.

Here’s the lyric:

The Note

Earl sailed up the Belize coast
In his brand new custom built boat
With the mother of all hangovers
No water and a note

And now he’s sitting drinking
In an ocean-side tourist bar
Trying to get a jump on happiness
In the hour before happy hour

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

And the people standing ‘round him
Have been on Caye Caulker far too long
They‘re talking about Paradise spoilt
And how it all went wrong

Well Earl knows that Paradise
Is a very, very temporary thing
And this little piece of heaven
Feels like hell to him

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

And Earl can’t put a finger on it
Why it all went up in smoke
He’s feeling like a punch line
In someone else’s joke

And he don’t believe in karma
Instant, good or bad
He’s drunk and lonely on the beach
With a bucket full of sad

Chorus:
And the note read:
Our love has lost its flavor
There’s no point in hanging on
No Doctor Phil, no savior
We’re done,
Yes, we are done.

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

April is the Cruelest Month (AprThCruMo)

The great TS Eliot once wrote:”April is the cruelest month”. I’m not one to make facile connections but April is also National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo which is about as un-poetic as an acronym can get and now….

poets are dutifully posting a poem a day
the blogosphere is loud with words
like babble, ripple, burble, unfurl
glow, glitter, shine, glisten
winds are blowing
suns are setting
dawns are breaking
waves are crashing
on every available shore
and birds, yes, birds
are chirping, trilling, twittering, even singing,
nature is under siege;
but I have to admit
I’m not up to it
I don’t have the diligence, the discipline
the creative bandwidth
besides it’s the second day of April
and I’m one day behind already
nothing constipates a poet
like a deadline.

Versions of this poem appear every year around this time

Taking part in OpenLink over at dverse

The Grand Scheme of Things

The Grand Scheme of Things

Be they grand or otherwise

there are schemes
and there are things

but in the grand scheme of things
there may not be
a grand scheme of things

what matters
is how we react
to the failure of schemes

be they grand or otherwise.

The challenge from Peter over at dverse is to write a circle poem in which the first line and the last line are the same.

Railspur Alley Park (Slimverse – The Journey, Episode 3)

Railspur Alley Park.

a humid
lion house
hogo hangs
on the air

dogs and trees
dogs and trees
free jazz, jazz
for free, the

bass player
leans like a
drunk around
a lamp post.

After hearing this one, I asked Slim if he found this verse form, this 3 syllable line too confining. Did he not want to escape its shackles and roam free, go for 5, 6 syllables or even stretch a line across the width of the page. “Au contraire”, he said. He actually said that, “au contraire”, which I thought was a bit effete, a bit foppish for a bald guy of his heft, his corpulence.

“Au contraire, in fact I find it liberating to escape the tyranny of free verse, the endless decisions – upper case, lower case, line length, is it really a poem or is it just chopped up prose, if I am writing a poem about a flower, should the poem be in the shape of a flower, should I rhyme or not rhyme, what is doggerel anyway? This is like fundamentalism, religion, the boundaries are clearly defined, this far and no further, you have 12 syllables per verse, make the best of it!”

Well, that answer was a bit more than I needed or wanted, if I owned a watch I would have been looking at it.

“Got to go, Slim” I said.

“Hang on” he said, “I am feeling a vague fin de saison ennui, a certain je ne sais quoi and I have this urge to use every hackneyed French phrase I know in a pathetic attempt to sound world-weary, like I’m sitting in an outdoor café, a scarf knotted at my neck, smoking a Gitane and nursing an existential crisis, out on

a rain swept
pier, a lone
tourist bends
to the wind.”

Episodes 1 and 2 are here and here.

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

A Note to Bono and Some other Irish Guys on St. Patrick’s Day

Bono, Paul
name those streets
it’s time
it’s time.

Mr. Joyce, James
yes,
that sea
still tightens the scrotum.

Mr. Beckett, Sam
we’re waiting
we’re waiting
we’re waiting

Mr. O’Brien, Flann,
Myles of the Little Horses
this is not about a bicycle.
My dad once told me
you were a regular
on the last bus out of the city,
heading home to Booterstown
langered, stotious,
three sheets to the wind
whether this was an observation
or a judgement or an exaggeration
I could never quite figure
but if you should meet my dad
in that section of heaven
reserved for former residents of South Dublin
please say hi from me
and I hope it’s always late June up there
and the evening is stretching its legs
and the light is like filtered longing.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse

Oprah Among The Chickens

Oprah among the Chickens

As I watched Oprah, Harry and Meghen
standing among the chickens
standing at the epicenter of an event
that sent shock waves
throughout the free world
I asked myself this question:

Is a rescue chicken
a chicken that has been rescued by people
or is it a chicken that rescues people?

I then asked myself another question:

How many Royals does it take to change a light bulb?

and a voice answered:

It’s a journey.
They must first acknowledge
that the light bulb
was the source of the light
that previously flooded the room
then and only then
is change possible.

Waiting for that Vaccine (aka Limbo Blues)

Waiting for that Vaccine (aka Limbo Blues)

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

the first line is about memory
the second is a disconnected fact

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

today I remembered limbo
Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus

existential boogie
do that existential thing
been waiting for that vaccine
summer, autumn, winter, spring

if you’re looking for an answer
don’t ask Albert Camus

that dude’s been dead a long time
he can’t tell you what to do

and old Rene Descartes he said
I think therefore I am

well I call that a beginning
I don’t call that a plan

waiting for that vaccine
waiting to cut loose
hit me with your best shot
of that antiviral juice

Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer
I don’t need no appetizer
hit me with your best shot
of that antiviral juice

Over at earthweal, Brendan asks in reference to the pandemic “What tools in the poetic repertoire are there for describing and naming and calibrating it?” A good question!

This poem is adapted from two other poems – ‘Limbo Blues’ and ‘Existential Boogie’. So the form I picked is a sort of mutating blues and humour is a part of my poetic repertoire (although not everyone might agree ), so I used that!

Party Animal (Slimverse* – The Journey, Episode 2)

Party Animal

in he walks
like a bull
checking out
a paddock

the air shifts
nervously
eyes lower
bells jangle

(Episode 1 is here)
The following is a memory and like all memories it’s under constant revision. What’s significant I think is that it was the first time I realized that Slim was taking this whole slimverse thing a bit more seriously than I was. As I remember it……..


I invited Slim and the rest of The Poet’s Circle over for a few drinks to celebrate something, I can’t quite remember what it was and to be honest, it doesn’t matter.
The evening began relatively smoothly with an intense discussion about accessibility (no surprises there) and I made an emotional speech about the end rhymes in Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”. The conversation moved on to verse forms – cinquains, tankas, sestinas, halibuns, what happens if one turns a haiku upside down -fascinating stuff. Then Slim chimed in and asked where our own invention, the slimverse, fitted in to this pantheon. There was an awkward silence. Eventually, The Accomplished Poet spoke up. I should add that he is indeed accomplished and his compact vivid poems, mostly about his garden, have been widely published. He politely suggested that perhaps a 3 syllable line was too limiting, that making poetic music with such a restriction is quite difficult.
Now there was another kind of silence, the kind that ensues when a lion tamer drops his whip. Slim said quietly “fuck you and your fucking garden” and aimed a punch at The Accomplished Poet’s head, who, perhaps because of all that work in the garden, is quite agile. He ducked Slim’s punch and kicked him adroitly in the crotch. When the applause died down and Slim could speak again, he uncharacteristically apologized and gave The Accomplished Poet a hug, a doubtful pleasure given Slim’s personal hygiene issues. The evening ended on a happy note with a raucous rendition of “Suzanne”, everyone hitting the end rhymes hard.
Later that night Slim and I wrote the above poem which stretched the slimverse form to two verses. History in the making.

(*Slimverse – four 3 syllable lines)

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse

Names ( Slimverse-The Journey, Episode 1)

Names 

those that can

stand alone

those that can’t

hyphenate.

Looking back now to 2016 when the above was written, it’s hard to believe that slimverse was once an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. Now, it’s 2021, year 2 in the age of Covid and slimverse is, well, still  an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. The above masterpiece was composed by Slim (Volume) and I in the early hours of the morning following “the Poet’s Circle” Christmas Party which was held at the Accomplished Poet’s house.  It was a fun-filled night of poetic over-indulgence and excess. The Accomplished Poet (an avid gardener) read a poem about pruning as a metaphor for the editing process involved in writing  a poem, it was tortuous but accomplished. The Upper Case Poet had a minor shoving match with our newest and youngest member, the editor of an edgy E-zine called “Capslock Off” – no prizes for guessing what the argument was about. Slim hung around the buffet all night like a dog that had come across a bag of pork chops while walking in the woods, then later insisted that he had an invented a new word : “tumultaneous” – when tumultuous events occur simultaneously. He was met with benign indifference. But that was all back when Slim and I were in each other’s pockets before our estrangement, our parting of the ways, but more about that later…….

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

Ted’s less than Excellent Adventure (quadrille)

Ted’s less than Excellent Adventure

thousands of turtles
are stunned by the cold
off the Texas Coast,
the lights go out,
the lone star flickers,
Republicans tilt at windmills.
Ted Cruz flees to Mexico
but returns prematurely
after a less than excellent adventure
chastened, but still oilier than thou.

The challenge over at dverse is to write a 44 word poem (quadrille) incorporating the word “go”.

Me, Mike Pence and the Magaleptic Mob

Me, Mike Pence and the Magaleptic Mob

the only one between me and the magaleptic mob,
a zaftig army in dollar store camouflage,
is Mike Pence

their fists are raised to the spacious skies
there’s spittle on their lips
anger and atavism in their eyes

this does not bother me
a rock hits the wrought iron gate behind me
this also does not bother me
I’m staring into an open cooler
containing ten tall cans of craft pale ale
and a bag of frozen shrimp
and I can see that the ice is melting
way faster than I expected
this bothers me

Go through the gate, Mike yells
Go through the gate
But Mike, I reply, I need more ice for the shrimp!
Forget the fucking shrimp, Mike yells
Go through the gate
and I’m thinking,
Mrs. Pence would not like that kind of language

I look down at the shrimp
and imagine them curled and pink on my plate
with a dash of soy
a dash of sriracha
another rock hits the wrought iron gates
they swing open onto a long driveway
that leads up to a large mansion
which I know in the strange logic of dreams
is a house of consequence
I know this is the house of Richard Nixon

I turn to Mike who is bleeding from the forehead
and clutching the nuclear football
like a quarterback waiting for someone to run a pattern
and I say
Hey Mike, I wonder if Mr. Nixon has a freezer.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse

Sea Shanty

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 fol de diddle dairy oh
whack fol de diddle dan.

These lines were randomly composed while listening to a band from the Maritimes in the Dubh Linn Gate Pub, Whistler, British Columbia. There were twenty additional verses, but they got lost on the way back to the hotel, as did I.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse


Jack ex Machina

Jack ex Machina

that familiar ache
in the western sky
the sun, a bawling fire

like a jack from a box
a memory springs

there’s a grand stretch to the evenings
my mother would say
in Spring.

Over at earthweal, Sarah Connor, asks us to celebrate Imbolc

“Today, I want to think about Imbolc. Traditionally celebrated at the start of February, Imbolc is a festival of new life and new beginnings. The name derives from “in the belly” — the first stirrings of life, seeds starting to sprout. In Northern Europe the days are starting to lengthen. Lambs and calves are starting to be born. Snowdrops are appearing, and buds are swelling in the hedgerows. It’s a time when my stride starts to lengthen and my shoulders go back a little. The darkness of winter is starting to lift. Everything is trembling on the brink of the explosion of life that is spring”

This a a rewrite of an older poem, which I couldn’t get right, so it’s a new beginning and it references Spring and springs.

Cuban Heels

Cuban Heels

Your high society mistress has long since left your bed
and that Scandinavian seamstress has you hanging by a thread

those so-called glitterati won’t return your calls
and your two-toned Maserati is running on nothing….nothing at all

but when you walk out in the morning
you’ve still got that strut
Cuban heels
nerves of steel
when you walk out in the morning
you’ve still got that strut.

Peter over at dverse asks us to think about opening lines, check out his entertaining and informative post here.

The Sun God (poem)

juxtaposition

Over at earthweal, the challenge is to write a poem about Deep Time. This is a poem about a place where time is deep and the air is thin.

The Sun God

Myron volunteered once
as a caretaker on an island
in the middle of a lake
in the High Andes
North of Puno,
the Altiplano.

The top of the island
was as flat as an anvil
and every day
he would climb up there
from his lake side cottage
to study the funerary towers
of Silustani
over on the mainland,
using his large binoculars.

It was never quite clear to Myron
what exactly he was taking care of.
He had a house,
a dread-locked alpaca
and three guinea pigs.
The guinea pigs were housed in a wired compound,
inside the compound was a miniature mud hut
with a thatched roof
and three open doorways
which the guinea pigs retreated through
every time he approached.
He thought,
perhaps he was supposed to eat the guinea pigs
it was clear that they thought this also.

Located close to the funerary towers
were the remains of an Inca temple
worshipping the Sun God,
at that time in his life
Myron was losing faith in atheism
and the Inca worship of the sun god
had a certain logic to it.
Without the sun where are we?
Where are we, indeed!
He wasn’t overly keen on human sacrifice
but he had to admit that the Incas
dealt with the blood well,
channels and drainage being an Inca thing,
knowledge they acquired along the way.
Subjugate, assimilate,
and so it goes forever.

Myron thought he would use this time to write
but mostly he sat looking at a blank page
listening to the tinnitus in his left ear roar
and in the absence of his fellow human beings
he began to think that the alpaca was judging him,
the way it stared at him from under its matted fringe
and down its long nose.

One night he found himself shouting abuse at the alpaca.

The next day he left for Puno
and got drunk on gassy lager
in a pizzeria on the ragged, dusty town square

not far from the shores of Lake Titicaca.

This poem was previously published in The Galway Review.