Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Note to Eamon


It doesn’t get much better than what we had,
My friend.
Perfection cannot be manufactured,
But when we were all put together
The combination was perfect.
Together we made music.
Music, the food of the soul.
Together we made that.
We did with so little effort
What has evaded so many
Great people throughout the years:
We made people, many people, happy.
Whatever may happen,
Always remember that we were great.
We were great friends.
We were great entertainers.
We had our own little great escapes.
We won our own great little victories.
Neither of us really got the girl,
But we (for a while) were on top of the world.
Never forget those three weeks.
Never forget the things we did.
Because,
My friend,
It doesn’t get much better than what we had.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Second Last Sunday in June (up at the Castle)


Above them all he sat,
A special part of the group, but at the same time
Completely separate, standing out.
They were his, he was theirs.
He could, literally, make them sing to his tune
As he sat up high
On his very own seat
And played the music he enjoyed so much
Because he knew they loved it too.
He was at once both king and minstrel.
He looked down over them and the island,
His people and his island,
From his high seat.
They, comfortable together as one audience,
Looked up to him and
They saw him as their entertainer,
And he entertained with majesty.
All smiled. All sang. All were enraptured,
Under his spell just as he was under theirs.

All doubts, all fears, all cares
Were melted by the June sun
And carried away on the soft sweet summer’s sea breeze.
And then he sang too, from up on
His little perch, his piece of rock, his high throne.
He gave them words, and they gave him back a chorus.
They were united by the music, the magic,
As the breeze glided along the un-cut grass
And the sun gilded the sea, the rocks, the sand.
Then above them all he stood,
Dressed in black and framed by a perfect blue sky,
And, still playing, he climbed down
From the cold castle to be with them,
All together on that warm Sunday,
All together on their hill.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Abandoned House


The door flapped like cardboard on its hinges,
A hole kicked in its splintering red front.
The pane-less windows, framed by whitewashed walls,
Gave only the view of deep dark inside.
The half-burnt blinds fluttered like a butterfly’s wings
Where the glass once sat, singed orange and brown and black at the bottom.
A wild hedge grew unbridled along the low roof
From behind the house, and it dangled over the whole left side.
Thorns covered the wall to the left of the door
And the hedge was their canopy.


We took little notice of the dragonflies on the collapsed boundary of
Sea-weathered limestone rocks, or where tiles were missing
On that bit of the roof still free to roast under
The blue June sky and its hot June sun.
We laughed, lightly stepping through the
Fallen stones and crawling thorns and
Violet thistles and wild yellow flowers.
She gently pushed her way through the door, and
It jerked forwards towards me again, the wood itself
Bending as the rusted hinges stuck, and then I followed her in.


This was no ugly vessel of hidden inner beauty.
The toll of nature outside was matched by the actions of young people inside.
Crushed cans, glass bottles with ants floating in stale vodka,
Cigarette boxes and matchboxes and an ancient stained mattress,
An old cupboard and shelves lying face-down in the corner
Half-hidden by damp ancient tabloids and obsolete white shopping bags.
Flies wrapped in long abandoned spiders’ webs, wasp carcasses in the recess of
One window, the fuse box above the stairs left open with its meter removed and
Cut wires perpetually looking down on the five remaining wooden steps.
We found a letter in a torn envelope, fifty three years old.


We stood in the dusty dusk, the crumbled ceiling under-foot,
And there we kissed



Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Note to Kelsey


They all said I’d miss you
After we went home.
But when they said I’d miss you,
Was it a prophecy or a curse?
Did they know that three years on I’d
Still pause every day to think about you
And our short, wonderful time together?
In the castle, the abandoned house,
The roads and pathways of the island.
I’ve gone back there, and back again,
But you have not.
We both did have our fun, for a while,
Dancing, singing, standing in the dark room
While the others laughed, whistled, called to us,
And then came in to follow out lead.
I never did tell you that my question
Was meant, not for you, but for
Another girl, the one who sat beside you
In detention that strange night.
We were a perfect accident.
Accidentally, we were perfect.
When we both closed our eyes and the
World disappeared around us,
When the aurora exploded in waves
Behind my closed eyes and an unknown electricity
Shook me to my very foundations,
When dark places became beautiful,
You were there, kissing me back.
I could ask you stupid questions and
You could answer them for me
Without ever speaking.
You glowed brighter than the bright June sun,
Together we made dark places bright
Without ever stopping to notice the darkness.
And then your goldfish died.
No, not even yours, your sister’s.
And then we died.
Embarrassment, destruction followed our interruption.
And then we had to go home.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not Really Lonely


I have nobody to whom I can send
Messages, or whom I can ask to meet
With me for a few hours at the weekend.
I have no secret, hidden or discreet
Relationships with any local girls,
Or a long-distance lover somewhere else.
Just solitary games, musings with words,
Working on poetry, testing myself.
Reading and writing are no substitute
For the companionship of a lover,
This fact I’m sure one cannot refute.
Although, from some I am yet to recover.
So while I’m (for the time being) alone,
I know that love will always come and go.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just the Beginning


Hidden by the fence and grass,
The boys began to smoke and drink.
Upon their fun no-one would trespass.
Only of fun did they think.

The sky was still blue and clear,
The August evening still young.
Each had a drink of his favourite beer
And waited for more to come…

Walking from the local shop
Were three more boys with bags in hand.
Beside them a car came to a stop:
Driving was the youngest’s dad.

The older pair walked away,
Leaving him with the drink to fend
For himself. He thought of what to say,
And decided: “Blame a friend.”

* * *

The dad knocks at a front door
And his son’s friend’s mother answers.
He tells her the tale that his son swore.
Angry, her heart beats faster…

Six miles away, unbeknownst,
A young prodigy is training.
He kicks the football wide of the posts,
But hears no-one complaining.

… Back at his door, in panic,
His mother searches for car-keys.
His brother cycles through the traffic
Searching the locality.

The grass and fence now hide none,
The circle of trees vacated.
Any traces of the gang are gone,
’Til one boy is located.

Sitting, he is on his own,
Although waiting for nearby girls.
He had been called on his mobile phone
And told to leave the others.

He knew of his friend’s betray’l,
Informed by the friend in a text.
The prodigy, the football player,
Was innocent in this mess.

Relieved, the mother goes home,
As does the brother on his bike.
She sends her son a message to come
Straight home from training that night.

Calm now, she thinks for a while
And considers what has happened.
What kind of friend was this lying chid?
When had the drinking started?

Furious now, the brother
Thinks about the “friend’s” betrayal.
From then on they’d avoid each other
Because of cigarettes, ale.

* * *

Two weeks later, lonely joke,
Sitting alone is the liar,
Wishing he’d one with whom he could smoke,
Wishing he could get higher.

Six miles away, two more lads
Are running and kicking footballs.
To play in the Premiership, they planned.
From this high they’d never fall.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wear Your Uniform. Just Your Uniform.


His frozen corpse lay still in the
white snow outside the school,
his tackies, his t-shirt and his
hoodie confiscated.
The ice has taken over outside,
just as the icy witch has taken
over everything inside the school.
Temperature at minus two that day,
too cold to go out in just a
jumper and shirt.
He had been sent home barefoot,
but locked out.
“He deliberately took no notice of basic school policy.”
His bracelets and wristbands and
‘cellular telephone’ on her desk,
his friends in detention after
“breaking acceptable computer user policy.”
She cannot be challenged.
She is omnipotent.
She is omniscient.
She is omnipresent.
Do not break her rules.
Even on a very cold day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Return Journey From Tralee


Solitary souls in a speeding tin can,
Together but alone at the mercy of a man
Who sits at the front with a wheel in his hand
And drives from town to town with every day a different band
Of wanderers and strangers and people seeking friends
Who look to the time when their journeys will end.
Most of them go alone in this moving box to spend
Their time and money in different towns, before leaving again.
Each has a different mission or a purpose in their mind
Or even just some place they must escape or leave behind
For a day or a few hours, any little while.
A rolling ship on wheels is for these ones a place to hide.

In the corner at the back, with his phone between his knees,
Sits a young man on his own texting the girl of his dreams.
His fingers slip and shoulders shake as he realises she
Can never really be his own, in spite of subtle pleas
Hidden in his messages and disguised by his skill
With words. He solemnly accepts that this girl never will
(or probably ever did) feel the same way about him.
He puts his phone is his pocket as the bus descends the steepest hill.

Three months later, again he sat amongst a silent crowd,
Although this time he saw his friends seated all around

The study hall, for once a scene bereft of sound.
His friend who sat in front of him passed a note on which he found
News about “the girl of his dreams”, the girl in Tralee.
She had moved on, he discovered. But deep down so had he.
Passing the note forward again he felt happy it would be
His best friend who would be with the girl, on her arm in January.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winning the Ball


They were just two little words,
significant only for a moment
to my friend, who uttered them.
But such honest appreciation, such
gratitude was in his voice
that I am still struck deeply in times when
I remember, reminisce
about how close we were as a team in
games, in battle, in action.
Never before had I felt emotion
so strong in a team-mate’s response to my
shouting. Momentarily
there was a peace, a calmness on the field.

The ball was cleared to safety.
My friend, the team’s full-back, had overcome
a great challenge. He had had
to push beyond what he thought he could do.
Only he could have done it.
But for an instant, both of us, we knew
he did not do it alone.

I had shouted, encouraged.
He had fallen away, lost faith in his
own abilities. He had
given up, trailing his opponent by
yards. “Go on, you can do it!”
He heard my call, and then he did do it.
He actually did it.
For half a moment he could feel like a
Hero.

When he said “Thank you”,
I felt like one too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Years Later


“A loner.” Just lonely.
“Aggressive.” No, defensive.
“Angry.” Desperately unhappy.
“Has no taste in girls.” Sees hidden beauties.
“Has no talent.” Too afraid to show his many talents.
“Too quiet in class.” Busy thinking, contemplating what he sees and hears.
“Temperamental.” Pushed too far for amusement.
“Shouts too much in games.” Needs to release his emotions somehow.

(Two years later…)

“Is that seriously what he used to be like?
You can’t possibly be talking about the same person!
I heard he writes poetry and everything these days.
I’d almost say he’s cool now… but not to his face!”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Day Before He Died


I don’t really know how it happened yet.
Is he still alive, or is he dead?
We knew that in the end he would find himself
in a box at the hands of someone else.
I barely knew him. Didn’t know him at all really.

Now that I think about it, I only ever crossed
his path a few rare times. None were pleasant occasions.

He always carried an umbrella, or a stick. Or a knife.
He broke laws. I once broke his glasses when
he tried to crack my jaw.
He didn’t like that.
He didn’t forget it either. Luckily, it seems now that
he will never get the chance to exact a price on me.

There was the time he followed me at a disco.
And the time he chased me around a parked car.

He broke his curfew to chase me around that car.The last time I saw him was on a bus.
The only empty seat, out of all the seats on the bus,
was next to him. I sat there for a while (I had to)
but moved at the very first chance.

He didn’t like that.
He walked off the bus ten minutes later, muttering to
himself. My friends’ faces were white with terror.
He had stood beside me for five minute while I looked calmly out the window.
He didn’t like that.
I had known he was there. But then my friends told me about
his knife. His Stanley blade, to be exact.
I had not known that was there. But I was not afraid, or even surprised.


Six months earlier he had nearly
killed my friend, with a hurley.
Days before Halloween, now a year ago,
but it feels like only days ago.
It scared everyone. It changed everyone.
Everyone, that is, except him. We knew that in the end
he would find himself

in a box at the hands of someone else.
He lived by the sword, and carried a stick. Or a knife.
Today, everybody I ask says he is gone.
Today, everybody I ask has his own version of the story.
As I write, only this is definite:
Friday night, 10:10pm, attack.
Young man, aged 18, in hospital.
Him.

One year ago, a city prayed for my friend. He lives.
Today, the life of a young man who so nearly
stole my friend’s may come to (or may already be at) an end.
Nobody here prays. Some actually hope.
It is wrong, but so is (was?) he. Anyway,
I don’t know how it happened yet.
Is he still alive, or is he dead?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wall


Cupboards full of skeletons,
Words potentially too painful to put on paper,
The things I know have been both the
cause of great pain in the past
and the fuel for what will be more
great pain when the time comes to pass
whereby I cannot keep them to myself,
or those upon whom my knowledge is based
eventually shatter and fall apart.

From histories, to the mysteries of my peers’
Saturday nights and evenings behind fences with
cans and bottles and papers and lighters,
or what they did in shops (in vain) to save
money for more cans and bottles,
I know damning and damaging things.

I am not alone in all of this knowledge, but
I alone have been enlightened as to the dangers
of what they do, and the tragedy of what
others have done before.
Some say that ignorance is bliss, but I say that
knowledge is power.

With great power comes great responsibility.
Am I responsible in my way of hiding knowledge?
The boys behind bushes and bars are irresponsible in their ignorance.
O I have stories to be told, just as I have been entrusted with the stories of old.
But I have sworn myself to secrecy,
keeping things locked away to protect the names of
the innocent and the ignorant.

In my promise I have born the burden
of knowing all, deciphering for myself the
lessons that could be learned but cannot
be taught without causing hurt.
Even in these words I have kept my
word to my first story-teller, but my
other secrets of silliness (not natural curiosity)
are not hidden, even by the ones who try to stay out of sight.

If walls could talk all truth would out,
leaving the ignorant without doubt
that feigning innocence does not lead to bliss
but only hurt, these lines and unhappiness.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interior Design?


Tired red curtains,
Long passed their ‘best-before’ date, and
Grubby yellow walls,
In need of a new coat of paint.
Rickety old tables,
Covered in graffiti of hilarious intent, and
Unsteady chairs,
With uncomfortable seats and legs bent.
Cracked grey ceilings, grimy windows,
Empty orange cans, half-full bottles,
Faded brown floors, bent coat-hangers,
Grubby white-boards, chipped skirting boards,
Pockmarked green notice boards, torn information sheets,
Overflowing blue bin, broken light bulbs.

Sixty grey-clad boys, one school study hall.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another Look at the Goalkeeper


I’m the guy with the empty seat beside
Me. I wear black while ev’ryone else wears
Blue, or yellow, or sometimes green and white.
I think about the problems of the years
Gone by, when standing out in (and out of)
The crowd made it hard to find happiness.

Solitary, dressed in black, sporting gloves,
Or in a uniform amongst the rest
Of my peers. I am one of them but I
Am also different, a goalkeeper.

A little mad, I shout and dive and try
To stop speeding balls. Would it be cheaper
To relax, sit down, read and write instead,
And forget about being talented?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Friday Evening Study, November


Some are green. Others are yellow. More are
Varying shades between orange and red.
Nature makes pretty in its own great art
The leaves which will all by next month be dead.
Grey and white clouds mingle with the blue sky.
Last night’s frost turned the green grass into brown.
Listless, dull, the ceilings and walls inside
Offer nothing. Inspiration they drown.
The window on the wall offers a view
Of all that we should really think about.
The leaves will all in eight months will be renewed
Again we’ll see the sun we’re now without.
Outside there is teamwork, dedication.
In here? Just solitude, contemplation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maria


Comparisons of beauty are easy
not when a summer’s day and Tralee’s rose
are lacking in originality.
The feeling for her that I have still grows,
perhaps because we are so held apart.
This is to me a predicament new,
one which late at night doth pain my heart.
Around me people jest it is love true.
Rarely ‘fore one’s eyes does such beauty pass.
Rarer still it’s felt reciprocated.
A friendship that I wish will ever last,
a feeling hoped will ne’er be out-dated.
As this I write ‘the woman of my dreams’
Shall remain just out of my reach, it seems…

Monday, February 13, 2012

One Week Left


The time of our return is drawing nigh.
Many of the preparations are made.
Each day the sun is lower in the sky,
But goodbye the hol’days I’ve not yet bade.

There are still things to do, people to see.
Although so many plans never bore fruit.
With all my loving friends I long to be,
Their company will all my fears up-root.

These next two years will be of great pressure,
The foundations of the rest of my life.
But, wisely using my time of leisure,
I shall ease the strain and lessen the strife.

For be it at school or sport I’m with friends,
I must value each moment spent with them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Uncertainty


And so I reach the end,
But, of course, doubt finally slips in.
Is it really good enough?
I try to think back on poetry
I've read throughout the year.
Is this actually acceptable?
My conscience wants to make itself heard:

“Yes, you put the effort in.
Yes, it is good work.
But you are capable of bigger,
Better, more impressive things.
Even this, with more planning,
Could have been a true work of art.
You are lucky to have a gift of quick thinking.
But remember: all good things must come to an end!”

I pause to think again.
Why must my conscience always be right?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wednesday Afternoon, 2:00 pm


Tables rattle and scrape on the floor.
Somebody drops a pen.
Another bangs his ruler on his desk.
“Is that a mobile phone in your pocket?” somebody jokes.
A collective shout as a young woman appears on the TV.
At times the noise is deafening.


Tinfoil balls cross the room,
Back and forth for several seconds.
Crude graffiti written discreetly offers a glimpse
Of somebody’s personal opinions of a friend
They want to make the centre of a joke.

We truly are the elite.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Writer’s Block


I sit and stare at a blank computer screen.
The pressure of having to compose new lines
Makes it even harder to create.
I search my mind for relevant topics,
Suitable ways of expressing views and
Possibly even a startling insight.
Originality is harder than one would expect.
I think up rhymes that sound childish at best,
Until suddenly the thought occurs to me:

Why cannot the lack of inspiration prove to be an inspiration itself?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dedication


Pain sears through every sinew,
My muscles ache.
Sweat drips in my eyes as
I strain to draw breath.

Still I keep running.
Looking around, I see that I'm
Falling behind the others.
So I push myself harder.

The tension builds
And my legs start to shake.
Acid collects in my shoulders.
Still I keep running.

Then I hear a shout,
“OK lads, take a break.”
So I jog with the others for a drink of water
Half an hour into the training session.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adventure


Just one month to go
’Til I’m off on my own
With a busload of people
I don’t even know.

I look forward with joy
To the weeks before July
When I’ll leave Limerick City
For Coláiste ’05.

Three weeks of fun,
Of rain and wind, sand and sun,
Of learning and singing,
Games and the Island Run.

No distractions of TV
Or friends from the city,
Just craic, and new cáirde
To keep me company.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Help Him


He stands alone,
Surrounded by the crowd,
A torrent of noise bearing down on the boy,
Beating right into him,
The focus of the shouting.

Those who once did,
And those who still do claim,
Those who still do claim to be

His friends
Stand aside, now part of the crowd.

The noise crushes his spirit in
Waves of raw hate,
And eyes peer down from windows above.
They come from all corners and scatter the crowd,
Just two minutes too late.

Still he is alone,
But remains the focus of attention.
Forgotten, for the moment, by the mob.
Instead questions rain down on him,
Making him think about it all over again.

Tears are held back and the questions stop,
Although not quite satisfied by the
Quickly thought up answers.
A bell rings and he is returned to the room where they sit,
And there it begins all over again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Farmer’s Field


Clouds in the black sky bleached by
Street-lights and car head-lights.
A limp drizzle falls on the pot-holed,
Puddle-covered field.
Water drips off blades of grass and
The leaves of bushes
As arms push and legs kick
Through the boundary hedge.

Eight young lads, three carrying bags,
Navigate barbed wire and thorns
And holes and puddles.
Cans and bottles clink in the bags
And break the silence
As the young gang continue in their
Covert mission to the farmer’s
Crumbling old out-house.

After climbing the fence, jumping the dike
And skipping through piles of nettles,
Their fun starts when they reach the hiding place.
Old, empty bottles smash against the far wall,
Smoke rises from freshly lit cigarettes.
After two cans each they’re hyper
And laugh loudly and shout about funny stories.
And it’s all OK because they won’t get caught.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

First Day Back


White clouds on a sky of blue,
Green leaves against walls of grey,
A bird singing in a nearby tree
on a perfect spring day,

A bright sun shining above the roofs,
And a light breeze in the air,
as seven hundred boys in grey
return to sit and stare

at walls of yellow and boards of white,
chairs and desks of brown.
Some work hard while others think,
and others act the clown.

Not one admits that they’re glad to be back,
but their laughter proves otherwise.
Even as huge black clouds bring hailstones and rain
it’s great to be back with the boys.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Part-Time Job


“Tell the manager
I can’t play tomorrow.
I’ve got to work.
No, I can’t get out of it!
It’s my shift, there’s nobody else available.
Why don’t you play left back?
We’d probably do better with you there than in goals!
Ha ha!
Anybody would do a better job than you.
Anyway, tell him I’ll be at the match next week.
Bye!”

I don’t think I like him any more.
The money has gone to his head.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Essay


He’s going to kill me!
There’s no way I can
Get this finished on time.
I’ve only done seven lines!
Do you think I should hide?
Listen to music for the
Next forty minutes?
I don’t know what to do!
Quick, tell me
How you wrote it.
Maybe he’ll let me finish it in class.
Oh no, he’s here…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Monster


Eyes narrowed,
Peering through the crowd,
Seeking weakness,
Searching for a target,
Body poised
And muscles tensed,
Carefully waiting
For the right opportunity.

As his prey begins to run
The watcher pounces,
Knocking to the ground
His unsuspecting victim.

Target left in agony on the ground,
The young predator in a blue jersey
Picks the loose ball and
Continues with the game of football.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poem #1: "The Goalkeeper"

The Goalkeeper

Six foot tall the young man stood,
And was built like a wall of stone,
And when he stood between the posts
Compared he could be to none.

His shout was loud, his throws were long,
His grip was firm and his kicks were strong.
To any length on height he’d leap
In a bid for his clean sheet to keep.

But times would come when he’d screw up,
Like missing the ball or letting it drop.
And his team would look at him with disdain,
Adding inner hurt to his physical pain.

So he would turn, pick the ball from the net,
And try to learn from mistakes that he’d never forget.
This process of learning was a constant thing,
Adding more hope to his ‘ridiculous’ dream.

Harder he’d try, week after week,
To ignore all the put-downs and instead try to think;
“What can I learn from this? What’s going wrong?”
His burning ambition was still there, still strong.

The put-downs persisted but had less effect, 
And gradually the team showed their boy some respect.
Despite disappointment and losing, his head remained lifted,
And at last, in one game, they saw he was truly gifted.

They were 1-0 up, half a minute remaining,
The whole team’s energy rapidly draining,
When the ball went loose and two strikers went free,
Spelling trouble for the defence with a capital ‘T’.


The young man stood tall, a few yards off his line, 
Carefully making his decision and biding his time. 
When one striker hit the ball with a deafening crack
He palmed it onto the crossbar; but it came hurtling back.

So he jumped to his feet, prepared himself again,
As the ball met the foot of the skilful number 10.
High across the box it came, speeding through the air, 
So he ran and he leapt without a fear or a care.

His arms fully stretched and eyes locked on the ball,
Everyone within five miles heard his call
As his fists made connection and the ball flew away.
Then the whistle blew loudly: he had saved the day.

The team swamped around him, cheering his name.
His “twenty foot leap” had won them the game.
As an army of fans roared he lifted the cup,
Knowing it was his talent that had brought them good luck.

Week after week they won match after match
More and more shots he’d save, more high crosses he’d catch.
His success brought them right to the top of the league,
The city’s best strikers in his wake he did leave.

And when the season ended and he’d won them the Double,
His team-mates regretted ever causing him trouble.
And from then in their hearts they held no-one dearer
Than their friend, their legend, their great goalkeeper.