To Seamus Heaney in Heaven
When word came I was midway
in a letter to yourself…
“What’s he after, now?” you ask.
I had begun like Kavanagh’s swan,
‘head low with many apologies’,
As Hamilton once wrote to Wordsworth
And keeping to the last
The joke I knew you would enjoy,
The one about the Greek tailor:
But you were already beyant, like Gunnar
Sharing poems with The Greats
Miłosz, Brodsky, Lowell, Auden, Yeats.
from A Mystic Dream of 4
From Gilgamesh through Homer to Li Po,
From Chaucer to blind Milton I am proud
To sit and watch my standing army grow,
Yet cast a cold eye on the current crowd.
Whose heart was dancing with the daffodils?
Whose villain of the piece was Ralph The Rover?
Whose gardens that were bright with sinuous rills?
Whose note of sadness on the beach at Dover?
If poetry makes nothing happen might
The other way around be also true?
He countered that when Science bade goodnight
His versifying urge retired too.
He was no Swift, no Donne, nor yet a Pope;
I liked the one about the telescope.
ELLEN De VERE (Romantic Attachment)
Dear Lord, but what a piece of work’s a man,
What theorems and equations say he should
Infer from one remark a whole life’s plan
And never ask directly where he stood?
It’s true I did say that I could not live
Contentedly apart from Curragh Chase
But could the goose not find the words to give
A girl the chance to row back with good grace?
And as for Dora Wordsworth and her rant
That I was too much wrapped up in my brother?
Her perspicacity was much in want
To write thus to Eliza, as another.
In any case he struck another match
And all may judge who was the better catch!
LADY HELEN HAMILTON (Spouse)
A Lady, yes, but still without a carriage,
Long treks to Dublin at a walking pace
And there were always three souls in our marriage
Or four, if you count Missy Curragh Chase!
I knew about the whispers behind-backs
That I was just a phantom of a wife,
My absences the focus of attacks;
As if my presence could enlarge his life?
But I was witness to his darker days,
A genius, yes, but still a child half-grown;
I weathered his precocious wants and ways
And gave him three strong children of his own
And I was midwife when, against the odds,
He brought forth his canal-bank set of quads.
DEATH (section III)
A feast or famine? – famine is my feast!
Who lives or dies is in the penny’s toss.
He kept his head down at his sums; at least
he sought no profit from another’s loss.
He coined me five across the River Styx:
First, Cousin Arthur, fountain of goodwill,
Then Boyton, star of College politics
And Uncle James, the lowly curate still.
He mourned these and moved on, as if by rote;
The fourth, though, haunts him like Old Marley’s ghost:
The vision of MacCullagh’s bloodied throat,
So much alike, affecting him the most
And Wordsworth, in the poet’s own words ‘bound
Within the sonnet’s scanty plot of ground’.
Buck Mulligan, plump and statelee,
Rags Stephen whose Mum’s RIP
The tower’s a kip
Buck goes for a dip
In the scrotumtightening sea.
‘Sir’ Stephen shows weary regard
For someone who finds sums too hard.
His foot in his mouth
Old Deasy’s uncouth
To our bullockbefriending bard.
Plus a shaggy dog fatality
A bi-lingual rant
(La Plume de ma Tante?)
And a nose-picking finality.
Inner organs of beasts and fowls
A letter from Blazes, Bloom scowls
Its import denied
A kidney is fried
An effortless movement of bowels.
A letter from Martha, Bloom’s joy
Is tempered by meeting McCoy.
No rent for the Pope
Buy lotion and soap
A flower for one naughty boy.
A road-race to quicken the dead
And put Paddy Dignam to bed.
Parnell, the old fox
Is not in his box;
He died of a Tuesday, ‘tis said.
Fresh from omnium gatherums
Of Nelson’s and Freeman’s colúmns
Our Stephen is led
To the boo-oosing shed
By the Parable of the Plums.
While gastronome Leopold spurns
The Burton for chic Davy Byrne’s
Gorgonzola n’ red
Wine gone to the head
Reels into the Library by turns.
Where Stephen has taken the floor
To lecture on cold Elsinore
The last Will is read
On second-best bed
Then Exeunt All out the door.
Father Conmee, the Dignam boy
And the (doublin’) hoi polloi
Criss-cross in the street
Some Dedali meet
All strain to salute The Viceroy.
Two barmaids discuss cons and pros
Of marriage to ‘the greasy nose’
By cider and Powers
There’s more talk of flowers
And somebody sings The Last Rose.
The Heroes of Ireland crowd in
The court of RM Citizen
Maligned as a cheat
Bloom’s forced to retreat
Pursued by a dog-biscuit-tin.
While Gerty conceives of astriction
The strains of Retreat Benediction
Cross Sandymount Strand;
Self taken in hand
Bloom limply can mark her affliction.
A visit to Mrs Purefoy
The medics press Bloom to enjoy
Full many a glass
Of Number One Bass
To Burke’s, at the news of a boy.
Nightsdream about women and wine
Enlivened by costume design
The leg of a duck
Earns Stephen a puck
The Horse has the neigh saying line.
A refuge from Cissies and malt
The Cabman’s night shelter their halt
S. D. will have none
Of coffee and bun
Nor Bloom the tall tales of a salt.
Bloom, keyless, climbs over the gate.
The revellers co-urinate.
On fresh linen sheet
Tell-tale potted meat
Where Blazes has shifted of late.
Now Molly’s awake in the bed
With lots of bad thoughts in her head
To finish she’ll say
Sure, fine, right, okay
Henceforth, you can take that as read!
from The Irish Times, Bloomsday 2012
from Safe House
Proverbs For The Computer Age
An Apple a day keeps the hacker away
Baud news travels fast
Better to light one Intel than to cursor the darkness
When the mat’s away the mouse will play
Necessity is the motherboard of invention
Every blog has its day
Fight virus with virus
All that twitters is not scrolled
Let sleeping laptops lie
Beware of geeks bearing gifs
The Joey Trinity
There were three budgies in one Joey
co-equal but not co-existent:
The first taught wisdom through experience
seizing the chance of an open door
to ascend into heaven;
The second took after Father Peyton
setting up a crusading racket
joyful, sorrowful, glorious by turns
during the family rosary;
The third mirabile dictu learned
to say his name, the flesh made word
and had the courage to crash-land
on Dad’s bald head, occasioning
some tongues of fire.
Give & Take
What would I give
To hold you again
In the crook of my left arm
And have you hold on for dear life
To the lobe of my left ear?
What would you take
To hold me again
In the crook of your left arm
And have me hold on for dear life
To the lobe of your left….
No, I mean the right….
The one that is not pierced!
for Peter Kuch
Contrast “one country, two islands!”
with my “one island, two countries?”
When, in the murdering seventies
I finally put up my hands
(having lived it, in Mahon’s gloss,
bomb by bomb) and went south,
I was homesick, twisting my mouth
to chew on their soft vowel blas.
The sign at a Christchurch store -
Just in, Midget Gems! – greets
me kindly, calling me forth
to a home-coming, glen to shore
and the hamely tongue’s wee sweets:
South Island, peaceable North.
from The King of Suburbia
When spring blew scuds of foam in from the bay
and ferry foghorns lowed far out to sea,
we kept your bed-sit, stayed in bed all day
and schemed a future laced with Duty-Free.
Then summer warmed us in the new estate,
the wedding portrait proud against bare wall
and, scuppering the plans to decorate,
the baby crawling backwards down the hall.
Now autumn finds us in suburban bliss,
two candles twinkling in a turnip head,
we spend our passion in one goodnight kiss
and put an extra blanket on the bed
to dream the nursing home we’ll winter in
and wipe the dribble from each other’s chin.
When I shared a bed
in nineteen fifty-two or three
with my bony father, I was led
to believe that we
now I can own
that when his bony frame
closed in upon my back
and he whispered my name
into my bony neck,
lay his bony father and, behind,
his bony grandfather, his bony great-
grandfather….all that long-lined
boniness, lying in state,
their collective bony weight
pulling him down, but slow,
a little heavier each year
until he finally let go
and I fear
now with the same bony crew,
light as a feathery ton:
O they have a job to do
but not a word to my son.