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Sheelagh

She swallows the ripe sun
each eve
he caresses her breasts
like frankincense
warms the cavern of her belly
as tender wine
and strokes her open thighs
astride the night—
to bring forth
every stream, sod,
tree, breeze, tide,
fowl, fruit, beast,
serf, chief, seer,
saint and thief
howling
into the morn.

Coast to Coast to Coast, Special Irish Issue, (2018)

 

Iron Anniversay

Old Cantley wakes to cries
stabs scrawny long-johned legs
into shit-stained old suit trousers
held at the waist with baler twine
drags on hobnailed boots
frayed flannel shirt and once-green jersey
smeared with dregs from countless feeds
scrapes a greasy cap onto a grizzled head
kicks open the door to the stinking yard.
Rooks scatter and caw above the sycamore
his chained collie bitch stretches and yawns
filthy water dribbles over battered concrete
oozing between clods and spilled hay
as bullocks roar and clatter in the corrugated barn.

Hunching against the sleet that spears from Blue Hill
he slings the mildewed heel of a loaf at the collie
she snatches it from the muck and gulps it whole
pads close and licks his hand. He howls
clamps his great gnarled paws around her neck
heaves the collie into the air
her frantic legs tearing against him
forces scarred thumbs into warm matted fur
squeezing her whining white throat
ever tighter
to stop the screams
of his young wife and wean
tearing down the rickety stairs
and away.

Poetry Ireland Review, 127, (2019)

 

Essence

She removes her coat
stretches back
breath by breath
smears petals steeped in fat
the warm gland of a tiny deer
and grease from a whale’s gut
across each wrist
behind her knees
in the crook of her elbows
beneath each ear

she stills herself
flickering by the fire
I’ll eat him alive.

The Stony Thursday Book, December, (2016)

 

Saga

Einar oily-tongue
son of Thorir the silent
brother of Harald fair-hair
and Olaf the white took Ragnhilda
daughter of Amund wall-eye had three sons
Thord half-foot Gudred most-beard and Sigurd
the stout. One midwinter Einar had tidings Olaf
Bjarn hook-tooth and his housecarls would war him
he parleyed with Steinhoff the low and Thorsten cod-biter
rode forth with his sons and twenty men to settle the matter
at the place of stones Bjarn offered him single combat they clashed
long with sword and axe till Einar severed Bjarn’s neck a mighty strike
Olaf the white gave Solveig his daughter to Thord for wife they made up
the quarrel Einar hung Bjarn’s head from his mount’s crupper set for home
in celebration as he spurred the horse Bjarn’s tooth pierced his calf the wound
sprung with dark swelling they laid him in the Hall at Orphir his sons made sacrifice
three hermits but the great warrior chief Einar oily-tongue went in fever to his death.

The Interpreter’s House, 65, (2017)

 

East Ireland

Rain set in.

Marched from Newry to Rathfriland, distance fourteen miles.
The first part of the route I did not see, being asleep
on Major Henly's elephant. Arrived Mayobridge at midday
where I located my horse. The road then tolerably good,
interspersed with streams and banyan trees. Comfort
and cleanliness are little observed in these parts.

Found quarters in Rathfriland, water good
and plenty of supplies for a battalion.
Building great temples and drinking illicit whiskey
prevails greatly among the populace. The country about,
one continued prospect of dark, rocky hills.
Killed a snake in my sleeping room.

Marched to Katesbridge, distance eight miles.
A precipitous descent into jungle,
sighted leopard, apes and buffalo
but I could not obtain a clear shot.
Our native guide twice lost his way
so we did not reach the nullah Bann until sunset.
Across the muddy water a wretched place,
not above thirty dwellings built in a square
by way of defence. A six-pounder
would demolish the whole in ten minutes.

Marched to Castlewellan, distance twelve miles.
The coldest morning so far, my feet were near frozen
in the stirrups and my horse sank to his withers
crossing the nullah Bann. The road beyond mostly sound
but in places steep and stony. Proceeded through land in crop
of sugar-cane and rice. Castlewellan, with a fine bazaar,
appears capable of supplying a large camp.

Weather cool, light rain.

Magma, 70, (2018)

 

Pregate per noi *

two Nissen huts joined
lone bell in pointed arch
lantern of bully-beef tins
the crown of thorns
barrel-vaulted nave
angel with horn and lyre
hand clasping a nail
wrought iron scrolls
cherub sheathing his sword
concrete altar on barbed-wire frame
boat fleeing the tempest
tabernacle of salvaged wood
dove, blue sky and stars.

* Written at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, Orkney

The Honest Ulsterman, June, (2016)