29 April 2017


Three spirits came to me
And drew me apart
To where the olive boughs
Lay stripped upon the ground:
Pale carnage beneath bright mist. 

- Erza Pound

24 April 2017


There ought to be a survey done, with maps.
One shouldn’t come upon them unawares.
I mean the places where you fall through time.
You know them by a lifting of the hairs,
A sudden tense alertness, not quite fear,
The air’s electric whisper: who goes here?
It happens anywhere: an old canal,
The corner of a field, a cobbled mews.
I’d plot them all, a pointillist of time.
I’ve worked it out, the colours that I’d use:
Vermilion for the present, shading back.
The past’s autumnal spectra end in black.
My maps would be a handbook for the haunted.
There’d be blood-red, then, for the motorways
With cities in their web like scarlet spiders,
But over here, in delicate flint-greys,
High on the downs pure Neolithic time
In chalky hollows, lingering like rime.
For furthest back, before the glaciers,
I’d let sloe-purple paint the night of caves.
My Roman ghosts would rise in blues and ochres
And Bronze Age russet glint about old graves.
How lovingly I’d chart one valley’s scene
In Saxon gold and fresh mediaeval green.
But there’s no school for time’s cartographers
And any skill of mine to mark and keep
I’d lavish on the contours of the living.
It’s only sometimes, at the edge of sleep,
I watch imagined colours pulse and fade.
How beautiful, the maps I never made.
- David Sutton

23 April 2017


The larks flew up like jack-in-the-boxes
From my moors, and the fields were edged with fox-gloves
The farm lay neatly within the hollow
The gables climbing, the barn beside the doorway
If I had climbed into the loft I should have found a boy
Forty years back, among the bales of hay.
He would have known certainly all that I know
Seeing it in the muck-strewn cobbles below.
(Under the dark rim of the near wood
The tears gathered as under an eyelid.) 
It would have surprised him to see a tall man
Who had travelled far, pretending to be him.

- C H Sisson

21 April 2017


I take my stand by the Ulster names,
each clean hard name like a weathered stone;
Tyrella, Rostrevor, are flickering flames: 
the names I mean are the Moy, Malone, 
Strabane, Slieve Gullion and Portglenone. 
Even suppose that each name were freed 
from legend’s ivy and history’s moss, 
there’d be music still in, say, Carrick-a-rede, 
though men forget it’s the rock across the track
of the salmon from Islay and Ross. 
The names of a land show the heart of the race; 
they move on the tongue like the lilt of a song. 
You say the name and I see the place 
Drumbo, Dungannon, or Annalong. 
Barony, townland, we cannot go wrong. 
You say Armagh, and I see the hill 
with the two tall spires or the square low tower;
the faith of Patrick is with us still; 
his blessing falls in a moonlight hour, 
when the apple orchards are all in flower. 
You whisper Derry. Beyond the walls 
and the crashing boom and the coiling smoke. 
I follow that freedom which beckons and calls 
to Colmcille, tall in his grove of oak, 
raising his voice for the rhyming folk. 
County by county you number them over; 
Tyrone, Fermanagh ... I stand by a lake, 
and the bubbling curlew, the whistling plover 
call over the whips in the chill daybreak 
as the hills and the waters the first light take. 
Let Down be famous for care-tilled earth, 
for the little green hills and the harsh grey peaks, 
the rocky bed of the Lagan’s birth, 
the white farm fat in the August weeks. 
There’s one more county my pride still seeks. 
You give it the name and my quick thoughts run 
through the narrow towns with their wheels of trade, 
to Glenballyemon, Glenaan, Glendun, 
from Trostan down to the braes of Layde, 
for there is the place where the pact was made. 
But you have as good a right as I 
to praise the place where your face is known, 
for over us all is the selfsame sky; 
the limestone’s locked in the strength of the bone, 
and who shall mock at the steadfast stone? 
So it’s Ballinamallard, it’s Crossmaglen, 
it’s Aughnacloy, it’s Donaghadee, 
it’s Magherafelt breeds the best of men, 
I’ll not deny it. But look for me 
on the moss between Orra and Slievenanee.
- John Hewitt

19 April 2017


On the bog road the blackthorn flowers, the turf-stacks,
Chocolate brown, are built like bricks but softer,
And softer too the west of Ireland sky.
Turf smoke is chalked upon the darker blue
And leaves a sweet, rich poor man's smell in cloth.
Great ragged rhododendrons sprawl through gaps

And pink and white the chestnut blossom tops
The tumbled granite wall round the demesne.
The high-brass-bound De Dion coughing past,
O'Connor Don and the solicitor,
Disturbs the dust but not the sleeping dogs.

Disturbs the memories in an old man's head.
We only live one life with one beginning.
The coming degradations of the heart
We who wake with all our landfalls staring
Back at us in the dawn, must hold our breaths for.
The West is not awake to where Titanic
Smokes in the morning, huge against the stars.

- Anthony Cronin

18 April 2017


He had been unfaithful once, unlikely
as that seemed when, silver-haired and blind,
he let her lead him up the aisle each Sunday.
Some Jezebel, the story was, had lured him
off to Blackpool one weekend, long in the past.
I went along to Mass when I came home,
and enjoyed hearing the praise on every side
of such an exemplary grandnephew.
After he died, she moved to sheltered housing
somewhere near Parbold in the scenic north
of Lancashire, but we sometimes still went
to take her to Mass, tearfully sniffing
into her scented hankie, recalling George
and how she missed his arm upon her shoulder.

- Bernard O'Donoghue

15 April 2017

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- Fleur Adcock