• At St. Malachy's Church

    i.m. Marty Crickard
    I came to light a candle for a friend
    but Jesus had a really bad mustache
    and those were only pinpricks in his palms
    so I passed on.

    I came to light a candle for a friend
    but Joseph's hands were manicured
    and soft as Fairy Liquid hands
    I could not light one there so I passed on.

    In the corner was a fellow with a cowled robe
    and a tonsure like a saucer — he palmed
    a young and curly blonde Adonis — so I
    passed on then to Benoît-Joseph Labre,

    a tattered man whose wide eyes blazed,
    he looked quite mad, had beggar's hands,
    I liked him. I lit two dozen candles, didn't pay,
    and nicked this book on him before I left.

    I did all this in honor of my matchless absent friend,
    whose honest calloused workman's hands
    maintained the half of Belfast,
    and nothing's been the same since he passed on.... more »

  • BANQUET

    O squat round Banquet
    margarine tub, your black
    and blue SUPERSOFT letters,

    on permanent Special,
    Sleek Sentinel, for weeks
    you have held centre-stage.

    Flanked by the HP sauce
    and the salt, you're one fifth
    of the Kerrygold butter

    we crave. Our throats
    burn gold with the blur
    of the buttercup's disc.

    We freeze when the yellowy
    ingot appears; it sweats
    on its rose-spattered plate.

    O Banquet, Pale Champion
    Duller of Hunger, observe us now
    shovelling butter.

    It's not a bit of wonder
    it never lasts.... more »

  • EARTHWISH

    after ‘Irisch' by Paul Celan
    Grant me the wayleave
    across the draw-bridge to your sleep,
    the by-your-leave
    to wend the wild meanders of your dreams,
    the privilege, now I'm fit, to split the turf
    along your breast's incline
    come dawn.... more »

  • FATHOM

    …the furthest distances I've travelled
    have been those between people

    - Leontia Flynn
    1. Father
    (at the Forty-foot Gentlemen's Bathing Place)

    Seven thirty a.m.
    and I love that men
    are different
    when wet.

    We're sea-changed,
    leagues of seals,
    rasping, clapping,
    rapturing the air.

    I'm glad the water's cold.
    And though my father
    taught me everything

    I know about salt water,
    for fifty weeks per annum
    he remained arms' length inland.


    2. Farther

    Not necessarily needing to know
    I launch into these buoyant
    introductions: ‘Hey Dad, it's Paula,
    your favourite daughter your

    beautiful blow-in from Belfast,'
    my mother priming him well
    in advance, so that I'm a little
    deflated but hardly surprised

    when he risks ‘Are you married
    to one of my sons?' ‘Father'
    I breeze ‘Bishop Hegarty'd

    never agree.' And his smile as he
    fathoms the quip soon sinks, repeating
    how terribly terribly sorry he is.


    3. Further

    Close to the close of your life, you wash up
    in a strange house with a woman old enough
    to be your mother insisting she is your wife.
    Despite your rebuttals she's wedded to her lies.

    You try the doors, her ladyship has them locked.
    You spot your father's shooting-stick,
    you've really got to fly, you say, and put
    a window in. Next thing you la- la- la-

    land in some class of hotel where the women
    are very much younger with lovely hands;
    the exits here, you swiftly establish, are shut

    with a hush-hush code. You've stashed the stick
    and smash a panel in. They belt you in a comfy chair,
    to anchor you, they say, and call you ‘pet'.


    4. Faster

    I don't think I ever married, did I? This
    at the buzz-locked doors as I'm heading, the same day
    he's quizzed me how long this interment (sic) will last.
    You did Dad, the Star of the County you claimed.

    He grins. And I've more to report. Go on.
    She bore you six children. Away. It's true.
    Would you like me to introduce you to one?
    I would. God. That would be great.

    Well Father. We shake.
    It's a pleasure to meet you.
    He beams.

    When I leave I am borne
    on the keen conviction
    he liked me.


    5. Falter

    Our father one ankle in Heaven
    trouser-leg rolled to the knee -
    your time not come - the other one
    stuck as it is and swollen.

    There is yet time in this dry hotel,
    as your wide straddle falters the tide recedes
    til your greeting's a watery smile you float
    for the baffling hosts of the faces you meet,

    above whose static you tune to the sirens -
    song with your name on -
    well within reach;

    though embracing's beyond us
    I'd sing to deliver you
    home for the last how long... more »

  • GIST

    In this his apocryphal pre-incarnation I have him in nightgown and cap
    clutching a candlestick, big Willie Winkie cack-handed with drink,
    he soft-shoes, manoeuvres himself in behind her, just as the first of his hic-
    cups erupts, impressing the spoon of himself on her echoing form,
    more stirred by the whiff of her, dizzy with ale, his left arm walloping
    over her waist, misfiring and squeezing, more thrust than hug,
    just under the breastbone he loves so her wrought silver denture
    (three upper incisors avulsed in a fall from a horse and hitherto
    schtum) wings forth on that sudden upshot of air, abrupt
    as an utterance too long held, and rings on the earthenware pitcher,
    hic hic, her rhythm disrupting before her breath settles and young
    Mrs Heimlich recovers the gist of her dream.... more »