Saturday, 24 February 2018

looks like

I have lived my life
in the shadow
of this one thing:
not ignorance about
the music of von Webern
or ignorance about
how to speak German
or even ignorance about
quantum physics
my ignorance about such things?
it almost goes
without saying
but my ignorance about them
is not complete
or total
I have heard at least twelve notes
of von Webern
which is enough to know
that I do not wish
to hear another twelve notes
of von Webern
I can say
Ich bin eine apfel strudel
whenever the conversation
turns towards
who can speak German?
which admittedly isn’t really
that often
I say it
with more confidence and authority
than I should
I am an apple strudel
ha ha ha
and I even have
two books
about quantum physics
although I did not get past
page 4
on either of them
and the first three pages
made as much sense to me
as Ancient Greek
although I’m not
completely ignorant
about Ancient Greek either
I can recite the Ancient Greek alphabet
having studied it as a schoolboy
highly educated
that I am
the ignorance
I allude to
the ignorance
in whose shadow
I have blindly stumbled
ambled shambled
and mumbled
is that overwhelming ignorance
the ignorance
of self
which comes from
                                   not knowing where
you come from
it ambushes your days
your weeks
your months
and your years
when you go to the doctor
and she asks about
your family history
and you explain
that you were
although you don’t explain
that you are sick
of explaining
that you were adopted
by the way
never once did a doctor
ever say
that must be rather difficult
for you
I see
okay then
and you wonder what it is
that they see
and what it is
that is okay
when you are in church
and the priest says
we are all god’s adopted children
and your heart beats
like it’s World War III
which is
and you think
either I was adopted twice
or this priest
doesn’t know
what he’s talking about
at a family gathering
during their bonding sessions
is turning into
Aunty Mary
looks just like
his dad
is as beautiful as
her mother
and Paul has inherited
David’s green fingers
while you sit there
working out
that what this really means
is that
are the only person
in the world
that you
are related to
and when my adoptive mother
the aforementioned Sally
came to see
my oldest son Fintan
when he was less than one day old
because with really young babies
you can see who they look like





I was going to end
this little poem
written in the style
of Kirill Medvedev
by saying something along the lines of
if you’re adopted I feel an instant affinity
with you
for you alone share my ignorance
and know what it feels like
everyone else?
you can guess
and then finish on a final flourish
about how adopted people
somehow have to find a way
to own their lack of knowing
while most adoptive parents
won’t even admit
that when it comes to adoption
they are
somewhat astonishingly
but nothing lasts forever
including miraculously
my own ignorance
and that is how last weekend happened
when I met my father’s brother Patrick
for the first time
and my cousin Helen
for the first time
and also my cousin Howard
for the first time
by the way
looks like Fintan

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A. They died.

Give everyone a gun:
Survival of the quickest on the draw.

Give everyone a knife, a hand-grenade,
An arsenal, a bomb.

A Death Star.
You see where this goes wrong?

Give every U.S. child the chance to hide.

Q. You know what happened next? 

While Sitting on the Train

While sitting on the train – I’m ‘practising
my scales’: writing blank verse lines devoid
of Class A Poetry, but shifting though the
creative gears, from neutral to first
(which sometimes yields an idea worth pursuing) –
when my attention is diverted by
a shouting woman getting on the train.
I don’t look up, continuing instead
to write my lines of bouncing, rhythmic patterns.
…I’m simply shifting gears: creak, grind, whirr, shift…
I write. Reading back, I see that I
have written shift and shifting in the same line.
The interruptions of the noisy woman
become too much; I can’t ignore them: she
has moved into the seat opposite me.
....The hypermoaning woman venting spleen…
I write. Her children – ah! her targets – join her.
…and spitting venom at her sons. No wonder…
my observations, written in real-time
…they wind her up, the only way that they…
It’s not exactly poetry, but still.
…could get attention. A sorry state.
And as they join her, there she sits, in huffish
silence, before resuming her tirade.
I’ve barely reached my second gear, but she’s
in fifth, and hurling insults loud and ugly.
From further up the carriage comes a new
distraction: piercing; insistent. I write.
…And now a screaming child. It’s hardly Whitsun
Weddings in here. Humanity, thy name is
tattooed in gothic letters across knuckles.
It’s true: one of the sons has this adornment.
And as I write, she barks a line of blank verse:
…I absolutely dare you, Josh! I dare you!
Young Josh now grasps this opportunity
to wind his mother up some more and jumps
on to the platform where the train has stopped.
He waits too long. The Josh-less train departs.
There’s silence, followed by some whispered words,
and minutes later, five young children and
their reckless mother exit at the next stop.
Poor sods, I think, and get on with my writing.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Twice in One Day

People who don’t read, they miss out
on those small miracles of coincidence
which jolt your consciousness
into emitting a small laugh –
or, in my case a loud, ‘Ha, ha! Now way!aHa
(every time, I’m quite predictable like that) –
whenever you’ve heard a word for the first time
and later, that same day,
in a novel or a poem,
or a tome about political science
(if that’s the mood you’re in)
you encounter that word,
in print, for the first time.

It’s possible that this might happen
when you’re reading one of my poems,
as I’m occasionally given to the obscure or the sesquipedalian,
although usually I prefer
the language of the demotic.

What’s that? You only heard demotic
for the first time this morning,
yet here it is in print?

You’ve clearly been hanging out
with those plain-speaking poets again,
and then reading one of their poems,
haven’t you?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


I wonder if you’ve ever had that feeling
where all of life is out of place and things
seem ten times bigger than they really are?
Nothing is real and everything is normal?

My head was empty then and I was just a shell.


the world is rarely beautiful
we pin it down with metal spikes
and yours go through the fragile floor

Saturday, 17 February 2018


Trail twists round splintered remnants,
each lie bigger than the last.
Magnified by time’s distance,
seen through unfocused lenses.
Warped myths, bent truths, fractured lives;
misplaced, strained, ruptured, shifted.
All dark lines must find an end.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Words Blink First

You grab some words and fling them at the page.
Unknown. Forgotten. Lost. Concealed. And Father.
You glare at them; they stare at you. You hold
their gaze for one last round of Who Blinks First?

For years they’d played this game and always won.
Unknown would never yield to simple truth.
Forgotten stayed forgotten; held its ground.
Lost and Concealed had formed a grand alliance.

Father was father to them all: concealed,
unknown, and lost to you. Forgotten, like
the waves forget the shore, or rain forgets
the cloud, or tears forget the sound of laughter.

But this time, as you look towards these words,
the truth comes into focus and the words
blink first. They look away, and Father is
no longer just a word, a thought, a dream.

And then it’s waves of laughter: raining tears.