NIGHTS WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
Nights when we were young
We raced the wind;
Banshees in our wake
Dracula lying in wait.
We had left him oozing blood
From the stake wedged in his chest
In the Rainbow Cinema.
But with vampires you could never tell
Hair slicked back, stiff with Brylcreem,
Newly perched on our Raleigh three-speeds
We explored the world,
Our winkle-pickers pointing the way.
Patrick Kavanagh was, in my view, Ireland’s greatest poet. And probably its most cantankerous! In a pub one day one woman acquaintance hinted he should buy her a drink. ‘Can’t you see I have a mouth on me’, she said. ‘How could I miss it’, he replied, ‘and swinging between your ears like a skipping rope’. Another time a American academic asked him, ‘Have you ever tried the Alexandrine hexameter with the internal rhyming scheme?’ ‘No’, he replied, ‘but I once nailed a pigs liver to the haggard door and I shagged it!’ His greatest enemy was Brendan Behan, who detested culchies, and who often described him as ‘the fucker from mucker’, and said that the greatest thing he ever wrote was a cheque that didn’t bounce. While Patrick maintained that the only journey Behan ever made was from being a national phoney to being an international one!
THE GREAT HUNGER (extract)
Maguiire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son’s backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the bank of some summer stream;
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
And two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh.
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an appearance.
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.
From dream factory
To nightmare landscape
And all but used up,
The hot LA nights
Spiked with a Santa Ana wind,
Capote, Faulkner, Mailer, Fitzgerald, et al
Haunting the many-faceted gin-mills,
Looking for characters
For the books they were soon to write,
Hockney hobbling to
The marijuana store
To smoke away his many ailments,
Drinking Chai tea with the other lunatics,
Down Venice way
The ancient muscle men on Muscle Beach
And pull-ups that demean them,
Hollywood writ large on the hills
And a jaded sign on Santa Monica pier
Saying ‘Route 66 ends here’.
2 poems by Anthony Raftery the blind 18th C Irish poet
Mise Raifteirí an File
I am Raftery, the poet,
full of hope and love
With eyes without light,
silence without torment.
Going back on my journey,
with the light of my heart
Weak and tired,
until the end of my way.
Look at me now,
facing the wall
for empty pockets.
Now coming of the Spring
the day will be lengthening,
and after St. Bridget’s Day
I shall raise my sail.
Since I put it into my head
I shall never stay put
until I shall stand down
in the center of County Mayo.
I will be the first night,
and in Balla just below it
I will begin to drink.
to Kiltimagh I shall go
until I shall make a month’s visit there
as close as two miles
SINGING THE LAND
An unsung land is a dead land
Forget the song
And the land will surely die.
Our forebears, though mostly illiterate,
Made music that can still make us cry
Musical phrases, like a map reference,
And the land read as a musical score
Where singing the land
Has the crowd calling out for more.
The song couplets stretch across tectonic plates
Just like mountains stretch across continents
And someone waving as we pass through endless gates.
Pale sand, red rock, burning fire
Everything your heart may desire
Mapping the music
to which everything transcends
This is where the story begins not ends. Religion, pagan or Christian
Permeating everything, blending,
People sympathetic and synthetic,
Careless and unknowing of secular beginning
Or religious ending.
All the colours of the rainbow
Dressed in human clothing
Aisling, dreang, radharc
And the gift of seeing what isn’t there
When the songs are left unsung
Who is then left to care?