Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Once I met a human being.
It was a man or a woman, as I recall.
It was black or white or possibly Chinese,
Or Indian or the other kind of Indian,
And it had an age and a color of hair.

But mostly, it was just a human being,
As full of doubt and courage as myself,
And when it spoke it was not age or gender,
Nor hair-color, faith, or citizenship that spoke;
It was, instead, the human being speaking,
In the words it could find at that particular moment,
And I listened with all the attention and empathy
That I could muster up at that particular time.

We parted, then, and I went back to my
Momentary and eternal concerns,
And so did he or she, and we mostly forgot,
But never forgot completely, the words that we had said
As one human being talking with another –
Wearing our skins, but speaking from inside.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A New Year

Of course, every day is the start of a new year
That ends the next time that day rolls around
There’s nothing special about January 1st.
It’s not even a solstice.  Just a day.

Still, as I teeter up to the far edge of December
And peer down at the white new calendar page,
I do feel a little of the acrobat’s fear –
The fear that turns to exultation
When you jump.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Invincibles

Plundered, conquered, colonized,
Their language outlawed, culture flayed;
Their own land rented back to them
At back-and-spirit-breaking rates;
Made to endure war, hunger, Protestants;
Driven into the rocky West;
Failed by the one crop they needed;
Scattered to the four winds,
The Irish have persisted – even smiled –
As if acknowledging a handsome joke 
They can't believe you haven't twigged to yet.

Nor have they only smiled. Listen, now.
If you hear fiddle music on the wind,
As mournful as a wolf, or merry as May,
The odds are good you have some Irishman,
Long dead or gaily living on, to thank.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Irish and the Sea

God, how the sea pounds in upon the West!
It comes in roaring, like a beast unchained,
To bash itself to pieces on the rocks,
Again, again, again, and then again.

The whole Atlantic in its fury breaks
Its teeth against the battlements of Clare
And wears deep gouges in her fabled cliffs,
As if it meant to dig the island up
And carry her across to Germany,
Or Poland, or the marches of the East,
Depositing the Irish in some strange,
Undreamed-of land, where they, no doubt, would shrug,
And go about their business, as they do.

It takes more than an elemental god
To shake the Celtic temper; after all,
They’ve had the ocean pounding on their door
For more than six millennia, and they
Still haven’t stirred from field and fireside
To let the poor damn soggy bastard in.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Blessing After Rain

When the sun comes out on Ireland,
It's God's own Grace at play;
When the sun comes out on Ireland,
All weariness melts away;

There's twittering in the boughs then,
And fragrance on the breeze,
And glistening in the hedges,
And music among the trees;

You may even see a rainbow 
As the old rain scatters light;
You may hear a fairy singing;
You may see a dream take flight.

Be wise, and seize the moment,
And join in the general song;
When the sun comes out on Ireland,
It's never for very long.

Lament for Old Things

The beautiful old buildings 
Are only for the cows –
And maybe the occasional ghost 
Who howls at the broken walls.

The living Irish make their homes 
In blank tan boxes, without history –
A bit like the faces of Irish girls,
So makeup-caked they all but disappear.

Prosperity has its dangers. This is one:
That you might lose that rugged detailing
That makes a house a house, a face a face.

Of course, it's not my business.
I'm a tourist here.
The houses weren't put there to please my eye,
And neither were the faces. Even so,
I see how wild the tameless landscape is,
And then how bland the village, and I sigh,
Lamenting a sad beauty that was never mine.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Plastic Horses

Some people, you drop a word in them like a coin,
And they whir into life like a plastic horse,
Surging and tinkling, bright with festive joy.

Other people are collection boxes.
No matter how many coins you cram in there,
You never get a song out of them,
Or anything but a begrudging clank.

You never know which is which, of course,
Until your coin is already spent.
You have to be resigned to lose a few
Or even a few thousand, in the hope
That it will all be worth it when the horse 
Springs into motion; and, of course, it will.