Burn Your Ghosts

Past times will always sing, night and day.
Their songs can slow and hold you still,
and howl your younger years in their sway.

But your precious time isn’t for the dead.
Burn your ghosts hanging from the rafters.
Look forward. Straight ahead.

What Little We Need

We walked beside the Shannon, against
that slow, steady flow, where tall grass
skirt the banks, and daffodils spot the path.
But we did not see it all; we turned after an hour,
and left the remaining length to mystery.

How little of the world do we need to see?
Like cows in a cattle trailer, their kind eyes,
pink noses move about their barred view
of the world, passing wide, grassy plains,
final scenes as they travel to the abattoir.

It’s the small pieces that help us along
through to the great portions of life.
Today, I saw a woman queuing in a gift shop
to buy a holy figurine. €1.99. Eight inches tall.
His hands pressed in plastic prayer.

Newborns

The horses are still. Some may be sleeping,
others hold that blank, vacant stare.
Those black marbled eyes look right through you.

We fit each with a rain sheet, wrap their newborn-like
bodies from tail to mane and leave them
in the paddocks to stand in the rain.

Are we old, then? When were we last clothed?
What did we learn? Some do dress appropriately.
Boots, raincoats, waterproof trousers and thick socks.

Others look pale, thin, holding that empty gaze
unknowing why they’re shivering.
So they roll cigarettes, heat their lungs,

give their bodies some warmth that no one sees.

The Drought

It is Thursday. The bottle is empty. My glass
nurses only a rusty smell of brown ale.

I sit alone, hands wringing, thinking there must
be some pool in this still parched mind of mine.

Please, inspiration. My empty page longs for print,
like a kingsize bed yearns for company. Speaking of –

– the neighbours upstairs are back. Going at it.
The headboard bangs the wall, the bed legs chafe

the carpet, to the repeated cry of drunk success.
His dull moan to her shrill yes.

Like a beggar beneath a water pump,
I raise my glass to catch whatever lend

could end this long drought. I feel it, seeping
through the mattress, passing between

the floorboards, sinking through the foam insulation,
working down the wire into the lightbulb, the lightbulb

that burns above my head. A bright idea for the dim.
Down it goes through my arm. To my hand. My pen. This poem.

I Found A Dead Fly In My Beard

and I do not know how long it had been there.
The sweet thing, nestled, clung to a follicle,
black, silent, minute, and a winged witness
to my words, my breath, my pulse, routing
along my jawline, neighbour to the food
I ate. Perhaps it even had a moment to share
the scent of my sandwich, the burn of mustard
through my skin. We were close, you and I,
and went together through most of a day.
In the morning, maybe, you found solace there,
comfort in my mess of bristle and hair, and passed
soon after. I half-thank the people I met today
for not telling me about your small, quiet presence.
There are not many things we share,
humans, animals, insects, and even, perhaps,
your last breath, the final, tiny seep, expelled
into mine, and I’ll carry you always from now.

What Stayed

I found you in the morning. Curled in the corner.
Your rich walnut back and coconut belly coat
cuddled in a tiny crescent. Still upon the sawdust.
He’s just gone to sleep, she told me,
from kind cradled arms.
I said some words and wept and then I buried you
in a hole that took ten minutes to dig.

I can’t remember the name I gave you
but I can summon from that memory your light weight,
how you fit my palm as I carried you to the garden.

.

We met in the hospital, followed the nurse down the stairs,
crept into the ward and found you, tucked in tight,
and then we gathered at the side of the bed,
closed the curtains, watched as the nurse attended,
and your breathing quickened and then it slowed
and your cheeks lost their volume
and your complexion shallowed
and your chest deflated
and your shoulders sank
and your head dropped to the side
and you went quiet.

Your old, gruff voice I can’t quite recall.
What stayed was the weight of your heavy hand,
cold and coarse, as I held it to say goodbye.