Anu63/ A New Ulster

Page 1

ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)

Featuring the works of Richard Weiser, Michael Boyle, Richard Halperin, Ana Spehar, Marie Bashford Synnott, Niall Mcgrath, Feilim James, Laura Sherwin, Gareth Culshaw, Michael Given, Daniel Murphy and Nicole Mullan. Hard

copies can be purchased from our website.

Issue 63 December 2017

A New Ulster Prose On the Wall Website

Editor: Amos Greig Editor: E V Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents

Editorial Richard Weiser;

1. What Are Little Worlds Made Of? 2. Adonais, If You Were Wondering 3. On Depression And Writing Michael Boyle; 1. A Magical Moment Richard Halperin; 1. Evening Prayer 2. Of Stars and Streams and Earh and Certain Moments 3. The Master Poet 4. Cottonfields of the Mind 5. Certain Poems by My Contemporaries Ana Spehar; 1. Thank You Marie Bashford Synnott; 1. Centenary Niall McGrath; 1. Baltimore 2. Patriots 3. Parable Felim James; 1. Dreamcatcher 2. A Warm November Day 3. Getting Out Laura Sherwin; 1. The Guardians of East Belfast

Gareth Culshaw; 1. The Old Building Made Of Wood 2. The Picture Was Being Replaced 3. Our Eyes Have Opened Michael Gavin; 1. Glimpse Daniel Murphy; 1. We Played War in the woods 2. I Watched Moning Spill Its Orange Juice 3. Close Call Near The Coast 4. He Thought He Saw A Christ 5. All Of What Was Fog Nicole Mullan; 1. Dine at my Table 2. Rosaline 3. The Local 4. Anger Enclosed 5. Honey 6. “Babe” On The Wall Message from the Alleycats Round the Back

Poetry, prose, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Or via PEECHO Digital distribution is via links on our website: Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image “Watcher� by Amos Greig

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ” Aristotle Onassis. Editorial Welcome to our December issue what better way to send off 2017 than to indulge in some poetry and prose. This has been a trying year for us at A New Ulster what with waiting for cancer test results, pain hospital appointments and several other health issues finding time to keep up with the magazine and website has been a struggle. Throw in some internet connectivity issues and it has been really trying. Still we have plenty of pages of writing ahead and the magazine has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. There’s one thing I have to say about being a magazine editor there’s no money in it but then I don’t do this money I enjoy the work even when it is difficult. What always gets me is the range and power of the voices we publish; the magazine lives up to its name A New Ulster not just for people from here but from everywhere. We often get caught up in geographical and cultural identities often at the cost of our own individuality. I’m looking forwards to 2018 a blank page in a book yet to be written, only time will tell what happens next.

Happy New Year

Onward to creativity!! Amos Greig Editor.

Biographical Note: Richard Weiser

Richard Weiser is a poet, musician and playwright. His work has been published internationally in journals such as Acumen and 99 Pine Street and produced at The Toronto Fringe Festival. He's written ads for almost 20 years and recently won a Cannes Lion (advertising's version of the Oscar). Richard studied creative writing at York University with Don Coles and Robert Casto. He's written a biography of the Canadian painter Tom Thomson (unpublished) and is working on a novel set during the First Crusade.

What Are Little Worlds Made Of? (Richard Weiser)

All the things we see as real are based upon the unreal.

Atoms, no longer atomic, are comprised of smaller things:

quark and lepton, clint and gryke, sedimentary solutions in a non-Newtonian swirl.

Power follows thought. Rare-earth magnets sow devious sorrow.

Fret and coping saws, sharp clobs, and air blades take on a confessional quality.

For now, we hold on loosely; the action is elsewhere. Sidereal eagle become a feral star.

Adonais, If You Were Wondering (Richard Weiser)

Mary Shelly kept her husband's heart wrapped in the leaves of a poem, stuck in a drawer, as if that necrotic organ had captured the wind like the arms of a tree.

And was it even Percy’s heart at all Hunt grudgingly gave to Shelly? Was it even his body, handless, faceless, they wrested from the Ligurian sand? But, does it matter

if that unburnt heart was his? If that carbonized lump was a heart at all? It meant something to her, in the drawer, in the leaves. The heart is a finger

pointing to God, The Numinous. Look beyond the charred flesh, beyond the infidelities of memory, the imperfection of interpersonal love. And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us.

On Depression And Writing (Richard Weiser)

All of us are broken, cursed, blessed with fierce means to give testament to our tears.

With hoarse voice or fine to sound our yawp. And those who do are no more broken,

but in so doing, we may be for another, the saviour who did not come for us.

Biographical Note: Michael Boyle Michael Boyle is a native of Lavey in South Derry Ireland and he now lives in St John’s Newfoundland. He has a number of poems published in the “The Antigonish Review”. “ Dalhousie Review.” In 2014 he won the Arts and Letters prize for poetry and his first poetry collection “Whins from the Back Hill ” is currently ready for publication. Boyle is an independent scholar and he operates the famous historical walking tours in St John’s Newfoundland. Michael is an Irish Language speaker and has also written articles for the Irish language magazine “An t-Ultach Recently in June 2017 he presented a paper in Magee College Derry on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. He has presented papers to the Canadian Association of Irish Studies and The Canadian Story Tellers Association of Canada,

A MAGICAL MOMENT (Michael Boyle)

“There’s a cow in a hole. Come quick!” “Where? Where is at?”” I asked. “ Between the middle lane and Mayogall ,” said my sister Marie. “’Get there before her head goes under the water!” In the late 1980s my wife, Annette, and our young son, Patrick, were back visiting my parents’ farm in County Derry, Ireland, where I would often help out in saving the hay, tying grass seed sheaves and milking cows in the evening.. My brother Harry and I were weeding turnips at Mac Gowns’ field when suddenly he stood up and pointed to our house in the distance.. “Trouble happening at home, for the white sheet is out the top middle window.” We sprinted up the front hill, climbed over the gate and rushed up the lane where we could hear my sister and a neighbor, Bridget Mac Crystal, sounding the battle cry for us to rescue the cow. “They need all the men they can get, so don’t delay.” ”I’m putting on my Wellingtons for Christ’s sake!” Before I changed I ran up to the bedroom to get my camera and put it in my trousers pack pocket “Jesus, Mickey, the cow will be drowned before you ever get there!” I ran down the front hill, dodged through the bleating sheep. I vaulted the stile at the bottom of the sows’ field, and then I picked up the moss path and I could soon hear in the distance loud roaring, shouting and cursing. There was even an angry debate on how exactly the cow wandered into the shallow moss area. But there was a hushed silence when Andy Mulligan blurted out: “How the fuck are we going to get this cow out?” John Mac Grann left his hay field when he heard the commotion. Bob and Johnnie Johnson were taking a trailer load of turf from the lower moss and they stopped by to lend a hand to their Catholic neighbours I ran up to take a close look and I could

barely see the head of the Ayrshire cow above the muddy water. Everyone was giving orders and shouting at each other. Then, my younger brother Harry

stripped to his underpants, jumped into the side of the hole right beside the cow and took a stick with a rope and put it under the cow’s belly. Then, Johnny Mac Namee and my brother Phelim grabbed the same rope and looped it under her front legs . My brother Brian and my father were up to their waist in the warm muddy water putting a halter around the cow to ensure that it’s head would not fall into the deeper part of the hole. Dan Mac Crystal and I were helping to secure a new rope from the tractor to give more support under the cow. Drummuck Moss was an area years ago where animals often strayed into the swamps and to my knowledge all were rescued. But this time it looked very grim and the mood was tense. I worried now if this would be the one time a cow would not be rescued. I checked my back pocket to make sure my camera was dry. I knew I would be killed on the spot if I were to produce my camera now. I prayed and waited and hoped the ropes were secure under the cow so as to keep her from sinking into the bottom. Suddenly, the cow lifted her body a little and then all hands gave three big heaves on the ropes at once -and then, miraculously, the cow‘s front feet moved towards the edge of the bank and we knew a huge final lift would get her out. There was a huge roar as the frightened cow emerged slowly to the firmer bank. I now had no time to waste as I took my small camera from my back pocket but I had difficulty in Focusing. However, I did snap a few photos of the cow as it staggered away towards the grassy field.. All the local farmers were still holding the various ropes and I quickly took a photo of their relieved faces. Years later, I have been told that these photographs are now of great bonus to academic scholars Interested in a rural Ireland that has now long disappeared.

Biographical Note: Richard W. Halperin Richard W. Halperin's most recent collections for Lapwing are The House with the Stone Lions and Prisms. His most recent collection for Salmon is Quiet in a Quiet House/ A new Salmon collection, Catch Me While you Have the Light, is listed for Autumn 2017.

Evening Prayer (Richard W. Halperin)

The job is finishing up. The stars are settling in. There is sound, but no noise, As things take their place. No mess, please, for others To clean up. Only recently, I have tried Something new, To break each fear as if It were a ligament. Without rancour. Fear has its job, I have mine. Through the window, Faces from the past gathering? No. They are in the room. I had been expecting astonishment, Not this. A cognac or a cup of tea And a wedge of cake, Yes, that would be good. I once asked my friend David, Wales, a long time ago now,

What he wanted me to pray for for him. ‘That the work be fulfilling,’ he said. ‘What prayer do you pray for me?’ I asked. ‘Protection,’ he said. Sometimes, I think, we switch prayers. They are no different from thinking anyway. Coining conversation.

Of Stars and Streams and Earth and Certain Moments (Richard W. Halperin)

At a poetry festival at Clifden in 2017 A man handed me a very great poem that he Had written, then disappeared back into The crowd. Did he know it was a great poem? I think so. Did he feel he was a great poet? No; of that I am sure. He felt, I think,

As if, himself and not himself, he had put Into fourteen lines the traces of how we got here, The uncertainty of where we might be going, The communication of a moment, the ability To communicate that moment to others. I think he felt almost indecent. I have reread

The poem many times. If I see him again I shall not mention it. Before him, I would feel A different kind of indecent. He is a farmer. He has always been a farmer. He has always observed. Maybe that has something to do with it. And a highly trained use of language, of course.

The Master Poet (Richard W. Halperin)

I read your poems in silence. You are the master poet. I shall not tell anyone who you are. They will find you or they will not. I do not know how I found you. You are very ancient but your poems are not. Just enough poetry to clothe a perception, a mood. All other poetry blows away Certainly, including my own. This evening I thought to ask you As if you could be asked As if you hadn’t died millennia ago Why yours are the only poems. I wasn’t expecting an answer But you answered: ‘There is nothing wrong with them, that’s all.’ Does every poet have a master poet? I do not know. Most refuse to talk about it.

Cottonfields of the Mind (Richard W. Halperin)

There is never enough light in a dream, she said, There is never enough light in dreams. But who Is this she? A writer, a poet, not complaining But observing, and she is right.

There is never enough light in a dream. There is never enough noise in a dream, In fact there is no noise. There is conversation, There is sometimes argument, there is something Resembling narration, wordless pulls In whatever directions dreams go. There Is not enough of anything in a dream, Although there is too much of everything. Dreams. Cottonfields of the mind. Ill-lit, Soft, yes soft, grief without the sting, grief which Has already happened, rows upon rows Of cotton bolls, free falls into space are The least of it. There is nothing of enemy About a dream, enemy implies acquaintance. A dream is my life without you. Perhaps The utter absence of differentiation In dreams is a boon, Perhaps the fact that dreams Take the initiative is a boon. I shall no longer Complain about dreams.

Certain Poems by My Contemporaries (Richard W. Halperin)

Certain poems by my contemporaries Make me crazy this night. Poets Thrown against the wall by what The Greeks called gods and fools Call literature, and I am with the dying Chatterton, whose landlady said ‘What’s the use of poetry?’ I am with The dying Keats in Italy, I am in words Which explode into birds, into flowers, Into the appalled mercy of God – And so I say, Thank you, contemporaries, For certain poems which if I have to die, Make me know what I’m tumbling toward.

Biographical Note: Ana Spehar Ana Spehar is a 34 years old, from Croatia, but living in Cork, Ireland. She had started writing poetry years ago, and then stopped for a while. Now Ana is writing again, this time in English. Most of her poems are love themed.

Thank you (Ana Spehar) I will do what no one Has done yet I will say thank you for Breaking my heart.

The pain I feel now I will never regret For it made complete what was For so long apart.

I write again! I live! I cry and I smile! Thank you! For bringing back to life Part of me that had died for a while.

Biographical Note: Marie Bashford Synnott

Marie recently took part in the poetry reading in Skerries organised by Peter O’Neill.

CENTENARY (Marie Bashford Synnott)

Made it! – pay for ticket, grab it, stick it into checking machine, pull it out, push through into Station, run onto platform – right, train just curving down the line from Balbriggan towards Skerries - stand catching my breath and watching the new green leaves of Spring on the trees up the road towards Milverton, white clouds piling in from the sea .... and “Please Stand Behind Yellow line”, more gold than yellow... as the train door hisses open and I step on board, look for seat at window, all taken, and sit beside woman staring out the window, who flicks a glance as I search for notebook, fountain pen (love fountain-pens) - would really prefer to be on the inside myself but anyway – train moving slowly as Windmill, Watermill, Mill Pond, Martello Tower on Shenick Island slide past across the aisle - scribble a bit - people talking on mobiles, talking to one another, young man with woolly hat, “She threw me out, but I have to see the baby, the Judge said ”, and we're beginning to pick up speed – other young man, “Me, I spent St. Patrick's Day in the Garda Station – me sister came and bailed me out” - beautifully-cut black hair, designer stubble, and I watch as the smooth green Golf Course flies past, and through the

opposite window, the Lighthouse faint in mist out at sea , and a girl in the seat across from me taps at her laptop, red hair, tan boots, long coat - black, - mine dark blue, scarf, white woolly hat that I stuff into my bag, warm high boots, writing fast, trying to get it all down as I will try for the next forty-or-so minute journey to Dublin - gold fountain-pen nib moving fast, moving towards Clontarf (Hello!) , Connolly, Pearse - but first rushing towards Rush (hah!) and Lusk... and I'm watching out for the castle on the hill, something...something - Bal - Baldungan - supposed to have been built by the Knights Templar, the warrior monks - must look them up - and the train begins to (snigger) and

slow down , no rushing now

then stops- the car -park full - red, white, blue left earlier by commuters working in the City...and a hiss and some boys and girls get on, going to College, maybe...laughing, shiny hair, laptops out of satchels, fingers flying already, and the door closes and we are off ..... again....slowly gathering speed.... all the stations, all the stops and all the people Portrane coming into view, Lambay Island off the coast - learnt about that at school - the Vikings landing on Lambay Island, the Vikings coming up the Shannon to Limerick too. Lom na n-each, The Bare Place of the Horses, - Limerick, a sore place in my heart, the City of Pogroms and Sodalities, of long summer days by the Shannon, of primroses and violets in Spring, of pussy-willow and

corncrakes, the City of the Broken Treaty - broken - leave that , don't think about all that ...the train fillingup, the early passengers going to jobs, more and more again finding work in Dublin as the recession ends, but not down here, says my brother-in-law, no recovery down here ....and I hope I'll be able to read my awful scrawl back, the result of all those English compositions years ago at school - and outside an old grey stone house, some glass houses pewter under a leaden sky, golden furse in the ditches - or gorseor whin - gorse we called it down our way - always loved that nutty almondy scent - green spiky leaves, white daisies in the fields, clusters of tiny golden flowers ...all of us...all of us walking out into the country, kettle, pan, collecting wood, making tea, boiled potatoes for frying, sausages, jelly and custard in jam-jars - all of us.......and there's a notice up on the carriage wall - “Réabhlóid 1916, Rebellion 19l6 - Come to Dublin, Experience the Pageants, the Exhibitions , the Re-enactments “ - an invitation to the Nation to celebrate... no, I prefer commemorate - Easter Monday 1916 when a small group of men and women - extraordinary men and women - poets, writers, actors, dreamers, rose up against England, while the Great War raged, The War to End All Wars, “England's difficulty, Ireland's opportunity”, a ferment of ideas that brought about a change, the plays and the poems – and “Step into History” - that billboard on the wall again...all that...and again the train

slowing down at Donabate but not so many passengers now...all that energy, all over Ireland, clubs and organizations, feminist groups, political groups - G.A.A., Cumann na mBan, National Volunteers, National Women's Franchise League, Irish Volunteers - and the Abbey Theatre a melting pot (cliche that - but I like it, nice rhythm, ”mel - ting – pot”) anyway, a list as long as your arm of actors of both sexes, playwrights, scene painters, wardrobe mistresses, all working towards political freedom, religious freedom, personal freedom, and - “Did a play of mine send those men out to die?“ - ah, for feck's sake, Mr. Yeats, it wasn't just your play did that - and anyway, Lady Gregory wrote most of it! – and the train pulls away from Donabate, matted couch-grass on the sides of the high banks and the moving red digital line over the door into the next carriage, - An Céad Stáisiún – the next Station - “Jesus Falls the Second Time” – moving down through the Church, praying at each Station – each station bringing me nearer to the City, - the Eternal City? - (Getting carried away with yourself now, Marie!) ) - and then the Malahide embankment, sheets of silver-grey water on each side, marshy land, water holes and grey old reeds, no new life yet, boatyards, apartments, - thinking of the chat and talk in Dublin , about books, the work, the hopes – and again a hiss and a stop , people getting on and off, and a hiss again - sky still grey, the train running between high banks of old

bracken now , trees skeletal here , the low sun of Spring not yet able to do the work of regeneration, and we're slowing towards Portmarnock, and yellow lines again ... Please Stand Behind... man on platform, grey hair, bomber jacket, grumpy – old , old station hut, grey stone, fluted wooden ornamentation on peak of roof beside car park “Stad Carranna – Car Stop? - Carranna,? Carrana? ... what happened to “Gluaisteáin? - many of us still not able to speak our own language after nearly thirteen years of intensive learning at school – but book learning – no conversation and no fun at all! - unless you were lucky and joined some kind of Irish-speaking group and lived in the language - and outside now new houses, hipped roofs, cream – row after row.....and apartments – but half-built - the ghosts of the Celtic Tiger boom times – young people living in half-finished estates, children playing against high metal fences, the dream of your own house, your own place - but stranded now, no chance of selling up...who would want to buy here? ..and more and more houses , older, inhabited, the greypainted stairs over the railway lines at Howth Junction,


standing reading on the platform as we go by, boots, a mini-skirt (never go out of fashion!) and the train rushing towards the City, station after station, no stopping now, churches, factories, the Dublin Mountains in the distance,

the Liffey on


left......beginning to get frazzled , trying to catch it all , the ideas,

images , memories passing through my mind – over a bridge, a small river, Poolbeg twin chimney stacks coming nearer, houses to the left, to the right, big, small, streets winding through, and the woman on my left still glumly looking out the window- when I could perhaps have passed the time of day with her, talked about this and that, even heard her story – rattling across that old bridge , always nervously, - but I am too busy getting it down, making it happen on the page, and I and I ...I'm tired now and want to finish, but I won't let myself, I'll go on......passengers chatting, boy pulling out ear-phones, woman settling her hat, putting on gloves, girls flicking hair, laughing, excited...very near Dublin now,


Connolly, Tara and then finally.... ..Pearse, the station named after one of the Signatories of the Proclamation , the visionary - the teacher - author of the book, “The Murder Machine”, not about the Blood Sacrifice, although he wrote about that too, put words into his mother's mouth, “I do not grudge them, Lord, I do not grudge my two strong sons” ... but I would have grudged mine, and my two precious daughters too, screeched against my great loss...but she was proud of her sacrifice, they say, God help her....a different time.... slowing down now.... slowing down

and stopping at

Connolly Station , James Connolly the workers' champion , dear friend of Countess Markievicz ....wounded at the Post Office, carried out, seated in a chair.... shot dead by the British....and as the

train slowly glides away towards Butt Bridge, I am excited again, as always, from when I was at school and loved history and loved the idea of Dublin, all the buildings, all the lives lived, all the....�the passing parade� - me, fourteen - standing outside the Gaiety Theatre , brought by my aunt all the way from Limerick to see an opera....watching it all....and the train is edging into the Centre of the City, the high blocks of offices beginning their stately waltz, showing first one facade...and then another.... as the railway line curves towards the iron bridge , the glass pagoda of Liberty Hall silver-pewter under the grey sky.... green white and gold flag flying over the Custom's House ....and there's the Liffey below, streets either side crowded with cars, lorries, buses, traffic lights green , the white paper of a new page catching the gathering words, the gold nib flashing, as the train enters Tara Street Station, (the harp that once ....) ...and again the carriage door hissing open, people jostling, rushing ... door closing, and the high buildings graceful, a slow waltz again, the street below swaying between shops and pubs and offices as the train snakes into Pearse Street Station, quiet now at this mid-morning hour, passengers gathering bags, closing down laptops, pigeons fluttering towards the Victorian glass and iron roof as the stops ...and I stop. End of the line.


slows down


Biographical Note: Niall Mcgrath Niall McGrath was the editor of Belfast’s Black Mountain Review (1999-2006) and has been published in numerous journals internationally and has read across Ireland and Britain. Niall has several collections published by Lapwing Publications including Clay, Treasures of the Unconcious and The Way It Is

Niall McGrath PARABLE (“So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went, And took the fire with him, and a knife.” Wilfred Owen)

In darkness, they took them to the corner And builded them a barricade across the street Of pallets and tyres, junk and furniture,. They sought out their neighbours and lured them thence With loud taunts and bricks through windows And all forms of merriment. Legionnaires of the state Came thither, also, in jeeps, Saracens, watercannon, Who did beat upon riot shields with batons. Molotov cocktails arced lie comets with fiery tails; Dumb-dumb rounds thumped off tarmac towards them; And the night was an almighty din of anger. Against this mad tableau, snipers rounds whizzed by; The very earth did shake as, in the distance, semtex ignited. A few wise heads opened their mouths, Cried out above the racket, “Cool thine blood!” But their blood was up, tribal pride was at stake. So in the numb silence of morning, their weary processions Did wend behind pine boxes, to yet more futile wakes.


No one would know, looking at those huge paintings in elaborate gold frames, the white horse the Emperor was astride, Intendant, was from this area, Ireland’s remotest cove where gulls perch in cliffs and the curlew sings, where shoals of pilchard are the source of survival for villagers and pirates, crackling on every galley and cottage stove. There was no one left to name those who were dragged punching, kicking, knocked into obedience, made to haul chains, to see out their days at oars below decks or in boredom and indignity in a harem in some dusty Arab port. Back in Cork, the homes stepping up steep cobbles fell to ruin, became this ghostland, receiving only absence’s blessing.

Niall McGrath PATRIOTS

“I’m just stopping here a wee minute.” My uncle reached into the glovebox, fumbled the poppy in a shirt buttonhole and joined church-folk before the memorial. I watched from the car as they laid wreaths, prayed, shook hands. He sauntered to the Merc. We’d driven into town that morning to fetch the Sunday papers. Tossing the poppy in a cup-holder: “I’m not one for pomp and circumstance, but being ex-Shire President, I have to show my face.” Not long before, Gunther from the next farm had asked him to hand in some firearms during the amnesty. “Wouldn’t look good, me having them.” My uncle understood: during that hell a lifetime and continent away they’d have had each other in their sights; here, now, they were drinking buddies at the RSL.

Biographical Note: Feilim James Féilim James is an award-winning writer from Dublin, Ireland. His poetry and prose through both English and Irish have earned a number of awards and publications. His work has been published in Icarus, Tales from the Forest, Rant + Rave, Trinity Journal of Literary Translation, Feasta, Comhar Óg, Tuathal, and An Scríbhneoir Óg. His work through Irish (under the name Féilim Ó Brádaigh) has won seven Oireachtas literary awards from 2011-2016, including one for a collection of poems. Additionally, he has twice been selected for Fóras na Gaeilge’s Tutor Scheme, through which he developed his poetry and prose with the award-winning children’s writer and poet Áine Ní Ghlinn. Féilim is a graduate of English Literature and Psychology in Trinity College, Dublin, where the short stories he produced for a Creative Writing module were awarded a high first-class honours mark by novelist Deirdre Madden. Féilim recently read his poem ‘Pandemic’ for Smashing Times’ Youth Ensemble’s multi-disciplinary performance at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity. He is currently midway through a debut novel. His website can be viewed here:

Dreamcatcher (Feilim James) The mother put the storybook down and smiled warmly at her son. Oisín flashed back a smile, before staring silently ahead with a wide-eyed, pensive gaze. The story’s contents reverberated through his mind. ‘But did they live happily ever after?’ he asked. ‘They did.’ Soon, Oisín’s eyelids lowered. He drew himself in close to his mother. ‘Oh, you are tired aren’t you,’ his mother said playfully, hugging him tight. ‘No,’ Oisín responded with distant eyes. He patted the bedclothes rhythmically with his palm. ‘Can we read one more story please?’ ‘Hmm.’ ‘Please please please.’ ‘Ok, one more quick one.’ Oisín’s mouth opened in delight. He turned to the edge of the bed and reached underneath, passing his selection of books through his hands with hasty glances. His mother watched him. Absent-mindedly, her eyes wandered over the room, its brown bulk of a wardrobe, its yellow walls. She turned her head to the bay window, its left window open as a measure against the summer warmth. She watched the grey twilight that weakened and thinned, giving way slowly to the darkness of the night. Her eyes lingered for a moment on an orange-feathered dreamcatcher by the window. She sighed, turning back to her son. ‘C’mon now, you need to sleep soon.’ ‘Ok, Ok,’ Oisín rolled back onto the bed with an effort, ‘This one.’

‘Let me see... Jaaaysis.’ His mother regarded the large maroon cover. ‘Encyclopedia Britannica?!’ She laughed softly and faced her son. He raised his shoulders, a faint red glow lighting his face. ‘Whaaat?’ ‘You’re going to be a genius when you grow up, aren’t you?’ ‘I dunno.’ He averted his bashful eyes to the book, forcing it open on a random page. An image of a spider met his gaze. He studied its round, black abdomen, the hourglass shape at its centre a fiery shade of red. Its thin, jagged legs clung to the silver of its web. Oisín spoke with a dry throat: ‘Bllaaa… Can we read this part… The bllaaa… read it.’ His mother examined the page with curiosity. She lifted the book, placing its weight down on her lap, its spine coarse against her palm. ‘The size of this thing,’ she muttered, shuffling in the bed. She read: ‘The black widow (genus Latrodectus), any of several species of black spiders distinguished by an hourglass-shaped marking on the abdomen. Black widows, especially L. mactans, are found throughout much of the world. The female is shiny black and usually has a reddish to yellow hourglass design on the underside of the spherical abdomen. The male, seldom seen because it is often killed and eaten by the female after mating, is about one-fourth the size of the female.’ Oisín stared at the image. His eyes traced its pointed black legs that held the upside down body to the web with ease. He shut his parched mouth. A few moments later, he thought he saw the spider move. He sunk into the bedclothes, huddling up against his mother, her body gently vibrating as she spoke. ‘The young spiders, which are orange and white, emerge in 14 to 30 days.’

Oisín looked up at his mother as she read. He observed the methodical movements of her eyes, right to left. As she progressed through the passage, her neck gradually craned in towards the book. Her eyes widened slightly with each passing sentence. Something that Oisín could not distinguish emerged in her expression. He felt certain memories rumble deep within his mind, memories tucked away by time’s passing. He retreated further under the bedclothes. ‘In addition to L. mactans, three other black widow species are found in the United States: L. hesperus, L. cur… Nah we don’t want to read that part, it’s boring. Well, what do you think of that?’ Oisín tilted his head up to look at his mother. ‘Scary spider, isn’t it?’ she said. He nodded slowly, uncertainly. ‘Well, time for bed now. Come here to me.’ She wrapped her arms round her son and hugged him tight. ‘I love you, so I do. Look at me.’ He looked into her exaggerated smile with expectant eyes. ‘You can do anything you want to when you grow up, and be whatever you want to be.’ Oisín smiled, slowly relaxing. He looked away with his blushed red face. He began to pat the bedclothes again at the same steady pace. ‘Love you.’ ‘Love you too Mammy.’ She planted a kiss on his forehead and rose from the bed, switching off the light before she stepped out into the hallway. She left the door wide open. Oisín heard her call his father, her voice different now, stern. Hard words were exchanged. Accusatory

questions and defensive replies. Oisín yawned, shut his eyes and nestled in under the bedclothes. His mind swooned with tiredness. Yet a dryness soon clawed at his throat. He was thirsty. ‘Mammy?’ The angry voices rose from below like a swarm of bees. He could not hear their exact words, just the irregular rhythm of their din. He wanted to call again, but something held him back. He remained silent, lying still. His vision wandered through darkness. He looked out the window at the vague outline of the rooftops across the street. His eyelids began to droop, his muscles relaxing in the warmth of the bed. Downstairs, the volume of the voices increased, their beat even more erratic. Yet to Oisín it now felt distant, like thunder far out at sea. He was calm. Lucid dreams came and washed their impressions over his mind. Soon, he was swept away into empty, peaceful sleep. The room was still. Outside, the wind blew gently. It was a warm, starless summer night. Trees swayed softly in the humid air. The clouds above moved quickly, and below, the wind gathered pace. It swept through the streets, along the walls, and in through the open window of the room. It rustled the edges of the curtains drawn back. The dreamcatcher’s orange feathers danced lightly in the breeze, hanging from the willow hoop that rotated one way, then the other. In the sinews of the hoop were indigo beads that appeared black at night. The knot tying the dreamcatcher to the curtain poll loosened with each breath of wind. After a time, with one strong gust, the knot slipped apart. The dreamcatcher clattered to the floor. Oisín stirred in his bed, unawoken. In the wind blew.

Oisín stepped down the hall. The cold stone of the floor chilled the flesh of his feet. On his left were empty window frames, on his right empty doorways, their heads arched. The hall stretched on and on into darkness. The only light came from outside the window frames, where a silver mist swirled its ethereal web. Oisín walked. He heard nothing, not even the patter of his feet against the floor. All was silent. To his

right, the open doorways were black, an insistent black, resistant to the mist’s gentle light. The stone walls, ceiling and floor were all a smooth grey. Soon, Oisín noticed the ceiling had dropped in height, close now to the level of his head. Lowering himself onto his knees, he placed his hands on the floor and crawled. The cold surface sent a shiver over his skin. Only a sliver of the window frames remained, the doorframes now a mere four feet in height. He crawled on. Stopped. Listened. To his right, a faint sound came to him from the darkness of a doorway. Oisín paused. He turned to face its open mouth. In the distance he heard the scurrying of legs. Legs that clambered and sped with a panic. The sound rapidly grew louder. The noise echoed in the darkness and suddenly it seemed as though a million legs approached. Oisín moved. He crawled as fast as he could down the hall, sweat falling from his face. The noise grew dim. He rushed on regardless, barely breathing. Suddenly, he noticed that the ceiling was back to its original height. All was silent once more. He raised himself off the ground with the languor of a ghost. He walked. The glow of mist on his left was as bright as before. His eyes traced the window frames down the hall. He noticed an end wall. As the seconds passed, Oisín slowly began to hear the sound of his feet on the floor. He reached the wall, lit by the light of the mist. He stared at his small shadow that stood before him. Silence again. Oisín dropped his head to the floor and watched his ghost-white feet. With eyes half-shut he raised his vision back to the wall in front. To the right of his shadow was the shadow of a man. Oisín inhaled sharply. The man’s outline suggested he was robed. Certain jagged shapes were visible at his crown. Oisín stared, his eyes wide, his heart thumping in his ears. He tried to move but couldn’t. A bead of sweat dropped from his nose onto the floor. He regarded his own motionless shadow, his hands down by his side. Side by side with the man, they almost looked like companions. The sound of scurrying legs returned with a crash. It danced around the entire hall, across the walls, onto the ceiling. It grew so loud that it morphed into one continuous din. Oisín’s features twisted in terror. His body remained still. The man’s shadow began to speak in a slow rasp:

‘Sun without shadow no…’ The din continued to whir in the background. Every muscle in Oisín’s body tensed and shook. ‘Sun without shadow no… remember end the in and…’ The words grated through the air like an animal’s dying shriek. Oisín felt the blood leave his face. ‘Self your of song the sung be will lips your on darkness their with but… cross you will shadows many…’ A giant eight-legged shadow flashed across the wall. The shadow of a dancing woman followed. ‘Say I what to child listen…’ Again, the shadows sprang across, accompanied by the continuing cacophony. They passed through the shadows of Oisín and the man. Everything began to fade. ‘Wind the on you to come born Julio sub poet the am I… end my is beginning my in.’ Suddenly the wall fell back from Oisín, hurtling away into the distance. A blurred stream of grey enveloped his sight, till all was empty once more.

Oisín awoke to the darkness of his room. Panic flashed like lightning in his eyes. His sweat-drenched hair clung to the pillow. His body throbbed, over-heated, yet he did not throw off the duvet. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness certain objects in the room became clear. He closed his eyes and buried his head under the bedclothes. Eventually, his breathing slowed. Outside, the wind now blew heavily. In the garden across the road, a solitary chestnut tree swayed, the slow movements of its branches like the rise and fall of waves at sea. A chestnut fell from the tree, landing on the pavement with a tap. Inside,

the curtains of the room flapped. Oisín inhaled slowly, ignoring the protestations of his fear, and pulled the duvet down. He peered out at the open window. All was dark. He remained completely still, listening to the rustling of the wind. A glimmer of light abruptly appeared high in the night sky, as a dark strip of cloud slipped away to reveal the moon. Its brightness was almost blinding. Oisín, his eyes adjusting once more, could now see the tree, the moonlight glimmering on its leaves. The silver light beamed into the room, illuminating its contents. Oisín turned his head from the window. His eyes were met with the dancing shadows the leaves cast on the wall. He slipped out of the bed, scurrying into the hall and in through the open doorway of his mother’s dark room. He welcomed its shadowless haven and slept undisturbed till dawn.

A Warm November Day (Feilim James) The day the incident happened was a warm November day, abnormally warm, the day Cathal got his first assignment of the year back. That morning at breakfast he gazed at the clouds, bunched together like the soft white hills of another world. Cathal’s tired eyes slid down their curves and onto the rooftops below. His pale face descended slowly as he brought the spoon to his mouth. Beneath the black, dishevelled hair, his brain throbbed with a rare pain to complement the usual clutter of nerves that gripped his stomach. He sighed between mouthfuls, thinking of the day ahead: the assignment, the lectures, the struggle of it all, her. His knee bobbed up and down relentlessly. Suddenly, his breakfast unfinished, he planted his palms on the table, swallowed, and shut his eyes. Inhaling slowly, he attempted to steady his thoughts. He felt as though his mind were being squeezed, his thoughts constantly colliding in an enclosed space. With this attempt at calm their clamour merely rose. Cathal shot up from the table. After a few minutes of pacing around the house to gather his things, he stepped outside and mounted his bike, welcoming the air on his face. As he cycled, Cathal’s mind drifted to obscure existential themes. He was barely conscious of the stream of cars to his right, the crowds on his left. As he strained his muscles ascending the sudden slope of the canal bridge, he wondered how many eyes in total had looked at the sun, the same sun that now offered its languid heat through the clouds. Sweat began to gather on his skin. He furrowed his brow. What a fucking heat for November only in Ireland our weather’s as inconsistent as can’t think of a simile ugh obviously could also just be the fact that you’re cycling mind that guy there fuck’s he doin walkin’ along the road as if he owns it seriously it’s as if they literally can’t see cyclists are we invisible. Face after face flashed past Cathal, as void as the grey facades behind them. The sun momentarily broke through the clouds, its beams illuminating the streets. Cathal felt the gentle heat on his neck. He tensed briefly at the roar of a bus behind him, keeping into the left as it passed. Bus drivers probably a harder job than people think

big lump of metal like that or whatever it is and 150 people on board in some cases think it’s a lot of responsibility better not be late for this lecture what time is it check your phone up ahead at the lights or on one of these bus stop screen things what do you even call them quick look at that one 9:51 tight enough. Cathal peddled harder, his back arched over his bike. The sun retreated into its nest of clouds. Cathal surveyed the city’s greyness. A few yellow buildings that’s what this city needs modern-lookin’ yokes like in Germany Munich probably you’d know if you had gone on the class trip. Cathal thrust at the pedals. A stretch of road opened up before him, the next cyclist one hundred feet ahead. The sweat began to mass in patches on his body. A feeling of disgust welled in him. He grimaced at the hot discomfort, slowing his pace by a fraction, using one hand to unzip his coat. His bike began to sway. Wrestling the zip down and open, he landed his hand down firmly on the handlebars once more. He cycled on. Stopped at the lights. What is this life of ours a cycle from one place to the next wow you really are tired. Cathal stared into the red light. Red but is my red the same as that guy’s red Derek let’s call him Derek he might see it completely differently best of luck now Derek may life bring you splendour and glory ugh fuck really hope I’m on time.

Cathal stepped into the lecture hall. ‘And then later on we’re going to look at the research that has been conducted in…’ He hurried, outwardly calm, across the maroon carpet to the row of seats at the back, and sat down. He pulled his coat off and draped it over the back of his seat. See not that bad grand as always you and your nerves. He exhaled, looking around for familiar faces. ‘…and he’s really one of the key theorists in the field.’

Robbie Scott Patrick Jessica and there’s herself Andrea Italian name is it wonder if either of her parents are Italian probably not a nice name a smooth name all right concentrate. Cathal pulled out his copybook from his bag and began to write. The next fifty minutes passed between eager note-taking and vacantly staring at the dark walls, contemplating everything but the subject of the lecture. The intensity of one was only matched by the intensity of the other. Each time he returned to his immediate environment he scorned himself with increasing frustration. By the end of the lecture he had sunk once more into a consideration of that haunting question: what to do with one’s life. Afterwards, he engaged in light conversation with his friends. The talk flowed as though it were all a dream – the present moment, all his past anxieties, and the anonymous future that cast its shadow over his mind.

Cathal waited on a bench, his tinfoil-wrapped sandwich in his hand. His knee bobbed fast. He looked towards the library entrance for the dark silhouette of his companion. Behind Cathal was a birch tree, sparsely leaved. At its base was a dense pile of leaves, a mixture of brown and violent orange. Cathal’s expression was one of calm. Inside he hungered. Prob best to wait for him polite as if we give a fuck about etiquette not usually late what time’s it now let me see now 1:43 three mins tut tut gotta slag him over that. Dan appeared, rounding the corner by the bushes. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His hair was cropped and dark. He sauntered along like a leaf in the wind, eyeing Cathal with a cool smile. Eventually, he sat down beside him. ‘Sup.’ ‘What time do you call this?’ Dan turned with a stern expression that Cathal duly returned. A smile sprang onto both their faces.

‘A wizard is never late.’ ‘Yeah, yeah, but you are. How are you anyway? Hear the news?’ Dan turned his head quickly, eyebrows furrowed. ‘What news?’ ‘Mourinho gettin’ sacked.’ ‘Oh yeah. Fuckin’ gobshite.’ ‘A gob of shite indeed he is. Was comin’ though. For a long time. In fact, since the second he was born. Born idiot that man.’ Dan’s laugh pierced the quiet air. Cathal unwrapped his sandwiches and ate. Dan retrieved a burrito from his coat pocket, and slowly peeled the foil back over its plump contours. ‘Many lectures today?’ Dan asked. ‘Only two.’ Cathal eyed his surroundings, then tilted his head up to the sky. ‘Oh the hardship.’ Dan laughed, distracted eyes on the burrito in his hands. After swallowing a mouthful he spoke: ‘Tension between me and Roderick there this morning.’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘Yeah. Basically just told him the module’s bollix, the usual craic.’ Cathal chewed his sandwich, laughing with joyous eyes. ‘Haha… what did you say exactly?’ ‘Well, not that the module’s bollix per say, just the contents of it. I mean like, why are we doing a Shakespeare module and not looking at his two greatest plays, Macbeth and Hamlet? What the hell is the point?’

‘Yeah.’ Cathal stared at the grass across the path, his elbows on his knees. ‘Absolutely agree.’ ‘It’s just stupid like, waste of our fuckin’ fees.’ Dan bit deep into his burrito. ‘So is that what you said to him yeah?’ Dan chewed and swallowed. ‘Yeah kinda expressed my disappointment at the absent plays, and said I didn’t think the rest of the plays were really worth studying.’ ‘Oh… Controversial Jeff.’ Cathal smiled with amusement. ‘How’d he take it?’ ‘Ah diplomatic as usual yano, said he welcomed a dissenting voice, respected my honesty. Said they’d take it on board about the missing plays for next year.’ ‘Yeah it is completely ludicrous they’re not on it.’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘But not quite as ludicrous as his name. I mean, Roderick. Roderick like. If he wasn’t a lecturer he wouldn’t get away with that.’ ‘Haha no he wouldn’t.’ Cathal’s chuckling lungs settled as he sat back on the bench. He studied the figure beside him with subtle eyes. Black-clad as always looks a bit retarded eatin’ that burrito you’re so judgemental better out than in speaking of which. ‘I have an idea for a play.’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Yeah.’ A silence followed. Cathal stared blankly. ‘Two guys are sitting on a bench.’

Dan turned to Cathal, a half-formed grin on his face. ‘Two guys sitting on a bench,’ Cathal’s eyelids drooped and shut. With the blindness of vision he sought the direction of thought. ‘They’re just sittin’ there… when a random man walks up to them. Pretty empty set, maybe blue-black skyline in the background. Almost night. So yeah, the man comes up. Asks if they have the time. One of the lads tells him the time. Says “1:51.” And the man just says “Wrong.” The two look at each other, consulting with their eyes. The other lad gives it a go: “Nine minutes to two.” And the man just wrongs again like a fuckin’ church bell. Now they go all out with the answers: “Half one plus 21”; “13:51”; “One three five one”; “one five one”. So now the man’s wrongin’ away as though the monk ringin’ the church bell’s on cocaine. Finally, they stop. Silence… They look at each other. Lad to other lad, man to lad, and other lad to man…’ How Beckettian of you quiet. ‘So then finally, the man looks at them both, and says: “The time is none of those things. Nor is it that dark sky rising, nor the gold that takes its place. No . . . Time . . . Is an emptying of the veins!” ’ Cathal opened his eyes. His vision landed on three people walking on the far side of the square. He observed their laughter and their silences. He turned to Dan. Dan’s face bore an artificial expression of disbelief. He turned away. Calmly stated: ‘You’re insane.’ Cathal laughed. He felt energised by the fluidity of his thinking. The world now seemed simpler, easier. ‘Any thoughts nah?’ ‘An emptying of the veins… so death, obviously. Time is the countdown to death.’

‘Correct.’ Dan soberly nodded his head. ‘Your ideas seem to revolve a lot around death.’ Cathal felt something rustle within, like the faint nibbling of a rat somewhere in a silent house. His lightly smiling face crumbled into an expression of concern. He placed his hand on his dancing knee. ‘Why… why do you say that?’ ‘Cos it’s true.’ ‘Seriously.’ ‘Seriously what? It’s just a fact.’ Something flashed across Dan’s face. ‘Yes. But why did you say it?’ ‘I dunno man… I dunno why I say the things I say… I just do.’ ‘You just do.’ ‘Yep.’ ‘Ease of being… wish I had me some of that.’ A faint nervousness sprouted in Cathal’s mind. And where are his ideas. Cathal sighed. ‘Learn anything of use in your other lecture today?’ ‘Not really.’ Dan pushed the remainder of the burrito into his mouth with a bony thumb. I’ve never seen anyone in the flesh that isn’t being watched everything he does mediated by the fact that he knows he’s being watched look away and let him be himself.

Cathal watched the birds flying over grey rooftops. They don’t give a fuck they also just do just be the whole world can just be except me tiddledy dee turning and turning in the widening gyre gerrup and get that assignment. ‘Right… I have to go and get this assignment back.’ ‘What you hopin’ for?’ ‘Was actually fairly happy with what I had done, so hopin’ for the first.’ ‘Hope ya get it.’ ‘Thanks. Wanna walk with me?’ ‘Sure.’

Cathal knocked on the door. ‘Numnehn.’ Was that a come in think it was must have been. Cathal opened the door, the brass handle cool on his skin. The course executive officer’s eyes did not leave her computer screen. ‘Eh I’m here to collect my social anthropology essay?’ ‘Second box from the left,’ she answered without looking. Cathal stepped across to the box. He fumbled through the papers awkwardly, searching for his name. C’mon c’mon where’s mine you could have easily passed it jesus Tadhg Browne Lisa Mathieu Nicole Kavanagh where the hell. A swell of sweat rose up under his clothes. He felt her eyes upon him. Jake Byrne Cath– aha yes here we go. He pulled out his essay and placed the rest back neatly. ‘Thank you.’

‘OK.’ OK what sort of fucking OK like never mind it close it properly check it now go final page mark 68. Cathal studied the comments given, then returned his eyes to the mark. 68 but all positive comments only positive so why 68. His breath slowed. 68. He put the essay in a folder in his bag before descending the stairs. He trudged past the building cafeteria and back out onto campus. A blank expression washed its way across his face. His thoughts were slow and inconclusive, fickle streams that faded into the undergrowth of his mind. The sun had escaped once more from behind the clouds. Cathal walked along towards the bench where he had earlier lunched. The sunlight now poured onto the bronze, dying leaves of the trees. It’s all right I guess. Yet he felt his prior excitement euthanised. An emptiness throbbed in his heart. It is pretty good. But he remained unconvinced. Ugh no point hiding your disappointment not to yourself anyway I thought I had given that one everything am I just not that capable and Robbie got a first the cunt ugh how the fuck 68 such a condescending mark a diplomatic mark an absolute Kumbaya of a mark. He sat on the same bench as earlier, in front of the withering tree. He held his head in his hands, exhaling slowly, sitting up as two people passed. He stared ahead at the grey building across the square. Cop on it’s not that bad. ‘Okay,’ he said aloud. Let’s go.

Cathal stood outside the lecture hall in a group of five, conversing. He offered a sentence now and then, feeling as uptight as he did relaxed. Two strands two strands of you the sociable suave and the nervous deranged oh shut up and listen and be. ‘Gavan wasn’t there today, was he?’ ‘No, don’t think so.’ ‘Good old Gavan. Elusive creature that he is.’

‘When’s the second essay for this due again?’ ‘Last Thursday of term.’ Silent faces awaited humorous release. There she is behind Tadhg hair literally golden skin too you objectifyin’ mate I dunno it’s just attraction like with Robbie hmm look at them chattin’ away. ‘Robbie puttin’ in the follow-up work after Munich,’ Scott commented. Cathal turned to face him slowly as something lurched in his heart. After a pause, he enquired softly: ‘Did they..?’ Hide that curiosity that dread in your eyes good lad. ‘Yep. Full deal.’ ‘Oh really?’ someone else asked. ‘See ya miss out on all the craic if ya…’ Cathal, unhearing, looked along the bare grey wall. His eyes drifted from the faces of those who sat against the wall to the great congestion of bodies that occupied the building. They slept together Robbie and Andrea ugh. Unwanted visions of heaving chests and enmeshed fingers. Fuckin’ guy get’s everything fuck’s sake look at them there smile on her face fuckin’ radiant you could never not in a million years Cathal make a girl smile like that shut up. Her in his clutch. His lips on her neck. No. And her panting, moaning, screaming, her howls as violent as though she were dying, flapping the curtains of the dim-lit room, dust rising from the floor. And there, hidden in the corner, a dark figure with a devilish smile.

Cathal exhaled loudly. ‘Right lads, I’ve to head off.’ ‘You look disappointed Cathal.’ A grin on Tadhg’s round face. Cathal smiled his awkward smile. ‘You’re a gas man, Tadhg. Nice projection there by the way… Nah I really need to get some stuff done in the library. I’ll see yee all around.’ He didn’t wait for their goodbyes. He rushed off, passing the library entrance, stepping out into the air. Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. He headed for his bike. The things that come into your head. Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.

The clouds were still as Cathal cycled, resting like fat, indolent doves. The sun found no way through to the city’s pallor. Cathal peddled hard once more, red-faced from his exertions. The roads were busy. Cathal ignored all his surroundings, staring straight ahead. As he approached a crossroads, the lights red, he reluctantly slowed his pace. Fare fucking well any cars none just that one far away go now and make it gwan ta fuck. Cathal heaved the pedals into action. He reached the far side of the road well before the car passed. How many times a day do you break the lights serious amount of times would never get away with breaking another area of the law that many times continuously. Cathal cycled onwards. Ugh so much fuckin’ readin’ to do for tomorrow and our gig next week need to practise ahh fuck it all anyway what’s it worth what is the point art art art is the point a transmutation of experiences that will not die of a life that will not fade yeah well all I have or have ever had is ideas spoofy shitty ideas nothing thought through.

On his left, departing a pub was a couple, hand in hand. Maybe that’s what you need but in reality you’re so insignificant to all the women you know all of them haven’t a clue about you and her riding him not a notion of how that might make you feel but how was she meant to know you’ve only ever chatted to her hard to find someone as sound as her chatted to her like four times as much as him but he doesn’t chat he’s a real man no talk just action ugh while you chat away forever married to words words words what’s the matter with you. Cathal rose up the bridge. Gear down you tool. Sweat gathered on his face. The sun broke through and shone, the beads of sweat on Cathal’s forehead glistening in the light. His eyes landed on the bridge’s plaque: ‘erected in honour of William Diggs La Touche.’ With a colossal effort he reached the summit, then swiftly descended the slope. Dunno why you think about these things anyway would you say she watch car car the fuck. A black BMW turning left cut across Cathal’s path. He crashed to the tarmac, his momentum carrying him into the curb. His bike clattered along the ground. Cathal hyperventilated onto the concrete beneath, his consciousness aflame with the intensity of shock. He rose, swaying slightly, seemingly unhurt. His temples throbbed. The fuck the fuck just happened that car that car. ‘Hey, what the fuck are you doing you idiot!?’ Cathal croaked with a rasp of fury. The BMW had pulled in on the curb just ahead. He slammed his fist on the boot. ‘Hey!’ The driver got out. ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yeah, lucky for you. What sort of fuckin’ driving do you call that?!’ Cathal heard a strain of desperation in his own voice. He felt the heat swamp his face. The sun glared down. He gauged the man’s suit, his smooth, chiselled, early thirties face, his heavily waxed hair. The man spoke with calm confidence: ‘Hey, I was turning left and you just snuck up on me, that was your own fault.’

A faint trace of a grin appeared on the man’s lips. Cathal’s eyes burnt their stare into his face. His eyes widened. Something whispered deep within his mind. He lunged forward. Hand to the man’s neck. Onto the car with a thud. Cold terror washed over the man’s eyes. Cathal muttered something unintelligible, tightening his grip. A drop of spittle flew onto the man’s reddening face. Cathal released him. Loudly breathing. He slowly walked away. Picked up his bike. The traffic rumbled, golden light still bearing down. Cathal trembled. The pedestrian light was green. He crossed hurriedly and cycled away, his mind ablaze.

Cathal ran his fingers through his dog’s white fur. He divided his time between staring down at its marble-black eyes and gazing out the kitchen window. The sun was setting with a mild yellow glow. The sky looked cold, the clouds now stretched out in thin white sheets. Cathal felt a chill. He crossed the kitchen to turn the heating on. The house’s silence was abruptly disturbed by its low rumblings. In nomine patris et fili et spiritus sancti why does that keep coming in to my head. He sat with a sigh. Should really study or somethin’. He gazed out the window once more. The faint yellow light clung to the clouds near the horizon. The rooftops steadily grew sullen and dark. Cathal felt that all was still. The houses that would not budge for decades. The trees that would outlive every human now alive. His own dim heartbeat that he could barely feel. He sighed, hanging his pale face over the table. What’s to be done maybe write about it bleh. He crossed his arms on the table and lay his head down on top of them. Closed his eyes. I can still see the sunset the sun almost gone everything dimming eventful day you might say. Cathal felt the rush of a thousand emotions, none of which were met with adequate words. He sighed a trembling sigh. Thousands of thoughts millions of sighs is this the script of my life. He readjusted his head. Farewell farewell. Fatigue seeped into his blood. I’m tired. Cathal yawned. Outside, the sun had not set.

Getting Out (Feilim James) ‘Have you ever heard… of the case of the Talbot family from County Longfort?’ ‘No?’ Far-away eyes. Slow inhalation. A sip of his can of Tuborg. ‘Sad case. In the news a few years back. Good few years back now, actually.’ Green eyes of twenty-one years turned to his compatriot’s blue, then back to the brown, middle-aged eyes of homelessness, who spoke. ‘What happened?’ green eyes asked. ‘Terrible, terrible case.’ His eyes shook, ice-cold in the dark. They drank by the waters of the Corrib, standing adjacent to the Spanish Arch. Behind them, Galway rumbled. In front, the dark water flowed, loosening the bed of memory. Brown eyes turned to face green-blue. ‘Never heard of it, no?’ ‘Em, no, can’t say I have.’ ‘Afraid I’m the same… what, was it like a big story at the time or..?’ ‘Well, it wasn’t found out about at the time. Only later. Anyway, it happened in the eighties. Husband and wife in their forties. Three kids, not too young at this stage. The father, anyway, was your quiet kinda guy. Kept to himself. You know the type.’ Blue-green up and down. ‘A kind, hard-working fella all the same. But see, him and the wife, they never saw eye to eye really. Hadn’t for years. In fact, they rarely spoke anymore but to argue and bicker… and the like. But the husband, fella he was, he often dealt with this through silence, more so as the years went by. Silence.’

Cans sipped. Liquid flowed. ‘Now, the daughter, at this point was on the verge of marriage. This is where the future son-in-law comes in. Arrogant fucker. Prick of a fella. We always… no, forget that. Similar to the mother, so he was. The wife, that is, to the husband I was talkin’ about. I should say a word about her. Hard-working, but a callous strain to her. Cold, very cold at times, and cruel. Stayed at home while himself worked the farm. In fact, himself had a lot of money saved, so he did, through the years. But the wife never saw much of it. No. And when the son-in-law-to-be got wind of this, well, things took a turn for the worst.’ His gaze dipped into the water’s dark. A glance exchanged, green-blue. ‘As I said, the husband and wife, they argued a lot, and the future son-in-law started to get involved, on the side of the wife. See, at this point, him and the daughter were livin’ in the back garden of the house, in a caravan. And so they all quarrelled… a lot. The daughter never really got involved. The two sons, both younger, stayed away for the most part too.’ Green eyes moved away and scanned the river’s bulk, before tilting slowly upwards to the moon, can to lips. Blue eyes, calm as sleeping doves, drank, eyes fixed on storytelling brown. ‘Till one night… it got out of hand. They say it was an accident. But, I tell ya now, it wasn’t, I know it wasn’t. I know it was premeditated. The son-in-law-to-be, at the wife’s bidding, struck the father… struck him dead with a shovel to the head.’ Green eyes widened. Looked into blue’s fixed gaze. ‘And all for fuckin’ money.’ The darkness swelled round his features. ‘Do you know what they said… Lord save us… do you know what they said as they buried him out the back? “You won’t get out of there now you bastard.” That’s what they said.’

Hands stopped, midway to mouth. Breathless. The river murmured, soft. ‘That’s what they said, the fuckers. As they took my father from me and this world.’ Mouths opened. Stepping away. Jesusing. Christing. Blue-green observed each other, then brown. ‘Jesus, I had no idea.’ ‘That is so rough.’ ‘That all happened to you? Your own family? Man that is rough, are you ok?’ The brown-eyed figure drank with odd composure. He spoke: ‘I didn’t know they had it in them, but, by Christ, they did. Heaven knows they did. They dug him up later too and everythin’… and burnt his remains. Only years later, when the body was found, did he get a proper burial. Three times buried, my father, so he was. Quiet man, never would have harmed anyone.’ Brown turned, gaze flitting from blue to green. ‘That’s awful, it really is. So were they brought to justice, when the body was found?’ ‘Yes. But only on manslaughter charges. 20 years too late. He’s only doin’ eight years, and she’s already out, the bitch.’ ‘And… what’s the story with you at the moment?’ ‘Everything I own, bar a tent on a beach, is here in front of you now.’ In black mackintosh and dark jeans, he blended well with the night. ‘Jesus, so is that where you live?’ ‘It is.’ A nonchalant sip of his beer. Downcast heads. Raised again.

‘And how did you end up homeless, do you mind me asking?’ ‘No, not at all. I had a wife and two kids who I’m kept from seein’ now. Sure we had a decent life, a decent set-up and everythin’… I spose it all started goin’ downhill when I lost the job. I was an electrician, so I was. An electrician… I was out of work for a while and, well, things were rough at home… and eventually she kicked me out. Not even allowed to see me own two daughters.’ Green eyes, weary with pity and suspicion, stretched their stare down the river to the sea. Beginning to shuffle from foot to foot, blue eyes, suddenly alight, spoke. ‘But how can she keep them from you? Is there a restraining order?’ ‘No. She’s a law onto herself.’ ‘Right. So surely you could talk to her, explain your situation? Does she know–’ ‘She knows, she knows. And I’m tellin’ you now lad,’ wide eyes, stern face, ‘she couldn’t give less of a shite.’ Blue eyes studied the ground. ‘But–’ ‘Wants nothin’ at all to do with me, and definitely doesn’t want the kids near me.’ Narrowed green eyes suspected unspoken truths. ‘Is there any reason why she’s so… adamant about that, can I ask?’ ‘To tell you the truth, what she says is: “you’re a Talbot. One of them. A Talbot and always will be. You’re all the same.” ’ He stepped across cold stone. Determined eyes. ‘ “And my children… my children will be no Talbots… they’ll have nothing to do with your murdering brood.” ’ He stood still, eyes in descent.

‘A Talbot.’ ‘Well that’s complete bullshit.’ Sympathetic green. ‘No, not right at all… but is there no one you could call… no family, friends, no? Do you want us to call somebody for you?’ The rising hum of the city distracted green, mellowing eyes. He drank. All followed suit. ‘We’d like to help.’ ‘Yeah, we would.’ ‘Ah look… there’s nothin’ for me now really.’ Green eyes squinting again. ‘But you keep going.’ ‘I do… By God, I do.’ Green eyes refrained from a follow-up. The waters rushed to the swell of the sea. ‘Look, we’re students ourselves, but we can fork out a bit to help you if you’d like?’ ‘Eh… well.” ‘Here.’ They handed over what they could. ‘For a hostel. Or a bus, maybe, to Dublin? Would you consider headin’ there, maybe try get back working as an electrician, or?’ ‘Ah, I’m well past that. No one would take me.’ ‘They might, you never know.’ Awkward eyes in darkness.

‘And, sorry, what did you say your first name was again?’ ‘Mark.’ ‘Mark Talbot.’ He took his phone from his pocket, blue eyes set alight by its glow. ‘I might pass your name on to someone Mark, someone who might be able to help, if that’s ok? Your story’s heart-breaking man.’ ‘Just google the Talbot family case, you’ll see it’s all true.’ ‘Oh, I’ve no doubt.’ Green eyes wandered, warmed. Turned to brown. ‘Here, do you want a can?’ ‘Eh… yeah, I’d love one. Thanks.’ Stern glimpse from mother-blue eyes. Green eyes studied the unshaven contours that neared him. He passed the can into the gloved hand. His nostrils quivered at the smell. Suddenly, his phone rang. ‘Heeello… Howaya… Yeah cool… Yeah we’ll come up now… Don’t worry about it… Ok, we’ll be up now in a sec.’ Phone away. ‘That him?’ ‘Ya. He’s ready.’ Eyes slowly returned to brown. ‘We really feel for you chief. Really awful to hear all that’s happened to you. This world.’ ‘Ah sure what can we do but get on with it.’

Green eyes trembled briefly with guilt. ‘Yes.’ ‘Yee don’t have to stay lads. I should be on my way anyway.’ ‘Right. Well I’ll pass the name on anyway.’ ‘Ah sure, you don’t have to at all. Well… thanks for the company lads.’ ‘Not at all. Take care of yourself, man. All the best’ ‘Good luck to you now.’ ‘Bye bye.’ Green-blue away from brown. They left the water’s edge, their minds numbed by the tale. Yet as they walked, the numbing eased. The pangs of pity and guilt cooled. Laughter crept its way into their speech. As they reached the city’s Saturday night streets, they rose from the night’s dark beginnings. Their eyes were lit by a gleam they shared with the dozens that ambled past. And with each new step, the Corrib’s waters washed their memory clean.

Biographical Note: Laura Sherwin Laura is a teacher from Belfast

The Guardians of East Belfast (Laura Sherwin)

The starlings of Albert Bridge Watch over Belfast city like guardians. Together they swoop and they dance Surprising commuters into a trance. They belong somewhere in the Chronicles of Narnia Or some distant sky.

Yet it is here they have found home Making nobody in Belfast feel alone. Many photographs are taken But it is with the uncovered eye That their best synchronised performances are captured.

The cars drive on by Still the starlings will fly. Hundreds, thousands; swirling and twirling Like fleeting angels, looking after our city. Isn’t it a pity C.S. Lewis couldn’t see them?

Dark feathers against a Belfast sunset Blink and you’ll miss their fleeting array. Day after day

Faithful they are Ready To glide over the humans and architecture That make up this glorious city.

The starlings of Albert Bridge Watch over us like guardians. They never let Belfast down Turning faces to surprise from a frown.

Biographical Note: Gareth Culshaw

Gareth lives in Wales. He has his first collection out in 2018 by futurecycle

THE OLD BUILDING MADE OF WOOD (Gareth Culshaw) I am walking into a wood that is like an old building, crumbling to the ground. Light spears through where it’s not meant to. Wind pinches the air, shaking the summer out of the leaves. A kestrel lingers on the edge with its ghost flapping wings. I move with each press of foot, feeling the hard cobbled earth of roots and limbs. A buzzard is pushed out of the trees, birds separate themselves from the wood. I become a lone figure, walking with feet that gain weight by losing light each passing year.

THE PICTURE WAS BEING REPLACED (Gareth Culshaw) The light appeared in the clouds like someone was starting a jigsaw. Streetlamps held the stars and a woman walked two dogs into the darkness. The first bus of the day pushed itself past. Passengers sat like wax workings of their daylight selves. I stood on the corner, waiting for the van to pick me up. My bag heavy and thoughtful, hands itchy with the untouched, and my eyes watched a picture build itself in the sky. All I could do was let it spread, and see what faith I had in the tank.

OUR EYES HAVE OPENED (Gareth Culshaw) We’re leaving this place taking back our skin that we have worked into the fabric of the house. Ripping up carpets so our feet are not left behind. Wiping glasses, cutlery and mugs, plates and photo frames. We’re revealing a lost home within this house. Too long we have sat in the damp and mould. Now our eyes have woken, flicked a switch inside our brains, winked at the sun and moon. Then showed our age in the hallway mirror. Five years lost, the garden never tamed, and the slates that slip each winter, only tucked back into position. Waiting to fall back down again and show us the earth does move when our eyes are open.

Biographical Note: Michael Gavin

Michael Gavin is a writer


He takes to his stage Mobile at a moment’s notice Laughter, jokes and the craic Yet Solitude plays a strange melody heartbeats of belonging and tears each note a feeling true as Sometimes the mind asks Who am I?

Michael Gavin

Biographical Note: Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy is a author and poet who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador Canada. His poetry as appeared in journals and anthologies in Canada, the United States of America and Ireland. Examples include, Crannรณg Magazine, Galway Ireland, The Scaldy Detail Anthology of New Irish Writing, (Scallta Media, The Dalhousie Review, Vallum: Contemporary Poetry Magazine , Juxtaprose Literary Magazine, Quills: Canadian Poetry Magazine, The Newfoundland Quarterly and many more. In 2011 he received teh Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Award, Senior poetry and in 2016 received honourable mention in the Sparks Poetry Competition.

WE PLAYED WAR IN THE WOODS (Daniel Murphy) We played war in the woods Then went for lunch. I loved Baloney sandwiches and cold milk. Couldn’t wait to get back to fighting; Running until out of breath and bullets. I heard a white-throated sparrow As I lay dying. Mossy ground wetting Through my shirt like blood. The quiet Of blue as it moved between the canopy of leaves. I loved that the best; the beauty of dying. Earth rolling up around me, as if it were a breaking wave. The glory of bleeding out in the moss like Achilles.

I WATCHED MORNING SPILL ITS ORANGE JUICE (Daniel Murphy) I watched morning spill its orange juice. Over coffee then tea biscuits; everybody Was asleep. Still brimming with dreams. Sun exhaling, beginning to breath life Again as if it were frog lungs awakening. Yellow, pollenating tips of alder berry like bees do. Setting bushes on fire where shadows were. Igniting tailing veils of invisible mist Like gas plumes around nebula. Striking Sparks off flints of waves. I wonder What prehistoric peoples might have thought? Rolling from their caves into such brilliance. When science made no sense of things And only God, if there was one then, making light From nothing but the setting of stars.

CLOSE CALL NEAR THE COAST (Daniel Murphy) All I could do to keep her From devouring the rocks. To keep her from sinking into them As if they were the arms of a lover Was to bring her hard around. Treading water, legs kicking, Arms in a half dog paddle I leaned on the tiller and pulled her away. Sails filling like flower bags, stern’s Hourglass figure shrinking in a zigzag of wake. Then the last of me disappearing Into horizon’s epithelium skin As I were a shiver of goose bumps. The fright of almost foundering Sinking with the sun and The blazing orange of adrenaline.

HE THOUGHT IS HE SAW A CHRIST (Daniel Murphy) He thought he saw a Christ In the salt fish as he turned them On the flake. Drying arms spread As if delivering the sermon on the mount. Neck neatly trimmed, nape White as clouds, no blood spots Where the nails would be. Head Tilted to the listening crowds. “You are the salt of the Earth And the light of the world�. Fish neatly arranged head to tail; Sun sparking off their salty spines as if on fire.

ALL OF WHAT WAS FOG (Daniel Murphy) All of what was fog Has come to light. Blurry Facades of tilted houses, fences Whose pickets disappear like tissue Into the nowhere of diffusion. Marram grass, its dew tipped blades Where sunrise goblets tango. The shush of the harbour waters Licking perfectly against contours of stages And stores and flakes were fish dried. My camera feels its way, Focus Puzzled in a blubber of light. Yellows, oranges still raspberry, Stalemates of blue. White light struggling Like a ballroom gown to fit morning.

Biographical Note: Nicole Mullan

Nicole Mullan. is a creative writing student at NUI Galway, Ireland.

Dine at my Table By Nicole Mullan Greed is plump and fleshy Having gained a lot of weight While others chat and reminisce He refills his plate

Judgement doesn’t talk much His eyes scan the room Examining the contents of our plates Tonight’s food critic, I assume

Kindness has wine and flowers in hand When he knocks upon the door Greets and talks to everyone Stays to mop the floor.

Adventure flavours his food with spice His stories get our attention Excitement and laughs around the table Will any of us get a mention?

Fatigue brings the dinner to a close Getting up to say goodnight Every plate has been cleared No one left a bite.

We sat for hours at the table Drinking the same wine Lots of us now unstable Can’t walk in a straight line

Adventure is ready for a club Kindness kisses me goodnight Greed raids me of all grub Will they soon be out of sight?

Rosaline By Nicole Mullan You began colouring outside the lines Using rich ruby tones. I used paler shades. Sprinkled snowflake, zesty citrus lemon, sunset orange. Opposites. You want to blend the colours to make a romantic shade of pink. Your work is abstract. I do not feel its symbolism. My paintbrush has been swirled in water; Free from the blemishes of rose petal pink. I want to grab a new blank page Start afresh with newly found inspiration. You persist with your current muse Adding tiny details to try and perfect the piece. You have a clear vision in your head. You want this to be your masterpiece Framed in a gallery for all to see. Shame you forced the rose shades too much Spoiling the original creation. I will never interpret the piece the same way you do. In time it loses its special meaning to you. You were once so fond of its aesthetic. Now it sits in a dark attic gathering cobwebs. Hidden among other gems from years gone by.

The Local By Nicole Mullan The couple in the corner Huddled in each other’s arms The confident flirt Using his charms The farmer in wellies Who popped in for a meal A fella in a hoodie Sealing a drug deal The chanting rugby fans Hoping for glory A drunken elder man Shares his life story The enthusiastic one Wanting everyone to dance The group of underage teens Who came “for the bants” The young tired waitress Earning a wage A group of local musicians Who’ll soon take the stage The troublesome gang Who throw punches and fight Glasses are broken They’re kicked out for the night

The guards do the rounds Sometimes make their way in Youngsters run to the bathroom Hide silently within The band gets the crowd going All up on their feet Some jive and cĂŠile Others clap to the beat In the smoking area A hipster asks for a light A final sip of Guinness Brings an end to the night

Anger Enclosed By Nicole Mullan The stamp has been placed with force. The paper crumpled and straightened out again. The wrinkles of vexation still remain.

I had no immediate desire to write you a note. Lines had been scribbled out, capitalised, rewrote. The first drafts of the letter had been torn apart, Like the veins of emotion that once flowed through my heart.

Now a tsunami of ink splashes over the page Paper tremoring from volcanic rage. The seal has been licked by a demonic creature. The envelope itself has no striking feature. No impulsive drawings of hearts surround your name. The words ‘I hate you’ help create a frame.

How to deliver? This much I know. Addressed to my enemy, my nemesis, my foe. This paper-plane will crash land at your head. I don’t want a reply, to me old friend, you’re dead.

Honey By Nicole Mullan First petal- he loves me

The way he messes with my hair Speaks fondly of me When I’m not even there. When we see each other He greets me with a smile Hugging me warmly, He compliments my style.

Second petal-he loves me not

He hasn’t said the words Hasn’t taken me on a date Still hasn’t kissed me Does he just want to be my mate? He knows a lot of girls Has a lot of female friends There are no heart emojis In the messages he sends.

The stem is long and sturdy The leaves move toward the sun

Where’s my source of light? Someone witty, kind and fun.

The colour of the petals Attract a bumble bee Will I ever flourish, And attract someone to me?

Your company is my nectar There is colour in my cheeks But I don’t believe you love me. I haven’t heard from you in weeks.

“Babe� By Nicole Mullan The surroundings were blurry I found it hard to see Dropped my glass on the floor As you grabbed hold of me Took me out from the club Your arm around my waist What was in that drink of mine? It had a weird, acidic taste

Dark and cold outside My mind not thinking straight You brought me over to some trees A stranger Not a mate.

I felt your hand caress my skin As you fumbled with my dress Helpless and barely conscious Up against me you press. My pupils circled round and round Longing for some help A cat roamed lonesome through the street No one heard my yelp.

Two months later, physically My bruises start to heal. Mentally I am still in pain The torment I still feel.

Shame. Dirt. Exile. Attempts to clean my skin. No matter how much I scrub Part of you remains within.

Now it is 8 weeks old. It grows within my tummy. Not ready for this responsibility Not ready to be a mummy. Will its face be a reminder of you? The horror of that night Should I terminate before it’s born? Would such a thing be right?

It can’t cry out for help It can’t shout stop or wait! Is it a girl or a boy? What’s to be its fate?

If you fancy submitting something but haven’t done so yet, or if you would like to send us some further examples of your work, here are our submission guidelines: SUBMISSIONS NB – All artwork must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Indecent and/or offensive images will not be published, and anyone found to be in breach of this will be reported to the police. Images must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Please include your name, contact details, and a short biography. You are welcome to include a photograph of yourself – this may be in colour or black and white. We cannot be responsible for the loss of or damage to any material that is sent to us, so please send copies as opposed to originals. Images may be resized in order to fit “On the Wall”. This is purely for practicality. E-mail all submissions to: and title your message as follows: (Type of work here) submitted to “A New Ulster” (name of writer/artist here); or for younger contributors: “Letters to the Alley Cats” (name of contributor/parent or guardian here). Letters, reviews and other communications such as Tweets will be published in “Round the Back”. Please note that submissions may be edited. All copyright remains with the original author/artist, and no infringement is intended. These guidelines make sorting through all of our submissions a much simpler task, allowing us to spend more of our time working on getting each new edition out!


Here we are another year over and the work keeps getting better with each issue Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.

We continue to provide a platform for poets and artists around the world we want to offer our thanks to the following for their financial support Richard Halperin, John Grady, P.W. Bridgman, Bridie Breen, John Byrne, Arthur Broomfield, Silva Merjanin, Orla McAlinden, Michael Whelan, Sharon Donnell, Damien Smyth, Arthur Harrier, Maire Morrissey Cummins, Alistair Graham, Strider Marcus Jones Our anthologies

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