ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Steve Slavin, Sanjeev Sethi, Stelios Hadjithomas, Peter Oâ€™Neill, Linda McKenna, Stephen McGurk, Gary Beck, Martin Keaveney, Neil Ellman, John Doyle, Steve Klepetar and Gordon Ferris . Hard copies can be purchased from our website.
Issue No 45 June 2016
A New Ulster On the Wall Website Editorial Steve Slavin;
1. The Romantic Sanjeev Sethi; 1. Decussation 2. Kindred 3. Officialese 4. Sketch Stelios Hadjithomas; 1. The Listener Peter Oâ€™Neill; 1. Foucaultâ€™s Phoneme 2. My Poverty is Wayward 3. Poem with Mixed Media 4. Mozart 5. Poem of the Just Linda McKenna; 1. Garden in Winter 2. Transported 3. May Altar 4. Spring Cleaning Stephen McGurk; 1. Francesco Gary Beck; 1. Constant Change 2. Inevitable Burden 3. Ravenous Appetite 4. Passing Ages 5. Historical Enactment
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents page 5
Martin Keaveney; 1. The Help Neil Ellman; 1. Epuppet Theater 2. Scenecio (Aka Head of a Man Going Senile) 3. Equals Infinity 4. Am Not Ashamed 5. Connected to the Stars John Doyle; 1. To an Ex Boss 2. Song for Neils Lanther 3. The Sky and the Ocean Fully at War Stephen Klepetar; 1. Fishing 2. Your Name 3. Rain 4. Good Wishes 5. Maybe Gordon Ferris; 1. Light 2. Hurt 3. Change 4. Shield 5. Exit
On The Wall Message from the Alleycats
Round the Back Interview with David Baird Review of Peacekeeper by Michael Whelan
Manuscripts, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: email@example.com 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 Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://sites.google.com/site/anewulster/ 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 â€œderelict Fasciaâ€? by Amy Barry
â€œWe know what we are, but know not what we may be â€? Shakespeare. Editorial Ordinarily my editorial would go here however after seeing the horrific violence in the Middle East and the silence over the thousands drowned trying to flee war zones the following is my response. Refugee 1 The boy a refugee in his own country his home attacked, family dispersed Slept in unknown beds while his family were homeless, Sleep became a thing unknown Fear kept the dreamer awake 1981 and the Cul De Sac became a metaphor For hate and fear Pain and loss. Possessions long since looted The smoke settled as fear Took root an abundant weed The only thing which grew in that garden. 2 These rubbled streets once vibrant with the iconography of life now choked under dust. The child young has learnt to forage, to listen for the crack of a snipers bullet, the difference between outgoing shells and drones. In the burnt out shell of a shop the children gather supplies and watch while civilization drowns their culture in dust. 3 The waters embraced them drew their hurried plight from this world. Migrant boats overburdened made the journey sought a glimpse of hope like distant mirages.
Like Bran they wander the oceans never to make landfall Removed from the horrors of war the echoes of hate They rest quiescent while the western world goes on.
Biographical Note: Steve Slavin
A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books.
The Romantic I’d like to tell you about my dear friend, Nancy. But before we go any further, let me put all my cards on the table. I am a very nonjudgmental person. I am also what used to be called a metrosexual. That is a heterosexual man living in a large city -- a man who is extremely well groomed and loves to shop for very fashionable clothing. Today the term, metrosexual is kind of dated, but then again, so am I. But let me assure you that while I might look a little gay, I do like the ladies – if you get my drift. Why am I telling you all this? Just to let you know that I would never say anything bad about my friend. Of course I can, on occasion, be just a tad catty. But Nancy knows that I would never tell a soul about her indiscretions. So it goes without saying that what I’m going to tell you about my dear friend must be held in the strictest of confidences.
Nancy has always had a thing for younger men. While quite attractive, she does have a few liabilities. Let’s start with her very short-lived work life. Her first full time position was with a travel agency. Many dozens of times a day Nancy had to answer the phone with a cheery, “Travel with Trudy. How may I help you?” Nancy hated her job, and more than anything about it, she hated Trudy. Almost every day, she would complain to me about “that dried up old piece of shit.” “So you don’t like her?” “Like? What’s there to like? She screams at everybody in the office all day long, but when she’s on the phone with a client, she’s so sugary sweet, she makes me want to puke.” After less than a month on the job, she quit. “What reason did you give?” “What reason? I’ll give you a reason! I’ll give you a thousand reasons!” “Yeah, so I’m waiting.” “Just last Friday, she wouldn’t let me leave an hour early, so I could get ready for a date.” “OK.” “Don’t you get it, Franklin? The bitch was jealous of me!” I waited for a further explanation, but I guess she figured that it was all quite clear how Trudy’s obsessive jealousy gave Nancy no choice but to quit.
Nancy’s next job was as an “editor” for a group of soft porn magazines. The office was surprisingly sedate, considering the subject matter that it produced. Most of the men were middle-aged, and none was what she considered “marriage material.” The only other women were two older ladies, both of whom were amazingly fast typists. Nancy had never learned to type, but luckily her job was mainly copy editing. She wondered what she would say if she were asked to model. And what would her parents say if they ever found out? She had told them she was working for a company that published religious magazines. The managing editor actually liked her. The only problem was that she had been hired for a nine-to-five job, albeit with a little flexibility. Still, her one or two pm arrival times called for just a bit too much flexibility. But along with her dismissal notice, she was given a glowing recommendation. Her next and last position was with Braniff Airlines. They had created quite a stir with their TV ads, which included celebrities like New York Jets quarterback, Joe Namath, who was shown wearing a fur coat. In each ad, the celebrities would proclaim, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” After working in reservations for just a couple of months, Nancy received the news that the company had gone bankrupt. She swore to me that she was not the cause. But it was the last job she ever held. Nancy might have been called a college dropout, but that would greatly overstate her academic record. She had managed to drop out of four different colleges, while somehow accumulating a grand total of just three credits. And those, she conceded, were evidently due to a clerical error. Nancy’s parents were amazingly tolerant people, at least when it came to their only child. Their greatest wish was that someday Nancy would find a man who was actually good enough for her. So it was not surprising that they kept cheering her on as she bounced from one failed relationship to the next. The first of these that I can remember was her involvement with a dentist -- a man who happened to be several years younger than she was. Just out of dental school, Norman had an office only a few blocks from Nancy’s apartment. Although she was thirty-two years old, she still “lived at home.”
Norman’s office was located on Yellowstone Boulevard, one of the main thoroughfares of Forest Hills, a nice middle class neighborhood in the heart of Queens. His parents had laid out all the money to set up his office, which they both termed “an investment in his future.” He promised to pay them back, but as his mother put it, “Norman, it’s the least we can do for you!” Norman wasn’t the handsomest young man in Forest Hills, but everyone agreed that he was a nice guy. OK, maybe he was a little overweight, and he did have that stupid laugh, but those were just superficialities that could be overlooked. One morning, when Nancy woke up with a really awful toothache, she rushed over to Norman’s office. The receptionist, who was vigorously chewing gum, listened to Nancy’s plea and then informed her that she could not see Dr. Gutfriend without an appointment. Nancy told her that she was in tremendous pain and needed to see him immediately. “Look miss, Dr. Gutfriend is with a patient! I’ll have to ask to you leave. Take our card on your way out, and if you call us, we’ll see if there are any openings.” “Why can’t you do that now?” Just then Dr. Gutfriend peeked into the waiting room. “What seems to be the trouble?” Before Nancy could answer, she noticed his goofy expression. It was the look of a man who was completely smitten. He excused himself for a minute, ducked into the other room, and asked his patient to please have a seat in the waiting room for a few minutes while he dealt with an emergency. He proposed to her on their second date. But Nancy decided to play it a little coy. “Norman, we hardly know each other.” But Norman persisted, and when he presented her with a ring a week later, she happily accepted. When I asked her how she really felt about her fiancé, she had a ready answer: “Look, he’s a dentist. What’s not to like?” Nancy’s mother was in seventh heaven. Running into friends along Queens Boulevard, she was constantly being congratulated. Maybe there was hope for their own daughters. One evening, when Nancy’s parents sat together on the living room couch, they had a good laugh over how one of the women had described Norman. What was it she said, exactly? That he was either the pick of the season or the catch of the season. “So what is he,” asked Nancy’s father, “a piece of fruit or a fish?”
But as luck would have it, Norman’s parents were less than thrilled with their son’s choice of bride. Surely he could have done a lot better. Maybe he wasn’t the brightest candle in the menorah, but Norman was certainly a good boy. And he was a dentist! But that woman, that fortune hunter! What did their son see in her? And then came the migraines. At first Mrs. Gutfriend played the martyr. “They’re nothing. I’ll get over them soon.” But they kept getting worse. Nancy was sure Norman’s mother was faking it, but she pretended to be sympathetic. After all, this unpleasant old lady was practically family. The day that Nancy and Norman found a wedding hall, the migraines grew even worse. Mrs. Gutfriend refused to even get out of bed. Well, it wasn’t hard to see where all this was going. And predictably, the day the wedding was called off, the migraines miraculously disappeared. When Norman asked her to please see him one last time, she was pretty sure he would ask her to return the ring. They met at a Cantonese restaurant about three miles down Queens Boulevard, where they would be sure not to run into anyone they knew. It turned out that he had much more important things on his mind than the ring. First, he said, he wanted to apologize for having caused her so much anguish and embarrassment. She waited, knowing there would be a lot more he wanted to get off his chest. The second thing he told her was a real shocker. You might as well know that I don’t consider myself a real dentist. When I couldn’t get into any American dental schools, my father made a large contribution to a real fly-by-night dental school in the Caribbean. That’s how I got my degree.” When she started to say something, he held up his hand like a stop sign, so she knew he had still more to say. “My parents spent over a hundred thousand dollars to set me up in that office. And when I announced our engagement, they threatened to make me pay back all the money they had spent on me. They said that if I married you, all that money was just going down the drain.” He stopped talking. She waited, but after a minute or so, she realized that he had finished. She stood up and walked out of the restaurant. As she walked along Queens Boulevard, she began feeling better and better. Before she was even halfway home, she was in a great mood.
When Nancy filled me in on that last supper with Norman, I felt that the broken engagement was the best thing that ever happened to her. And somehow, it reinforced my suspicion that deep down, she was truly a romantic. In fact, just a year later, she would meet the man who she would always call “the love of my life.” They met in an elevator in an Upper Eastside luxury building when she was on the way to a party. He was tall, thin, had pale blue eyes, and a lovely smile. The second she laid eyes on him, she knew that he was the one. Indeed, it didn’t bother her in the least that he was in uniform. She whispered into his ear, “When do you get off work?” She hung around the party till midnight, and then met Brendan in the lobby. He was from Ireland, and his uncle had arranged for this summer job. It was his first time away from home, and the first job he ever had. He was eighteen years old. Nancy, who had just turned thirty-three, confessed to being twenty-four. Since neither of them had a place where they could go, they decided to just have coffee. He was staying in the Bronx with his uncle’s family, and Nancy of course, still lived with her parents. And anyway, Brendan would be returning home in just a few days. He walked her to the subway and as they stood near the turnstiles, they kissed. Nancy later told me that she actually felt a jolt run through her. She knew then that if she didn’t see him again, she would regret it for the rest of her life. So she asked him for his address in Ireland. While he was writing, he asked if she had ever heard of Cork. She hadn’t. Well, my dad has always believed in the local blarney – that the women of Cork were the most beautiful women in the world. And if anyone disagreed, he pointed at my mum, as if that settled the argument. Nancy promised him that she’d write, and they waved good bye. In her first letter, she asked him if he liked surprises. He said he did. She arrived in Cork two days later. After checking into a hotel, she dialed Brendan’s number. He was amazed to hear her voice. “Gee Nancy, this call must be costing you a fortune!” “Actually, it’s a local call.” “What are you talking about?” “Would you believe I’m in Cork? You did say you liked surprises.”
The next day, Brendan’s father decided it was time for he and his son to have a long overdue “talk.” It was the talk that perhaps hundreds of generations of fathers and sons had had. But this one would be a bit more complicated, thanks to that strange woman who had arrived in town. So first he enumerated all the reasons why his son should not get involved with her. Brendan seem noncommittal. He just nodded from time to time, without saying much of anything. Finally, his dad played his trump card. “Son, do you realize that you live in the city that has the most beautiful women in the world?” Brendan smiled. His dad clapped him on the back. “I knew you’d see things my way. So I hope you don’t mind my asking: What can you possibly see in that old hag?” Brendan didn’t say anything, but he was smiling. “You know, Brendan. I had been meaning to have this chat with you for quite a while, so I’m glad we finally had the chance to have it. Then he reached into his pocket and handed his son a packet of prophylactics. “Do you need any instructions, or do you already know how to use these?” “I think I’ll be able to figure them out. By the way dad, did you ever hear that song, “Girls just wanna have fun?” “I’ve heard of it, yes.” “Well, boys, they just wanna have fun too.” His father broke into a wide grin. “Alright, lad. Go have some fun!”
To this day, Nancy proclaims that her week with Brendan was, by far, the greatest time she had had in her entire life. And the best part was teaching him pretty much everything she knew about sex. But as she did, she knew deep down that she would not be there when he got to apply what he had learned. Just a year later, he sent her a wedding photo. His bride was quite beautiful. Nancy smiled as she read his note. Kathleen was a local girl -- someone he had known since childhood. But then she burst out laughing as she read the post script: We were able to put your wedding present to excellent use!
When she was thirty-five, Nancy decided that it was finally time to get her own apartment. So when a share in a small apartment in Greenwich Village became available, her parents agreed to pay the rent until Nancy could find a job. Of course, only a cynic like me would say that the likelihood of that happening was no greater than the resurrection of Braniff Airlines. She and Eileen each had their own room, and they rarely saw each other. An aspiring actress from Wyoming, Eileen was busy going to casting calls and tending bar. And Nancy was busy perusing the personal ads in her search for Mr. Right. One day she hit pay dirt – figuratively and literally. But here’s the funny thing. Even though I did meet this guy a few times, I can never remember his name. Let me explain. If you lived in New York in the late 1970s, you’ll remember Son of Sam. That was the nickname of a serial killer who haunted lovers’ lanes in search of young women to murder. When he was finally arrested, his face was on TV and in all the papers. He was a kind of dorky looking guy. Anyway, Nancy’s new boyfriend looked like a cross between Ludwig von Beethoven and Son of Sam. I kid you not! Imagine a guy with Beethoven’s hair and a really idiotic face. Only a few years out of law school, he was already a fairly well-to-do corporate attorney. He was twenty-eight. Nancy observed that they were the same age. From the get-go, their relationship seemed very promising. Each morning, before he left for work, Beethoven-Son of Sam would leave a few twenty-dollar bills on the night table. And because he was a very fair man, the better the sex, the higher the reward. Nancy wanted to see if she could get him to leave still more money. So she decided to fake her orgasms. And sure enough, the better she faked, the more twenty-dollar bills she found when she got up. Even Eileen was impressed, and suggested that Nancy had a great future on the stage, albeit in very specialized roles. But all good things must come to an end. One evening, when Beethoven-Son of Sam came over after work, he asked Nancy to please sit down. There was something he needed to ask her. Nancy had no idea what could possibly be on his mind. So imagine her shock when he asked her to marry him. She just sat there, completely dumbfounded. Her first thought was – if they did get married, would the payments stop?
He must have read her mind, because when he had their marriage contract drawn up, there was a clause guaranteeing that the payments would continue. Still better, she would get an excellent settlement if they divorced. Nancy’s parents were overjoyed at the news. And once the marriage had actually taken place, they readily conceded that Nancy’s new husband was indeed quite worthy of their daughter. An added bonus, of course, was that a huge financial burden had finally been lifted from their shoulders. A week after the wedding, Beethoven-Son of Sam informed Nancy that he had just been transferred to Houston. But there was nothing to worry about, because they could live rent-free in a corporate apartment for up to a year, while they searched for permanent housing. Initially Nancy was extremely disappointed. But if she didn’t like it there, she could always get a divorce. They moved to Houston a few weeks later and settled into their apartment. Nancy resumed her old routine of sleeping till noon, and then counting up the twenties left on the night table. And then, there was an unexpected change. Instead of twenties, there were fifties. Well, she thought, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. She wondered if her orgasms could ever be as good for her as her screams were for him. Nancy had never learned to cook, since, of course, her mother had done practically everything for her. But they got along fine on the take-out that her husband brought home after work. On the evenings when he had to work late, she just popped leftovers into the microwave. On afternoons, when it wasn’t too hot, Nancy went for long walks. I asked her where she went, and she confessed that she was looking around to see if there were any cute guys. “So are you saying that Beethoven-Son of Sam is no longer satisfying you?” “Franklin, ‘no longer’ is inaccurate. He never satisfied me. I guess I just got too used to those piles of twenty-dollar bills. Oh, and by the way, he’s now leaving fifties.” One evening, after they had been there for three months, Beethoven-Son of Sam came home and asked Nancy to have a seat. What could it be this time? “Nancy, I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to ask you for a divorce.” “What are you talking about? We just got married.” “Of course we did. But the thing is, I met someone else.” “Yeah?”
“She’s pregnant.” “Holy shit!” “Look, I’m sorry!” “Sorry doesn’t cut it!” “OK, I know this is kind of crass, but you know the divorce settlement clause in our marriage contract?” Nancy just nodded, afraid to hear what would come next. If you agree to a divorce immediately, I’ll increase you alimony payments by fifty percent.” “Now you’re talking!”
Just a few days later Nancy was back in New York. She even managed to hook up again with Eileen, and they found a nicer apartment just a few blocks from where they had been living. And within weeks, she even landed a small part in an off-off-off Broadway play, making certain sounds from off-stage. She got a few identical gigs, but she never appeared on-stage. It was then that she realized that she was on the downhill side of life. Soon she was pushing forty, and then, fifty. One day I asked if she had any regrets. “Well, you know, Franklin, my life’s not quite over yet!” “So you still think you might meet someone?” “Well, now that you mention it, I’ve decided to go to Europe.” “Are you hoping to meet a nice young man?” “Well, the thought did cross my mind.” “So where do you plan on going first?” She smiled, but didn’t answer. “England? France? Italy? … maybe Greece?” “Actually, I was thinking of Ireland.”
Biographical Note: Sanjeev Sethi
Sanjeev Sethi has published three books of poetry. This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015) is his latest work. His poems have found a home in The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Allegro Poetry Magazine, The Galway Review, The Open Mouse, I am not a Silent Poet, Otoliths, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Helios Mss, Right Hand Pointing, Down in the Dirt magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. Poems are forthcoming in Amaryllis Poetry, Futures Trading, Drunk Monkeys, Yellow Chair Review, The Bitchinâ€™ Kitsch, Of/with: and Linden Avenue Literary Journal He lives in Mumbai, India.
DECUSSATION (Sanjeev Sethi) Tittles and tatters were on the menu. We toiled and marked our marquee. Thrilled with our talkie I monogrammed you on my retina. It resulted in typhlosis. The closer we got cloudier it became. Our screen was oversized. We hadnâ€™t been nurtured to deal with nimieties. As with the stencil of showbiz we were malleable to floss and our failings. Hindsight and haste chased the essence of enantiodromia: as the rushes of our little story relayed in our grind house.
KINDRED (Sanjeev Sethi) Those in stable domiciliary settings unknowingly draw in flavor of succorant drafts. When the first family dwindles, and one is sealed to be without a mĂŠnage, one unfailingly becomes dorsum of other extractions. Searching sachets that complete the accursed seeks hum of a home in dinginess of dives or in recess of reason. Some encourage miniatures from Lethe to slake low-spirited sessions.
OFFICIALESE (Sanjeev Sethi) In the neighborhood of my nemesis -your presence has stench of a cadaver. If Iâ€™ve to flourish I must not let noisomeness affect me. When confetto of confessions is your only source, odds of dredging up derelictions are curtailed by curbing inputs. Distance is a strategy.
SKETCH (Sanjeev Sethi)
In the helix of my horizon I’ve lived indoors with clerestories. In the roster of reality. I’ve been in a quarantine of my quirks. (2) I hear myself. This helps in holding the hurricane holding me. Slowly, softly … moan of my muse manages to mend.
Biographical Note: Stelios Hadithomas Stelios Hadjithomas is a lawyer (currently not practicing), a published copywriter, an online editor, a researcher and art professional with a focus on organizational management and user behavior. His interests include contemporary visual art, technology, and marketing. A hopeless romantic at heart, he is an author working with storytelling, words, speech, and new media. He is currently working to finish his debut novel and his MA in Cultural Policy & Arts Management. He is also a brother and an uncle, a son and a godfather.
The Listener by Stelios Hadithomas (https://soundcloud.com/stelioshadjithomas/the-listener)
The Listener (Stelios Hadjithomas) at night he lowers his eyelids; vision covered in skin no light in at night he lies on top of his swirling prays; starlings on the back surface of the skin apocalyptic liquid ceiling surrounding mountains bathing his dreams nude is his soul and his body bare in agony he dives, saline warmth covering the sparse ginger outline an evening dive (consonant consonance) * stardust on top of him and stardust beneath him, stardust above the neck, stardust round the equine shanks and on alabaster teenage chest; protruding manhood revealed above water ephemeral; ephemeral, the cure of the soul and its longing everlasting * light squeezing in through the cracks of an only window loud youth walking down the street at four-ay-em echoes through the cracks of memory eyes wide open; pupils dilated
he hears words he does not understand an underlying whirr a festival of noise he canâ€™t find the exit door vocal pistons he cannot control squeaking through the weaving of the curtain fold flaming daffodils and hopping crickets on the wall the color of starch, his ark; an underlying whirr foreign languages of brothers and sisters; of monsters and of hell an incoherent existence; they seem to understand familiar whispers caressing the tender earlobe their life and banter vibrations inside the cochlea, his tautened pinna; an underlying whirr (he will once live, but not just yet) crimson linear presence the pump slowly stills no flapping inside his eyes wide shut * a cowâ€™s bleat a baby puffinâ€™s squeals; its cries greet existence, for the very first time; (it will once fly, but not just yet) echoes through the cracks of earth; waves thrashing against the sharpness of the rocks the soughing of the wind;
invigilator; the dancing of the green, on musky saline earth. (the ferry runs in circles, it has just returned) * their lives in anguish, all gone; devouring Chronos perfunctory function, fugacious youth tempus fugit (time flies) ashes to ashes and dust to dust tempus fugit, stardust they were, but stardust they’re not (he is; and he won’t be) voracious eternity’s sink Dorota’s song his breath in sync
Biographical Note: Peter Oâ€™Neill Peter O' Neill was born in Cork in 1967. He is the author of six collections of poetry, most notably the Dublin Trilogy comprising of: The Dark Pool ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2015 ), Dublin Gothic ( Kilmog Press, New Zealand, 2015 ) and The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire ( Lapwing Press, Northern Ireland, 2015 ). In his review of The Dark Pool, the critically acclaimed American poet David Rigsbee wrote: Peter O' Neill is a poet who works the mythical city of Modernism in ways we do not often see enough.' ( A New Ulster ) The same book was described by Michael S. Begnal in Poetry Ireland's Trumpet as 'O' Neill's unique achievements.' This year sees the release of his two latest collections: Divertimento, The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2016 ) and Sker ( Lapwing, Belfast, 2016 ).
As well as his own writing, he is very much involved in promoting the writing of others. Last year he co-edited, with Walter Ruhlmann, And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry. Translation is also hugely important to him, he edited issue 81 of mgv2>darura Transverser also edited by Walter Ruhlmann. He is the organiser of Donkey Shots, Skerries International Avant Garde Poetry Fest, now in its second year, as well as hosting The Gladstone Readings also in his home-town of Skerries in North County Dublin. He is currently working on his thirteenth collection of poetry.
Foucault's Phoneme â€œL'homme est mort.â€?
Try another orifice, labial folds. The gentle rupture of gaseous air, t'is sweet corruption on your breath. Such real, enriching, perfume. For decades you wore eau de Antiope, the sweetened essence of just one cunt. A 1000 roses on an aZure sea. But now that scent has floated, and you Must reconcile yourself with eternal desert. Like the first panZer 40 kms from Moscow, your bold conquest once full of purple Ceasars. Now you feel the touch of the first snow, out on the event horiZon your black hole. Hear the boots of conquerors threading along the abyss?
My Poverty is Wayward My poverty is wayward leading me into priceless dreams, unaccompanied by artifice or splendour, but only taking me upon the feathered wings of the imagination. When you enter in the room, the surrounding wall transform themselves skyward and my tired head reclines upon the floor, with you beside me. And the birds warbling through the leaf, where sprouting asparagus grow, their purple spear defiant, pierces the April humidity, there we enter Rome through Black Hills where blue coral, and sea urchin grow.
Poem with Mixed Media At times we need only to see through the dauntless perspective of music, such as the remarkable case of Stan Getz lullabying with Helen Merill over the mountainous features of Virna Lisi projected. Her lips barely parted like some phantasmagoria, an orifice or cave, with what shadows upon the wall? And contrary to the bare enamel the slow warm sonority of the tenor, like Lisi's breath, heaving in great prolonged calls of if you should go away and playing out on a loop.
Mozart Percussion falls in tempo, pedals alter the tone and vibrancy of the ninny-hammers gently pounding , all the ninny-hammers raising the chords up to those sublime heights, their deft orchestration so precise, always mathematically set in fabled formations in majors and minors, all of these great shifting chords, causing further heartbreak and romance, the ebony and ivory tinkling of the keys, and silence just the moment's particular silence
Poem of the Just
The wind buffets the walls of the house on top of the hill, coming in from the Irish sea. It is but one from the table of elements to harness and temper you. There is no let up. Dust particles almost imperceptibly gather; teeth slowly decay. Shower heads, as if to fully punctuate the matter, suddenly fall away! The heating stalls, while the body of your car corrodes after another rain-filled year. Unemployment figures remain consistent; war would appear inevitable. But hey, spring is here!
Biographical Note: Linda McKenna
Originally from North County Dublin, Linda has lived in Co Down for almost 20 years having spent a few years in England and one in Fermanagh. Having written various things half heartedly in her teens and twenties Linda has started to write again and really enjoy it and hope to get a lot better!
Garden in winter as well as spring Avoiding the panic stricken slash and burn Of the first, warm scent of summer, And the anxious filling of dark corners With flashy colours which will soon fade In gales, or shrivel glumly into unfamiliar, Cold, clammy clay. Garden in the depths, in the dead of Winter, where there is no sign of life, Fingers crossed in the hope of Spring revitalising roots. Dig in driving rain, stake in wild Wind. Nurture, nourish, nurse In fading afternoons and weak, wintry sun, Fingers chill, face stinging, lungs bursting. Know your soil, this thin layer Of pebbly clay barely covering Deeper Drumlin rock. Abandon hope of delphiniums and clematis Learn to love geraniums, phlox. But still add, compost, manure, bone and blood, to allow the odd exotic to thrive in a facsimile of a well balanced bed. Despite blackspot, greenfly, tantrums And tears, always grow roses. For the constant lifting of your heart from Gloom and disappointment And for the beauty of their names. Rosa Mundi, Felicite Perpetue, Zepherine Drouhan. And Madame Isaac Periere Who will sulk through three years of exile, Vainly waiting to be transplanted to a Versaille Parterre and then, Gallicly shrug and settle down To bloom flauntingly in tough Ulster clay. Raising her head high over the lime froth of common Ladyâ€™s mantle, an annual triumph over local limitations
Transported (Linda McKenna) Into this ark we marched two by two. Pickers of pockets, pickers of locks. Fencers of silver, forgers of coin, robbers of houses, thieves of cloth, cheaters of neighbours, sellers of sex. Swept from streets, plucked from dens, wrapped in flannel, laid in berths like delicate foundlings facing death. Through the waves, through the storm the ark creaked and groaned. Timbers stretching and splintering. Until God set us down In a furnace. Where we sweltered and softened Molten and ready for anvil and hammer. We were ironed and pressed into utensils. Kneaded and rolled into shape. Combed into order, crammed into aprons. Gartered and corseted into service. But some marks are stubborn. Visible after the flood water retreats. Behind an ear a glitter of sham gold, under fingernails a bloodstain of riot. At the back of a knee the ink of false statement. Sometimes hands calloused
from churning or weeding ache for the feel of a stolen velvet cloak.
May Altar (Linda McKenna) On the top of a wall, half hidden behind bushes We made our altar. Swearing we would visit every day during our Lady's month. Cross our hearts and hope to die. Under the bossy rule, of the older girls We straightened a ragged piece of net curtain over a crumpled square of blue. Our virgin was chipped, one of her hands missing her girdle scratched and streaked. Last year's kittens watched mesmerised by this new game. Batting their paws at the bluebells dancing in milk bottles, the primroses drowning in jam jars. For a holy week We minded the altar. Replacing flowers, shooing kittens Folding our hands in solemn prayer. With borrowed mantillas We were Bernadettes., With brush handles Joan of Arc and her army. Then it rained for days
and days. At last released from the purgatory of books and jigsaws, We ran towards the sun and skipped, skipped, skipped through the gloriously lengthening days. The thick rope tied to the gate made a thunk on the road raising dust. We ran in, ran out, turned, bowed and jumped through the alphabet until we landed on the name of our sweethearts. The road echoed with our evening chant. Cinderella all dressed in yella Ran upstairs to kiss a fella. We forgot poor Mary, lying on her side in a mess of rotten stems and withered petals. The kittens stretched luxuriously on the warm altar cloths.
Spring Cleaning (Linda McKenna) This was the day for clearing you away. Banishing the dust motes made from the pieces of skin you stripped off me, the hair you pulled out of me, the hope you tore from me. This was the day for packing you away. Trapping you between sticky layers of cellophane. Hunting for random relics stored in obscure corners, Sealing them in cardboard coffins. This was the day for ousting you from the house you've never lived in, but definitely inhabit. The carpets you've seeped into, the pillows and cushions you've weighed down, the shadows you're embedded in. This was the day for impersonating courage, welcoming cliche, Singing along to a soundtrack of brave, strong women surviving everything, kicking over traces, looking forward, letting go, starting again. This was the day But I got up too late lost the chance.
Biographical Note: Stephen McGurk
Stephen McGurk, an Irish author, has been travelling Europe for the past 6 years collecting stories and experiences. He is currently residing in Ireland where he is developing his first novella.
Francesco Written by Stephen McGurk
“Si! Si! Tomorrow the catch comes!” Francesco shouted to the dock. “Si! Si! “Tomorrow” always “Tomorrow” you say. Today is already tomorrow. Then you bring me what you owe. You understand?” Everyone knew Francesco had the cheapest berth in the harbour. And that he’d had it for years. Signori had squeezed him in between two much larger boats in the corner of the quay after his wife had died, hoping to give Francesco some breathing space while he mourned her. She had been his everything. Strangely, as a foreigner to the area, she and Francesco had immediately bonded through their shared passions. She had a strong grasp of the language when she first arrived and it only improved through conversations with Francesco. Often you could encounter them walking alongside each other through the narrow streets of the village with their voices raised, hammering out the finer points of whichever topic they felt strongly about on that particular day. Each would throw their arms aloft with indignation at the others point-ofview, or storm off and stare through a shop window with false interest as they processed some contradictory information to their point and collected their thoughts for more discussion further down the street. Then once they concluded they would embrace one another in mutual admiration and continue on into another conversation; melding their thoughts and ideas until more collisions occurred. She was fiery and confident with strong opinions, but also reasonable and attentive to others. It was clear to everyone who encountered her that she came from a learned background, although it wasn’t flaunted. Her hair was cut fashionably short, helping her stand out from the locals, making her a point of interest whenever she walked by.
He had known her better than anyone in town from the outset; spending more time with her than his own family and always seeking her out when he wasn’t busy with the boats, even if it meant disturbing her and the other girls in the local bakery where she had taken a job baking cakes. He would spend hours of his week propped up against their counter telling stories and making them all laugh and eating some extra cake they gave him. But everyone who worked there knew that the sweetest thing he saw in the shop was her. Signori now thought long enough had passed for Francesco since her death and wouldn’t allow him to take advantage of his charity and sympathy any longer. He had known them both after they had gotten married, having feelings for her and great respect for him, but he now felt Francesco was trying to gain from her death. Each afternoon he saw the man walk to buy a bottle from the store before tinkering with something on his boat and then set off out of the harbour hours before sunset and into the ocean. From the dock he would watch his light drift all night atop the mast wondering what Francesco was doing out there. He rarely brought in enough fish to sell at the next day’s market and he had become increasingly withdrawn from the other men and spent most of his time below deck on his boat. With Francesco less involved around the port many of the others began to worry and many rumours started. Signori told the other men that he would tow Francesco out of his berth when he got the chance, but the other men always distracted him with more important business and never let Signori know when Francesco was off his boat. Anyway, they knew that Signori had been having ideas about Francesco’s wife before she passed away and that Signori would never follow through on his threat out of fear and respect for Francesco’s educated and bladed tongue.
Neither would they stand by and watch if such a thing did occur due to their fellowship with Francesco in the old days. Signori knew this also. To keep her company back when Francesco was working at sea with the boats, Francescoâ€™s wife had wanted to have a dog. He reluctantly agreed; making himself clear that it was to be hers alone and he wouldnâ€™t care for it whatsoever. His wife loved the dog and was never seen around the village without the pup at her heel. He feigned scorn for the dog as part of a game he played with her, but would never see harm come to it. It had been assumed that Francesco banished the dog after her funeral to rid himself of a constant painful reminder, but instead, each evening as he exited the harbour he would open up the door to the interior of the boat and the hidden dog would bound out and sit beside the man for the rest of the night. They had been connected through her love and Francesco could never mistreat something that his wife cared for as much as that dog. The hound only served as an outlet for his love and in return her love seeped back into him. The love overcame him completely and each evening he would paint wildly the setting Sun and the rising moon. He attacked the canvas passionately as he looked back to the shore making strokes to signify the harbour and the boats and the houses on the land. By morning time he would be exhausted and deranged, not remembering the night before or what he had created, always checking to be sure his canvas contained something. A few gutted fish would be strewn on the deck and her dog asleep amongst discarded paint pots and finished canvases. The process started slowly, as originally he sailed out to fish, but soon found himself more interested in capturing the landscape than anything else. He sketched most of the
evening while the float of his rod bobbed in the darkening sea; all the while sipping from his bottle. After a few weeks he arranged a deal for paints and made his own canvases, owing a finished painting to the store owner who lent him the material. He now only caught the few fish he needed to feed himself and the dog with the rest of his time devoted to his craft. This morning Francesco sailed slowly back into the port, mooring up as usual and waiting for the now regular visit from Signori. He let the dog out from below and it leapt onto the top of the canopy where it preferred to lie. Signori approached and was so amazed at the sight of the long forgotten white poodle atop the boat that he lost his train of thought. “Where did…” “I’ve got something for you” Francesco sternly cut him off. He clawed through his large canvas bag and drew out a painting of the coastline showing Signori’s home near the lighthouse and the large stone quay wall of the port. “You think this is payment? You owe me money, not a painting Francesco!” “I had thought as much. This afternoon you will have your payment in full. Now I have people to see.” Francesco went directly to the store, with Signori cursing him from the dock, to give the owner the painting he had promised long ago. Then he had a meeting with a man from the nearby city who his wife had been acquainted with in her youth. He owned a gallery and had actually helped coerce Francesco to begin painting. 6
Back at dinner parties he & Francesco would have long conversations over some wine; covering art, politics, love, the human condition or anything they found interesting. He realised from Francesco’s knowledge and opinions that he was naturally artistic and yearned for him to create, wanting to see everything. Now, after waiting, he was there to bring the paintings to his gallery and to the rich aristocrats of the city. He paid Francesco a little for his time, promising more when the paintings sold saying “you will be a very wealthy man”. “No” thought Francesco. “I lost all wealth from my life when my wife died”. Francesco returned to the store, picked up his favourite bottle, paid, then went to pay Signori his money. “Here it is. Everything you wanted; and I am grateful for your generosity to me during my hard times. But I want you to know the painting you declined is worth fifty times as much as what is in your hand. Farewell my friend.” He walked onto his boat and taking a drink from his bottle began to ready the boat for the night.
Biographical Note: Gary Beck Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldnâ€™t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays (Winter Goose Publishing). Fault Lines, Perceptions, Tremors and Perturbations will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. Conditioned Response (Nazar Look). Resonance (Dreaming Big Press). His novels include: Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press) Acts of Defiance (Artema Press). Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing). Call to Valor will be published by Gnome on Pigs Productions. His short story collection, A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.
Constant Change (Gary Beck)
The changing face of the contorted city removes remembrance of dwellings past. Once familiar places, stores, restaurants, bars, gone as if never were, leaving us adrift without landmarks in an urban maze, a foreign land.
Inevitable Burden (Gary Beck) I no longer count the needy numbers a disease infecting the system. As the illusion of hope fades our masters remind us we are here on sufferance. If we forget our station purchasing the goods reserved for the privileged we are crushed by recession, reduced to subsistence, too battered to resist oppression.
Ravenous Appetite (Gary Beck) A child goes hungry in a crumbling ghetto. A man dines lavishly on his mega-yacht. Throughout our promised land irregularities abound with little hope of redress, as the suffering of the people grows too great to save them from unrestricted greed devouring their tomorrows.
Passing Ages (Gary Beck) Every generation when theyâ€™ve aged enough looks backward, remembering a better time with clearer water, purer air, a distorted picture of a better life they delude themselves into believing was really true.
Harsh reality confirms we were always careless animals wastefully consuming the bounty of the earth, briefly more tolerant, but only to some when there was enough to go around, so more fed, than starved.
Yet like mindless animals in any age we devoured as much as our bellies would hold, until the feast of the day was insufficient to sate endless appetites, and those who could acquired more and more and in the flow of abundance began to consume more than the earth could endure.
Without thought for the future, as mindless as animals, we poisoned the water, polluted the air, oblivious to the frailty of life dependent, minute to minute,
on breathing, day to day on drinking, week to week on eating, blindly stuffing ourselves, 2
imperiling tomorrow for children to come.
Historical Enactment (Gary Beck) A mourning dove sits on my terrace crying piteously for me to feed him. But every time I put out seed the pigeons land, chase him away, no matter how much I put out. If I sit out he flies away, preferring to go hungry than risk becoming a house dove. So once again itâ€™s natureâ€™s way, as bullying rules the day.
Biographical Note: Martin Keaveney
Recent stories by Martin Keaveney have appeared in Small Lives (Poddle Publications), Crannog Gold Dust , The Crazy Oik and Agave Magazine. Flash fiction has been published in Burning Word and Apocrypha and Abstractions. Poetry will appear shortly in Carillon and Sleet magazine. He has also written, produced and directed many short and full length independent film projects, which have been screened at local and national festivals, including the Galway Colours Festival, the Fastnet Short Film Festival , the Galway Film Fleadh and the Flatlake Festival in Co. Mongahan. He is currently a PhD candidate at NUIG, 2014-18 where he is researching the John McGahern archive and also writing a novel as part of the course. He has a B.A. in English and Italian and an M.A. in English (Writing) from NUI, Galway, Ireland. He also studied Advanced Media Production at GTI, Galway. He was guest speaker at a postgraduate seminar series at Trinity College where he presented a paper on 'The process of John McGahern'. He was recently the recipient of the 2016 Spranacht U|i Eithir award at NUIG for his research. This August he will present his paper 'Idiom and Revision in John McGahern's The Dark' at the European Society for the Study of English annual conference in Galway.
The Help By Martin Keaveney)
I was about six or seven when I met Jim-Eddie first. I was outside playing in one of my fatherâ€™s machines, pretending I was operating its huge bucket, digging imaginary holes in the ground. My brothers were dosing a few lambs at the sheep pen at the end of the large field which served as our garden. Jim-Eddie drove in the road, wavering from left to right in his way, as I would become well used to over the years. He drove a white Ford Escort and his pipe stuck out from his large mouth, always smouldering. He stopped just before hitting the wall of the house. I saw it was not because of the brakes, but because he had run the car over a bag of coal. The oil sump was busted beneath. The others left their job with the sheep to see what the fuss was about. Mam looked out, shaking her head. Jim-Eddie got out of the car, muttering something about it being an awful place to leave a bag of coal. The boys, used to his ways, just laughed and circled him as he walked toward the back kitchen. He was tall and wore a tweed peaked hat, a loose jumper over a white collar and plain tie with a long straggling overcoat. He carried a long windy stick everywhere he went. I was so happy in my game that I hadnâ€™t gone over to see what this visit was about.
As I imagined lifting a great big clod of virgin soil high into the air, mam looked out of the back door and beckoned me in. I hopped down off the machine and hurried toward the back kitchen. My brothers were listening in awe to Jim-Eddie as he told them of the latest bull he had gotten, how strong it was and how dangerous it was. ‘Well, Mr Flannelly wants to talk to you, Georgie!’ Mam said to me. I was a bit surprised as visitors rarely called to see me. I felt a bit shy now, with everyone turning their attention to me, but especially of Jim-Eddie. People used to laugh about him but they would not say too much directly. He had these piercing blue eyes that seemed to look through you and a smig around his lips as though he knew things you didn’t. When he spoke it was like everything stopped, the birds stopped singing, the kettle stopped boiling, the large rusty old fridge Uncle Paudie had brought home from Watford stopped humming. ‘Looks like he won’t be able handle me bull!’ Jim-Eddie said very seriously. There was a pause as I felt weak and then he made a half-smile and said he was only ‘rizzing’ me. He then spoke to ‘Kackleen’, as he always called my mother and said a young snapper like me would be handy in the bog baggin’ turf if she didn’t mind, and he’d give me a few bob. The other lads were too busy, between working for other neighbours and busy here on our farm. But young Georgie, he could be put to use with Jim-Eddie, if he wanted. Mam looked at me and said ‘You’ll help Jim-Eddie with the turf, will you, Georgie?’ Well, I could hardly say no.
Jim-Eddie shook me hand weakly, smigged again and said he’d put a few muscles on me quick enough.
The white Escort was finally towed away a few weeks later. It would be me that was steering, a small boy trying to see over the dashboard. It took months for him to get it fixed, but fortunately he had another two Escorts in the garden. I used to think he kept them there for parts until he started using the beige one while the white one was being fixed and he seemed to keep the blue one for going to Mass. I never asked him why he had three cars of the same model. Back then, I was far too shy to have anything like a conversation with Jim-Eddie. No, he did all the talking, telling me the jobs for the night, and finally allowing me home at three or sometimes four in the morning. But that day he busted the sump with the bag of coal was to be the start of many years with Jim-Eddie for me.
Jim-Eddie’s house was a small cottage situated at the end of a hooky boreen. He brought me there on the back of one of our tractors that first evening around nine o’clock to show me my work. He said that we would start with a cup of tae and brought me in through the back door. The kitchen was dark and dusty. Loose tiles clung to the wall over the Belfast sink. A Sacred Heart picture hung at an angle on one wall and an old calendar was tacked against another. A large clock with a picture of Elvis was stationed over the door. On the shelves over the sink were chipped plates, teacups and saucers beside various sized statues of Our Lady and the Child of Prague. 8
There were numerous mirrors around the house, all broken, you could never see your reflection in any of them. Jim-Eddie told me it would be a long night and that I should be ready for some hard graft. He said ‘hard’ like ‘hee-yard’. The work would be ‘hee-yard’, he continued, but he would pay me well. I found out fairly soon that good payment was enough to buy a small bottle of fizzy coke, a bag of crisps and still have a few pound for my pig bank, in return for about four hours mooching around in the dark on various jobs. It took an hour’s tractor drive to get to the bog. It was almost dark at eleven at night, near the end of August. There had been rain and my knees sank into the spongy ground beneath as I filled old fertiliser bags at the base of the rook. Jim-Eddie didn’t seem to notice the water. He just shook each great sopping sod end off. To think these would be burning brightly in Jim-Eddie’s kitchen in December! We then carried the bags out to the boreen and loaded up the trailer. After about an hour or so, Jim-Eddie announced it was time for the tae. He had brought an old whiskey bottle full of tea and sugar, which he offered to me. It was sickly sweet and I was soon to learn he usually misjudged how much sugar to put in it. By two in the morning the trailer was full. I sat on the top of the load, to keep an eye on any loose sods, Jim-Eddie said. I was fairly sleepy at this stage as he drove along the quiet roads. I might have dozed off had it not been for having to avoid low hanging branches. I could have been knocked off the trailer, and Jim-Eddie wouldn’t
notice until he was at home. I imagined his reaction, cursing me for being a fool and not staying awake.
When winter arrived my duties changed from working in the bog to helping him feed his stock. Always as nightfall arrived, he would feed the cattle first. This involved lifting large grapes of silage into a wheelbarrow and then pushing it over to some galvanised feeders where bullocks were half housed in a shed. They had the use of the concrete slab for exercise and could shelter inside at night. He insisted I fill the barrow up every time even though my arms could barely push half that and I kept falling over. Jim-Eddie would wander around sighing â€˜Ah, the youth of today!â€™ before finally taking the other handle and helping me to feed the cattle. They lowed as the first few barrows were being filled and were silently munching the rest of the time. After feeding, we would do other farm work, such as spreading manure and fencing. One of the best things about working for Jim-Eddie was driving the tractor, which he let me do from about the age of eight. Round and round the field I would drive at a speedy ten miles an hour, never losing the novelty of controlling a powerful machine. The teaching of tractor driving was an important job, but like most things, Jim-Eddie insisted on doing this at night. He was not exactly qualified to teach driving himself. It was said he had failed the driving test some fourteen times before they just gave it to him, many years ago. I loved the smell of his pipe in the car and the comfortable haphazard way he held the steering wheel with his thumbs at the base of it. A little statue of Our Lady 10
had been glued onto the plastic dashboard. It seemed to shiver as Jim-Eddie weaved around obstacles like ditches, other vehicles and people. With part of an eye on the road, he would ask me how I was in that crushed way of his, sweat around his forehead in the summer, his skin white with cold in the winter. The house was always quiet when I got home. Mam and my brothers would be asleep for hours. Our red Ford Transit van was often not back, even at three. I would be very tired and fall into bed, often without changing my clothes. The eight pounds that Jim-Eddie paid me for the night would be left on the bedside locker, to be put away in the morning. I had no use for money really, apart from the weekly travelling shop. I was loaded, as were my brothers, busily working for other farmers. But my man was Jim-Eddie, the loony going to the bog at all hours. Like a pair of false teeth, he only came out at night, was the running joke. I didnâ€™t care, though. I had my job and I loved it. I saved up a lot of money, maybe two hundred, Iâ€™d say, by the time I was nine or ten. I had all sorts of things planned. I was going to buy a huge fancy bike, I was going to get the train to Dublin and go to the Spring Show, I was going to buy a long coat and a pair of hobnailed boots just like Jim-Eddie. Oh such dreams! One morning, they were all shattered when the little pig was smashed against the floor and the money was taken. I was told the house needed it. Even so, I went working for Jim-Eddie again that night, picking stones from a garden he wanted to make into a vegetable patch. Sometimes I used to think he was
wasting his time having me there. But I went on about my business, not really caring much why, and enjoying the adventure of it.
One time I got home from Jim-Eddie’s at about two and the Transit was parked outside. In the kitchen, I was told I had been in the way on the road and could have caused an accident. Thick arms grabbed my shoulders and I squealed as I tried to escape. My eye healed after about six weeks. Jim-Eddie would peer at it now and again. I was always trying to think of an excuse, like I had been in a fight at school. But he never asked. I was often tired in the classroom. I used to fall asleep on the desk. Sure, you would get nowhere with them old books, we were told. I was inclined to believe that, alright. I didn’t learn to read so well in class and I fell behind. Even though I lost out on school work, I was happy spending my evenings working at Jim-Eddie’s. There was always some excitement. He was so cracked that everything he did was like being in a cartoon, like there was some kind of punchline around the corner. Once he was bringing me up to the shop to help him load a bag of coal. While he was waving to a neighbour he ploughed into a wall. Luckily he never drove faster than twenty miles an hour. He believed all young lads should educate themselves in the ways of the community, not from books. He told me one night he had been elected President of the local Cumann. It was a great honour he said, and when I was eighteen, I could 12
come along too. Jim-Eddie reckoned it was very important to take an interest in local affairs, though all I ever saw him doing was going to the AGM every February.
I was rarely late for work. One Sunday evening we waited in the Transit outside on the street of the local town. I was worried because Jim-Eddie wanted me to help him dosing calves that evening and it was almost six. My brothers were arm wrestling. They were making whooping noises as one beat the other. I sat alone behind the driver’s seat, worrying about Jim-Eddie’s stock. We waited for seven hours that day. I remember people passing the windows and looking in at these snotty-nosed country lads. Every so often I would look out the window and see the lone figure through the darkened glass, sitting at the bar, and wondered when he might decide to go home. I knew mam would be complaining to the empty house that the dinner was burning. Jim-Eddie was mad when I arrived at half eight. He told me he couldn’t be waiting all day for someone to help him. He asked me where I had been and I told him. He didn’t say much more. We just got on with the business at hand. I remember well the job that evening. We had ten calves contained within a tall stone walled pen. They rambled around, the hooves awkwardly sliding on the stony, mucky floor below them. Usually Jim-Eddie caught them and me, being that bit weaker, would inject the dose down their throats while he held the head. Jim-Eddie grabbed one of the calves. Just as I was going toward him, the calf squirmed away.
‘Blast!’ Jim-Eddie roared. The calf ran along the wall. I left the dosing gun on the ground and intercepted him, launching my hand around his head. He struggled, but I held him tight. Jim-Eddie coughed, picking up the gun and came over. He deftly slid the brass piece down the calf’s throat. ‘Good lad, good lad!’ Jim Eddie said as I let the beast go. I didn’t know if he was talking to me or the animal. Afterwards, he did treat me to ham sandwiches. I was starving, having had nothing since breakfast, after first Mass. When we had eaten, Jim-Eddie filled his pipe with tobacco and told me about all the work we had to have done for the following week.
By secondary school, I was more or less running Jim-Eddie’s farm. He was now close to his ninth decade and hobbled around everywhere with his trusty stick. He had gotten crankier too. Saliva spilled from his lips as he ordered me about the place, pointing at a fence which needed attention or at one of his galvanised gates. He insisted on repairing everything and refused any murmur I might make of buying new. ‘It’s good enough!’ he would snarl. We soldiered together every night of the year. During the summertime we were either saving hay or bringing home turf. In winter, there would always be cattle to feed or dose, or sheep to be moved from one field to another.
At fourteen, I was advising Jim-Eddie on how to make the best use of the place. I began to do a lot of the things that he had been neglecting for decades. Fixing up fences, rebuilding long collapsed stone walls. He had grown very thin. He barely had the strength to inhale the pipe and coughed with a deep wheezing effort. I found myself helping him through doors. His driving was brutal by now. I think he was fairly blind at this stage and he saw only vague figures on the road. I began to drive him around. I wanted to get Old Barley to bring Jim-Eddie’s stock for the mart in his jeep and trailer, which Jim-Eddie eventually agreed to. That was the beginning of the end. Sometimes I thought Jim-Eddie had outlived his own life. Mostly now, he had a few days’ stubble and his shirts were always stained. He did continue throughout these years to lecture me on politics, told me when I should buy a car and to keep away from beer and women until I was at least thirty-two.
Now and again I would wonder who would take over the place when Jim-Eddie was gone. One time I asked about a photo of him, his mother and three brothers within a dusty gold frame on the mantelpiece. The brothers had emigrated to England in the early fifties. He told me the picture was taken just before they left. They had never came home, he said. There was no money for travelling back and forth in them times, because it wasn’t just the travelling, it was all the ‘bleddy’ drinking that went on, coming and going between ferries and trains and buses, so the 15
three brothers never bothered. They were all dead now. Dead for years and buried in London graveyards. I once asked had they any family over there and he said he thought they had but they never wrote anymore, not since the mother died in 1970. He was left on his own then and that was when he started to hire local lads to help him. There were always hands to be got, but mostly they would only put up with JimEddie’s ways for a couple of years. I was the only one to stay with him for much longer. When I would arrive in the evening in my well-worn school uniform, JimEddie would look up from the bed clothes and mutter some feeble instructions. Most of the time now, these concerned things near him, things that he could see from the dusty window of his bedroom. Fences behind the sheds, stone walls that no longer mattered, not the way I had reorganised the place. Wooden gates that needed fixing which I had replaced weeks earlier. I fenced the boundaries of his place with precision, tightening up wires and driving new stakes, even though Jim-Eddie would be telling me branches of dead trees would do to block gaps. I had given up a long time ago trying to explain everything to him. I just nodded and carried on anyway.
It was the postman who found him. By the time I got to the house it was full of people. I stood outside, not really wanting to mix with the mourners. I stared at the jamb of Jim-Eddie’s back door. I didn’t feel like going in there to listen to low voices.
I just wanted to talk to Jim-Eddie again about the sheep and the cattle and going to the bog. A suited man with piercing blue eyes walked in past the door. ‘And who are you?’ ‘George O’Grady.’ ‘Ah yes, Johnny’s son. Are you coming in?’ We entered the kitchen which seemed bigger, colder than before. Two men stood there talking about cattle prices. They looked at me. One of them came and shook my hand. The suited man looked at this with puzzlement. A woman handed me a glass of whiskey which I left down again and picked up a glass of lemonade. I munched on a piece of fruit cake, the sweetness seemed to give me strength and I walked through the crowd until I got to Jim-Eddie’s bedroom. The room, like the rest of the house, seemed different than normal. The bedroom was unusually tidy. JimEddie was stiff in the bed, his hands clasped around rosary beads, two candles burning beside him on a small table. I looked at his still mouth, no more talk of politics or the price of sheep. Two other suited men, I noticed they looked like the man at the door, sat near the bed. I could only stand there a couple of minutes. I shook hands with the men. I stood over the bed for a few moments. The air was cold as I left the house and cycled down the boreen. The day after the funeral I came to feed the bullocks a few barrows of silage. The man I now knew to be Jim-Eddie’s nephew was standing in the yard with a
notepad. He looked at me and asked what I wanted. I told him I did the work for JimEddie. ‘You’re not needed anymore,’ the man said. ‘Does he owe you any money?’ All of the stock was sold off within a fortnight. Old Barley came in his haulage truck and took the lot away in a few runs. It was said the three nephews were fighting over the land. There was forty-seven acres in it. It was poor land but you could still lease it. Farmers always wanted to rent land, even the worst of it.
I make a living fixing up cars now. I specialise in vintages, Ford Escorts being a speciality. I sit in each prospective model, and try to imagine what Jim-Eddie would have seen in them, what he saw in his life, what he saw in everything. I’m thinking of going back to school. I’m only twenty-five next month. Jim-Eddie had made a will but it took more than a year for it to be read. I never got to hear about it, but I suppose he left me nothing. There was a rumour he gave it to the party he had followed all his life. No wonder he kept telling me to vote.
Glossary of colloquial terms
Dosing – The oral application of a liquid, probably a worm killer, by either gun or bottle.
Driving stakes –Fixing wooden posts to the ground.
Windy – Crooked.
Smig – Smirk.
Ribbing, pulling one’s leg.
Baggin’ – The placing of dried peat logs (called ‘sods’) into old fertiliser bags, for transport purposes and sometimes storage.
Turf – Refers to peat, dried into small short logs between six and eighteen inches long and three to four inches wide and deep.
Bob – Payment.
Hooky – Twisting.
Boreen – Very minor road. Usually with a track of grass dividing it in the centre.
Tae – Irish language for ‘Tea’. 19
Hard graft – Labour.
Mooching – Moving slowly.
Rook – The turf is usually built into a large cone shaped pile, neatly walled at the edges with sods, something like brickwork. It remains at the side of the road for some weeks to allow it to dry. Some operators build these rooks on the bog as in this case.
Load – The trailer, filled with the sods of turf.
Grapes – A grape is a four to six pronged implement with a long handle. It is used for moving dried grass (known as silage) which, after some months of storage under cover is used for feeding during winter.
Galvanised feeders – Shaped in a semicircle with a number of galvanise bars at the top and a flat sheet of sheet metal to the base. The cattle stand outside the semicircle and angle their heads between the bars, where the silage is typically placed for feeding. Sometimes a flat wall like design.
Bullocks – Castrated male cattle. Typically kept until two years old, when they are slaughtered for beef.
Concrete slab – Large concrete base.
Loaded – Slang term for wealthy.
Spring Show – Now defunct, this was an annual national agricultural show.
Cracked – Surreal.
Cumann – ‘Cumann’ is the Irish Language word for ‘Group’. Jim-Eddie was attending an organised political gathering.
Bleddy – Bloody.
Would do – To be sufficient.
Biographical Note: Neil Ellman
Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published more than 1,250 poems, many of which are ekphrastic and written in response to works of modern and contemporary art, in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the net; and most recently, he was the winner of theSPANK the CARP Annual Poetry Contest.
EPuppet Theater (Neil Ellman) (after the painting by Paul Klee)
Shadow puppets shadow men on strings guided by the stars and anotherâ€™s hand more wooden marionette than skin and bone they face their audience to sing with someone elseâ€™s words white dancing obediently to some otherâ€™s plan as if there were no reality other than their own as if they had a will their own.
Scenecio (aka Head of a Man Going Senile) (Neil Ellman) (after the painting by Paul Klee)
A man of a certain age sometimes forgets the purpose of a knife and fork, his home address, the name of his first-born. He drivels from the corner of his lips some words barely comprehensible and wipes them clean with his doddering tongue. Right and left have little consequence in the darkening of his mind; sadness and laughter much the same and death his only surviving friend. He sees in the mirror the person he was more than forty years before as if it were today but cannot remember where he left his keys.
Equals Infinity (Neil Ellman) (after the painting by Paul Klee)
If anything equals infinity is is me spreading from a tight ball of string exploding with no one else to see my birth and growing, expanding in the everness of my space as if I were the beginning and the end alpha and omega and every time between all measures of distance all possibilities forever spinning on a figure eight whatever equals infinity I am.
Am Not Ashamed (Neil Ellman) (after the watercolor by Paul Klee)
To feel ashamed is to feel regret to know the heresy of my beliefs and not to care. I am what I am a recalcitrant reprobate connected to my past a rogue, rascal and charlatan condemned to feel or not to feel a future time without the retribution of the crowd. There is neither shame nor contrition in what I did or felt but only the pride of a rebellious angel fallen but not defeated in a complacent world of disbelief.
Connected to the Stars (Neil Ellman) (after the watercolor by Paul Klee)
Not even the moon so close that makes men mad and drives the ebb and neap of tides or of an unnamed planet orbiting the sun too far away for even a telescope to capture its glow and measure its days nor of the warp and weft of space that swaddles the universe as if it were its only child can we be connected to the stars as easily as can the imagination form a constellation from our lives.
Biographical Note: John Doyle
John Doyle is from County Kildare has recently returned to writing poetry after a considerable absence. He was educated at N.U.I. Maynooth, and is influenced by a diverse range of writers, many of whom do not adhere to canonical peccadilloes.
To An Ex-Boss... (The JobBridge Blues Shuffle in 4/4 time) (John Doyle) Her asperous drone latched on each and every thorn Ulster briers gargled up, a rolling tumbling jackdaw tongue, missing only music and everything thus, her heys and highs marched with crows to the clasp of day, voice thinner than chipped mountain flint morning's sleet burning and lashing from a cackling hawk's sudden swoop, her eyes so black every star lay dead behind a tea-bag stained warehouse wall
Song for Niels Lanther (Who Has This Table Booked For After We Leave) (John Doyle) Belle Gunness and me have this table 48 minutes more then Niels will arrive. Who is this guy? Mr. 9 to 5, family man, a nice retiring minister of Protestant persuasion, whose greatest sin, perhaps, is too much red wine and a fecal cuss, at football mishaps? Is he "The Niels" among student friends, naked from his Thorvaldsen torso up, opening curtains across a college yard, chatter of American girls who hug books under their arms, storing carnal giggles under a shrill Baltic blast; Belle hits her fourth beer, her hands and eyes do *that* thing again, where I must go take a walk. Let's guess she remembers nothing, rising from bed the following 3pm. If I smoked, I would sit here a while, wait for Niels, and share profound theological thoughts; 11 minutes left, thunder brews, her eyes are a halfway house, somewhere between Bixby and Ferrigno, the kind of place small animals run from, when thunder starts to snarl, the mysterious horse-back Niels Lanther a tall white fyr my life will need for some time.
Come cauterise my rib Niels, grab my shoulders, that brotherly kinda jazz troubled men need.
Copenhagen, December 8th 2012
The Sky and The Ocean, Fully At War (John Doyle) Dead bodies fit so well with beaches, so many of them to assess cracked-shell tombs given up, pointless parents, childless seagull chewed flesh,
there is a certain taste of ocean that makes Sundays a day for prayer, little boys who talk at mass, the gathering sandpipers - silent killers
stalking broken lives on sand. Pink was the colour of the deceiver, the rosy-cheeked Judas, the lover, the fiery death morning brings,
when sheep bleat for mothers, little lives lie half-hidden in sand, the birds, who littered copious pages of the bible, tugging witnesses from washed-up forgotten prayer
Biographical Note: Steven F Klepetar Steve Klepetarâ€™s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as A New Ulster, Boston Literary Magazine, Deep Water, Expound, The Muse: India, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including three in 2015). Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press). His new chapbook, The Li Bo Poems, is forthcoming from Flutter Press.
Fishing (Steven Klepetar) It was that old line about a boy fishing on a summer’s day that wouldn’t end. But now May is almost over, and June comes rumbling at me, a train without delays, efficient, jerking into the station with a schedule to meet. I’ve been digging all day, and though the air feels cool, I’m sweating, blistered and in a foul mood. I drink, the taste like steel against my tongue. The boy by the river is barefoot as he walks the banks, dipping into water, which laps at his shins and rolled up jeans. He hasn’t caught a thing, but his eyes reflect clouds as if he were the mirror of the world.
Your Name (Steven Klepetar) éhyeh ásher éhyeh
(translated in the King James Version as “I am that I am”)
You have left the sky if ever you were there, left corn growing high and green, a red barn newly painted, horses grazing in a white corral.
Filled with wind of your own noise, pouring out wine of remorse, abandoning words you left in rock and sand, you come down to the city
to mingle with cars and colored lights flickering in the rain. You have written your name across clouds, carved it on the meadow of my flesh.
Over and over I have met you in burned out buildings near the tracks where your fire sizzles and consumes the night. My mouth burns
with your name, an acid cutting deep, but still there is nothing to pronounce, only your shadow 35
visible in houses filled to the roof with broken glass.
Rain (Steven Klepetar) I am only partly lying when I say
I love the rain, how it streaks
windows gray and lowers itself,
a spongy cloud on afternoons trembling
with joy. I climb out of myself, expand
with the freedom of air. How thrilling to sail
beyond the body, a green metal swing 36
rising in sweeping arc to the wet chainâ€™s edge.
Good Wishes (Steven Klepetar) â€œWith these moody negations I said goodbye to the mirrors and gave up my profession.â€?
I gave up my profession with its chains and smoke, its endless mirrors and lies. I left my tools on the floor of the barn,
my bag of tricks down in the muddy field. I handed in my hands and legged it out of town, singing an old tune with new
words constructed from the fiery wings of birds. I crossed the river and opened my arms to the day. My face was made
of glass and salt, my lips of icy iron chips. In sunlight, the river twinkled and burned. For three days I said goodbye to my eyes
and my delicate, folding ears. I was home 38
to my triangular nose, with its bruise and its bump. I surrendered neck and back,
left pain warbling in a raspberry bush. I slept in a wide bubble of narcotic ease, awoke penitent, afraid of my insect mouth.
Still the letters found me, good wishes tangled in my hair, opening a new path to waters spreading toward a changing sea.
Maybe (Steven Klepetar) For Ellie
Maybe I will sing to you tonight when mottled moon peeks from her sky cave, maybe if waves of darkness bend and wash this pebbled shore.
If you like my voice, I could open my throat for you and pour libations onto slick, seal-gray sand. We could nestle in the warm bath of our blended light,
or among fiery threads connecting you to me, tracing paths of lightning bugs over the cool swamp of night. Or maybe you could hide and I will search
and find you only by laughter gurgling from frontiers of your winding smile. If only my gifts could matter my hands might drip with gold set with rubies
and white sapphires, a circle like a mouth astonished by the sweetness of lyrics and a tune. Maybe stars would wash across a great black dome, brushstroke sweep
of wonder for your lustrous eyes. I could count for you until my voice fails or numbers leap into the neighborhood of dreams and music braids itself around your nerves and skin.
Biographical Note: Gordon Ferris
Gordon Ferris is a Dublin writer and poet who has lived in Donegal for almost thirty year's. He has been published previously in a magazine based in Sligo
Light (Gordon Ferris) It dulls and moves the heart Leaves it hidden in the shadows Afraid to come out and glow. Donâ€™t you want to see or show? The light inside your heart How it illuminates All around you Makes all who know you Want to be your brother and sister Want to love you.
Hurt. (Gordon Ferris) Water falling over green Tears on her cheek unseen To full with love to share, She hurts. She wants too much to be in love, To be the princess Awakened and kissed by a prince. But Still she hurts.
Change (Gordon Ferris) When we were young we made dreams Of endless days in sunlight bright in love. The touch and taste of grass chewed On street end green. The call of our mothers echoes through the evening, dew heavy air, to mark the end of our daily play making ready for their world. Shield (Gordon Ferris) No my friend My grimace is internal Never shaped by the faces around me. No my friend I don't ignore you Itâ€™s a wall I build from the world around me.
Exit (Gordon Ferris)
The line between light and dark, Is Hidden inside a thinly veiled recess In a cloud of indecision Between what must be done What is expected of you What would pleas you And ultimately What is right.
Bruised. (Gordon Ferris) Turning on to our street after what was an uneventful journey. Across the wide expanding city on two buses, from one south side suburb, to city center, then out to another sprawling north side suburban mass of concrete. On the later part of the journey to Finglas, I distracted myself with thoughts of past times and new beginnings I had yet to experience. I thought of the changes I had seen from childhood to the eve of manhood, the fields where I had become explorer and knight fighting the dark clad foes of my fantasy world, of the streams I waded across, the orchards I raided, going home muck hardened on skin with apples and pears to be turned into tarts and pies to be later covered with custard, had for a rare treat. All disappearing now, looking down past the top of my road you could see the full length of Cardiffbridge Road and the straight line of houses encroaching on the playing field which sided the farmland divided by a road we used to call The Back road. Slowly all the green of my childhood was being taken over by the grey. Nearing the house, I wondered who was home, I knew me Ma would more than likely be home, unless she was two doors down in Mrs Dillonâ€™s house, friends for as long as I can remember, She used to babysit me when my mother worked in Unidare, thatâ€™s only when I would be home from school before her. Used to go to her house after school where her two daughters tried to get me to play with their dolls so they could say that I was playing with dolls. I wondered if elder brother Chris would be there, I wanted to see him to thank him for getting a bully, his brother of my back. They had been hassling me after my best mate and I had got the better of him. The whole incident came to a head after myself and 46
some friends eventually found the courage to stand up to a bully. We had been tormented by this bully, literally living in fear, we just about avoided it getting out of hand by playing along with him and keeping out of his way, but gradually it got too much having too watch over our shoulders all the time. Getting into trouble with our parents because he would rob the money of us every time we were sent to the shops, there’s only so many times you can say you lost the cash. It came to a head on one of the odd Saturday afternoons I would take part in a road league on the green at the top of the street. It was called a league, but all it amounted to was five or six lads from each street, as many as we could get, but usually five or six and we would play a match up to ten, whoever got to ten goals’ first was the winner. Where we played was a raised green at the top of our street, the street was a cul-desac, which meant that at the end of the street it widened out to allow cars to turn around and exit the street again. It was at this widening of the road that the green we played was placed, it was raised about six inches of the ground, edged with concrete, and bordered with footpaths again which sided two end houses on our street, extralong gardens, 0ne open and walled to the right and the other to the left was surrounded by high hedging and was inaccessible. The other end of our street was the avenue, to the left another green going to the main road, which led everywhere. On the right side at the end was another long garden surrounded by overgrown hedge. I never knew much about these games, or when there was going to be another one, it wasn’t an organized thing, it just happened unexpectedly any day there was lads available, usually all day Saturday or evenings during the week. The first I would hear of the upcoming game would be a knock on the door with two or three lads I vaguely knew, looking for me to play for them, it was a last resort for them. They must have been short of numbers. 47
The games could go on for several hours, most of us dripping with sweat and some barely able to walk from exhaustion. There was fierce competition and both teams had captains who hated to loose, roaring and shouting commands and abuse if you made a mistake or showed signs of tiring. The last game we had played was one of bad feeling, it ended with blood being spilled. The main cause was an unwelcome slightly older lad from another street, he was a bit of a wild hard man, overweight which made him bigger than most and had most of the lads a bit afraid of him. He liked to throw his weight around calling us all names and passing comments to us in a belittling manner trying to control the game and us, he tried to be the main man on the pitch. When the truth was he had two left feet and no matter how he tried, he looked slow and awkward. Most of us could run rings around him, we just had to make sure he didnâ€™t get a hold of us, when he did catch you, he liked to sit his considerable weight on his victimâ€™s belly, move his arse about and fart explosively. It happened to me once before, and believe me, it would have been far better if he had beaten the crap out of me with a stick. It reminded me of my Dad at Christmas time, cleaning out the turkey, thatâ€™s what it smelt and felt like, Kinger had emptied all his innards onto my have belly leaving the air around us seem like the aroma of decaying vermin buried under floorboards. It all started when Kinger, the scumbags name, he was getting tired and fed up with nobody reacting to his intimidation, it was the second half with the game precariously perched on a nil-nil score line, at any minute one of the teams could have conceded a goal. The mood was getting nervous, everyone trying to keep away from Kinger, or just saying yes to everything he said, it was no longer a game, slowly the lads had enough and were starting to drift of. Then suddenly after Kinger pushed Jimmy Kerr, who was trying to get past him with the ball. But was to near the edge of the green to get past without falling on the concrete. The resulting push knocked Kerr off balance 48
and sent him flying off the green and into the hedge at Reagan's house at the right side of green. This was the last straw, Desi Ellis, my best pal on the street, went up and grabbed the ball out of Kinger's hand , who was rubbing it in now by trying to call a free kick, " you’re getting no free kick, we don’t have to take this crap from you, you just fuck off back to your own street and pester them over there, we don’t have to take this crap from this tub a lard" Desi said nervously, I stepped forward , shaking inside but trying to hide it and said, " That's enough, you’ve gone too far this time , I f fell on the cement there he could have broken his arm, no more, I’m not taking it either" two more of the lads stepped forward . Kinger red faced with anger looked from face to face, and said. “And who is going to stop me, you Ellis” he said with a push on Ellis. " Or you, ya little cunt" He said to me walking towards me, slapping me on the face with a wide swing of his arm, he connected and it was shock that got me more than the impact, it felt warm and heavy, nothing like what I expected, I thought a belt from Kinger would knock me out but it just about turned my head. With this Desi and I went for him, we had no choice, if we didn’t stand up to him, there would be no end. Desi got him with a kick to his knee and I threw several punches at his head aiming for his nose. My Dad, in one if his lectures about not fighting on the street, told me the best way to stop a bigger fellow in a fight was to hit him head on into his nose, " They'll be blood everywhere, and ya might even break his nose" me Da told me this in one if his pacifist speeches. Typical Da, teaching me not to fight on the street by hitting someone. Anyway, one of the punches connected and Desi also connected with a kick in the goulies. This once and for all took the mindless smirk of his face and had Kinger heading away with his tail between his legs. Hopefully that will be the end of him throwing his weight around here anymore. Hopefully, I thought to myself in the house later, hopefully that is the gong to be the end of one of our childhood fears, for these fears wear just what we imagined they were going to be, and not how they turned out , what did we expect Kinger was going to do us. He’s hardly 49
going to kill us all and bury the bodies in the fields around us, is he? It’s like the dog that barks at the end of the street, you imagine it’s going to savage you, but in reality, if you make a run at him and shout, he's off like a frightened bitch. It didn’t turn out the way I expected with Kinger for me, our fight back made him mad for revenge and every time he happened to come across one of us in the street he was out to hurt us, not just rob us. He would try guess where we would be, wait in places he knew we would have to pass and catch up with us. It was nervous times for a while afterwards, still always looking over our shoulder as we went on our errands to the van shop around the corner. In my case to get loose cigs for my ma, or two eggs for the tea, or a big five bar for Chris. Frightening times. Always having to look up and down the street before going out. He did eventually get a hold of me when I was on my way to the van shop on one of those occasions when my Ma needed more loose fag’s. I was ambling up the street, one of the rare times in this dangerous spell when I allowed myself to drift away into my own dream world, suddenly, he and his brother Jimmy came out from hiding behind the hedge in one of the gardens. One on either side of me so I couldn’t get away. I tried moving to one side, Kinger, or Tommy, as he was christened, stepped in my way, “Where de ya think yur goin” he said with a snarl, “ not so brave now are ya, without yur little gang behind ya, wha.” He added. I could feel the blood drain from me with fear, and wondered what I had in front of me, strange the things that go through your mind when you’re in danger, I found myself looking at Tommie’s hands, wondering what it would be like to be hit by him, big fat ham like hands twice the size of mine, imagine, he’s only two years older than me, I thought. I was shaking with fear as this unfolded. 50
Then I looked at his brother Jimmy’s hands, tiny effeminate hands, made for flower arranging or sewing, yes, I thought, Jimmy’s hands, much rather be hit by them. A bit of advice for any young man caught in a threatening situation, keep your mouth shut, avoid the temptation to pass spontaneous remarks, thinking that a bit of humor might lighten the mood, Doesn’t work, especially if, out of nerves, you say the first thing comes to mind and it has something to do with your opposites girlie hands. Remember, a silent tongue never broke a tooth. Kinger kept pushing, short, sharp jabs into the chest, I was waiting for the haymaker, it didn’t come, instead the sly brother Jimmy hit me with something which I found out later was a hurley stick, right into my side and into part of the stomach, I went down and they kicked and lashed out with all they had, I just curled up in a ball, what else could I do. It was all over in a minute, it’s not like it is in the movies, fights don’t go on for several minutes, and it doesn’t happen in slow motion, pity it didn’t happen that way, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. A small crowd started to form now, two of the women came out of their house and chased the two brothers away hitting Kinger with the end of her tea towel which she had in her hand, a regular part of her attire. She wiped the blood of my hands and head and led me down the street, Home.
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June 2016’s MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:
Poetry, Prose Oh My!. 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”.
This month on round the back we have an interview with David Baird as well as a review
Biographical Note: David Baird
Reviewer David Baird is thirty years old. He resides near Newcastle, with his wife and twin girls, not to mention two female cats. When not at work David enjoys nothing more than reading a good book. DavidsBookBlurg has been running since January 2015 when the passion for books was just too great and heâ€™s not looked back since. https://twitter.com/DavidsBookBlurg https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/21696148-david-baird https://davidsbookblurg.wordpress.com/
ANU: You explain on David’s Book Blurg that you came to reading later in life than average, due to problems with your eyesight. Are there any books, which you feel were central to your generation but that you missed? If so, what are they, and have you caught up to them yet? DB: That’s a tough one. I’m not sure about books from my generation but I definitely feel I’ve missed out on what many call classics such as Frankenstein, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and such like. These are books I’ve heard about a lot but never read… I finally read Frankenstein last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. ANU: In your opinion, what are the best and worst parts of e-books? DB: Ooh, the best and worst part I really the same thing for me. You can download and store so many. This is great as it leaves a lot to choose from but at the same time you can download so many that you just don’t know where to begin. ANU: What if anything is there, that traditional printed publishing could do to compete with e-books? DB: Hmm. I honestly feel traditional printed books are doing better than they were. Bookshops have evolved; many now have cafés inside to tempt you in. They want to make it more of an experience rather than just simply buying a book. I think the best thing is to keep on top with social media. Offer fans the chance to buy signed books direct from the author/publisher. You want people to keep this item. You want them to fall in love with it. Signed copies is the way to go in my opinion, I’d pay a premium any day to own a signed copy. ANU: As a parent, do you feel that there currently is enough done to support and encourage children when it comes to reading? If you had the option, what changes would you make and why? DB: Yes and no. My girls are nearly two and so far the support has been minimal. Where I live, they have this BookStart scheme where each child is given two books from the health visitor and when we registered the births, we were encouraged to sign them up with the library. Our library lets children take up to twenty books at a time, which I think, is amazing. Ultimately, it comes down to the parent to sit down with the child and read. Maybe this is the place where improvements could be made. My wife and I started to sit the girls down and read to them properly around six months but it would have been nice to be given some direction as to what we should concentrate on, what is a good book to start with, how often should we read to them.
I think we are doing well with our girls but I just can’t help but wonder am I doing it right? I know my library do reading sessions with young children. Maybe parents should be invited to these rather than leaving it up to them to research them. ANU: You read more than the average person does, so you must encounter a wide variety of books. Which titles are your current top five books, and why? DB: Top five... ooh that’s a really tough one since I’ve read so many. 1 - Spartacus: Talons of an Empire by Robert Southworth This was the first book that really hooked me in and I’ve become a big fan of Rob’s work. He has a real talent for writing gripping stories that always leave you wanting more. Rob is the main reason I’m a reviewer. We connected via Twitter, and it quickly became apparent how much he appreciates the support and it just spiralled from there. 2 - The Jewel of Asgard (80AD #1) by Aiki Flinthart The 80AD series was the first series of books I read when I bought my tablet. It’s a YA series but was written so well I was hooked. Knowing I could enjoy books as much as I did this series is what made me continue to read. 3 - The Embroiderer by Kathryn Gauci This was simply a beautiful and emotional book, full of heartache and love. It’s an epic read. This one really was a pleasure to review. 4- The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy This is the debut novel from Matthew Harffy and it’s a truly epic one at that. A word to describe this tale would be BRUTAL! You’re immediately hooked from the prologue where we learn about the death of Octa. We soon learn the main character of the book Beobrand is Octa’s brother. Having no family left in the world Beobrand swears allegiance to King Edwin to fight in his shieldwall against his enemies. He also learns there might have been more to his brother’s death that he first thought, and this sets our hero out on a mission of vengeance. 5- To Be a Queen by Annie Whitehead Where to begin... I really enjoyed this book. It’s a powerful coming of age tale of Aethelflaed or Teasel as she’s referred to in the book.
The tale is set over many years and we see Teasel grow from a little girl into a powerful woman who manages to break down her defences and those of the Mercians to win their loyalty and to fight for their lives and their land. We see Teasel deal with love & death...and a lot of it. You could imagine yourself in her position having no choice to marry a man for convenience, whilst being in love with another. As she grows, she has to deal with those she cares about dying around her...ageing...fighting and you sometimes feel that she is about to crack. ANU: Changing technology has opened up reading to you. If technology ever reaches the stage where books can be fully interactive (holograms, etc), would you consider this to be a good thing, or a step too far? DB: I think technology has gone as far as it needs to. I see a real need for eBooks. They have made it so much easier to find a book and at a price anyone can afford. No doubt fully interactive books will become the norm. I expect one day we may even have Holo Decks like in Star Trek â€“ but will this add anything to your enjoyment? I doubt it. It all comes down to your own imagination.
Peacekeeper ( Doire Press, 2016 ) By Michael J. Whelan
in a slow verse of history, into the familiar well-rehearsed ambush, this arsenal of new rubble, ( from The Cinder Bus )
One doesnâ€™t know where to begin among the kaleidoscope of phenomena which comes pouring out of Peacekeeper, Michael J. Whelanâ€™s debut collection published only last month by Doire Press. So, let us start at the beginning.
The journey from Beirut to the hills of South Lebanon was long and hot. The convoy stopped at Tyne and we debussed for a piss against the rusted tracks of an old knocked-out tank. We were issued our blue helmets and flak-jackets there, mine were in really bad shape, like they had been through the wars.
This is the opening poem to Michael’s historic debut collection, I say historic in the purest sense as this is the first time that a collection of poetry has been published by an Irish soldier who has seen service with the United Nations in the Lebanon and Kosovo. This poem is a foretaste of all that is to come. It is a beautiful opener as it immediately sets the scene, the reader being all too familiar with the cinematic hook in the very opening poem in the all of the narrative to follow. The poet situating us spatially and temporally with him back in the that very first transport which is going to take him to his new home. So we, the readers, enter just as innocently as him. In these three short sentences, using the very barest of language ( Spartan like, almost prose ), the poet constructs a piece of perfect clarity. We are see-ing now as only he sees – Let me show you the world with my eyes . Indeed revelation is a recurring theme throughout the collection, as is only fitting for a book which bears also the signature of Khalil Gibran; the collection opens with a quote from the Lebanese author of The Prophet. It is this historic framing which sets the poet, and historian, Michael J. Whelan apart from the majority of writers writing today, as he is writing with what T. S. Eliot described as ‘the historic sense’. But he wears it lightly, he nods to it deftly in the plural form of the noun which ends the poem above. This is why he is such a wonderful guide, and witness. As readers we trust such signs implicitly. Another thing to note is the very common use of language, which I have already made reference to, but what needs to be perhaps further underlined is the register, or tone. This is the voice of a Dubliner, in a very unfamiliar home.
The higher into the hills you go, the narrower the roads become and tighter the villages. The journey slows to a sequence of photographic scenes in mystical life where you remind yourself that you are a soldier, peacekeeper, the alien in this country. ( from First Blood )
The poet is talking to you, bringing you right in. Again, the references are cinematic, highly visual. After all, he, like you and I, was brought up on the couch. In this poem, he lets you see how unused to the sight of blood he was, as he is now looking back, 61
with you. He like you, the reader – mon semblabe,- mon frere! – is re-witnessing the scene anew. Re-historicising his now near to mythical past. We feel privileged, he takes us right in…
Your body is alive capturing everything in its senses, the flowing colours you’re experiencing dance upon your eyes and skin as the crowd surrounds you-
your existence is lost in this market-place dream. The sea parts: hind legs strung up by an old stained cord, first blood is drawn. A convulsing goat’s warm froth pours down from the gaping throat, pools out onto the gutter-ground. The wound reminds you that you are not the invader.
This is exquisitely balanced tension, between the poet’s arrival in the Lebanon, in the opening poem, and this, the fourth. And it is this careful attention to the sequencing of the poems which makes Peacekeeper a proper collection, as opposed to say just a bunch of poems which have been gathered together. For there is a very fine narrative at work, building up ‘a horizon of expectation’. This is beautifully reached in the poem Revelation, in which the poet sees himself, and his own very specific place, in history. I am going to quote the poem in full, as it is, I believe, pivotal in the books creation.
This is the land of giants, where Gilgamesh raped the mountains of cedars, the place where the peacekeeper reads the landscape 62
like he reads the skin of the people, their faces, their telling eyes.
The trees are almost gone, the remnants bleached by the sun and carrying deformities of a thousand years like the skin of the old ones who donâ€™t remember how to be happy, to be free, to be young.
This is the place of death and the living, the conflict of ideologies, the world and all its misery. It is the place of broken hearts.
I want to push my bloody hands into sand, see my fingers cleansed by an ocean of grains. I want to dig up the Templar tombs, find the place of Saladin and show them all that they have sown.
And if I am to die here then let this landscape take me for now at last I know the reason why I have come.
There are poems of loss, where the poet witnesses children abandoned in front of their dead parents in morgues ( Deliverance ) 63
She wants to climb back into her dead motherâ€™s womb and hide inside its warm, soft, un-edged safety,
The grotesque sight of a fresh corpse rotting. ( Mosaic )
The exit is painted on the ground like a mosaic of blood and bone and gristle as metal smashes through his body, wrenching the sternum that protects his heart and vertebrae that held the soldier moments before while he thought of home. He lies there peering at a foreign sky, blood spilling from his mouth, a gaping hole in his back.
This is the stuff of war.
Peter Oâ€™ Neill
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 https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_present_voices_for_peace https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_poetry_anthology_-april
LAPWING PUBLICATIONS RECENT and NEW TITLES 978-1-909252-35-6 London A Poem in Ten Parts Daniel C. Bristow 978-1-909252-36-3 Clay x Niall McGrath 978-1-909252-37-0 Red Hill x Peter Branson 978-1-909252-38-7 Throats Full of Graves x Gillian Prew 978-1-909252-39-4 Entwined Waters x Jude Mukoro 978-1-909252-40-0 A Long Way to Fall x Andy Humphrey 978-1-909252-41-7 words to a peace lily at the gates of morning x Martin J. Byrne 978-1-909252-42-4 Red Roots - Orange Sky x Csilla Toldy 978-1-909252-43-1 At Last: No More Christmas in London x Bart Sonck 978-1-909252-44-8 Shreds of Pink Lace x Eliza Dear 978-1-909252-45-5 Valentines for Barbara 1943 - 2011 x J.C.Ireson 978-1-909252-46-2 The New Accord x Paul Laughlin 978-1-909252-47-9 Carrigoona Burns x Rosy Wilson 978-1-909252-48-6 The Beginnings of Trees x Geraldine Paine 978-1-909252-49-3 Landed x Will Daunt 978-1-909252-50-9 After August x Martin J. Byrne 978-1-909252-51-6 Of Dead Silences x Michael McAloran 978-1-909252-52-3 Cycles x Christine Murray 978-1-909252-53-0 Three Primes x Kelly Creighton 978-1-909252-54-7 Doji:A Blunder x Colin Dardis 978-1-909252-55-4 Echo Fields x Rose Moran RSM 978-1-909252-56-1 The Scattering Lawns x Margaret Galvin 978-1-909252-57-8 Sea Journey x Martin Egan 978-1-909252-58-5 A Famous Flower x Paul Wickham 978-1-909252-59-2 Adagios on Re – Adagios en Re x John Gohorry 978-1-909252-60-8 Remembered Bliss x Dom Sebastian Moore O.S.B 978-1-909252-61-5 Ightermurragh in the Rain x Gillian Somerville-Large 978-1-909252-62-2 Beethoven in Vienna x Michael O'Sullivan 978-1-909252-63-9 Jazz Time x Seán Street 978-1-909252-64-6 Bittersweet Seventeens x Rosie Johnston 978-1-909252-65-3 Small Stones for Bromley x Harry Owen 978-1-909252-66-0 The Elm Tree x Peter O'Neill 978-1-909252-67-7 The Naming of Things Against the Dark and The Lane x C.P. Stewart More can be found at https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/home All titles ￡10.00 per paper copy or in PDF format ￡5.00 for 4 titles. In PDF format £5.00 for 4 titles.
The June edition of A New Ulster featuring the works of Steve Slavin, Sanjeev Sethi, Stelios Hadjithomas, Peter O’Neill, Linda McKenna, Step...
Published on Jun 3, 2016
The June edition of A New Ulster featuring the works of Steve Slavin, Sanjeev Sethi, Stelios Hadjithomas, Peter O’Neill, Linda McKenna, Step...