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thefirstcut #4

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Editorial John Pinschmidt John McGrath Amy Barry Mari Maxwell

allies: christmas eve, 1993 Glass House Girl Unexpected Encounter Unreliable Witness

4 5 6 7 8

Joe Healy

The girl at the top of the stairs

9

Margaret Sheehan

Nobody Likes…

10

Louise Hegarty Tom Moloney Ellen Wade Beals Gene Barry Hem Raj Bastola

Umbrella The Bard is the Bible Vaya con Dios Managing Long way of his eagle eyes

11 12 13 14 15

L.A Speedwing

The colour of mind

16

Mark F Chaddock

Achill Archaelogical Field School

17

Kerrie O'Brien

Featured poet

18-22

Rachel Coventry

Answer

23

Noel King

Wash Up

24

Matt Mooney

Echo of Innocence

25

Donal Mahoney

It's Almost Sunday Morning

26-27

Orla Fay

The Fisher King

28

Miceál Kearney John Conroy Maeve O' Sullivan

From the Scalpel’s Quill Mad John

29 30-32

UNSTRUNG

33

Richard O'Toole

Lady Of The Irises (2)

34

Alan Garvey

The Write Foot

35-37

Susan Tepper

38

Dawn

Peadar O'Donoghue

I am a crooked line

39

Maeve Heneghan

Sleeping Rose

40

Neil Brosnan

Flying Solo

41

Siddartha Beth Pierce

Undecided

42

Louis Mulcahy

The plan

43

Sumit Gupta Niall O'Connor

On Writing

44-46

After the Funeral

47

Michael Corrigan

A retiring banker reflects

48-49

George Rowley

Lunchtime At The Unicorn (Part 2)

50-52

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John Saunders

Soapstone

53

Mรกire Morrissey-Cummins

Maurice Devitt

Another year my child Choices

54 55

Shauna Gilligan

Pavements

56-58

Mike Gallagher Mary Lavery Carrig

Christmas Present.

59

HARMONICA ON WESTERN WAVES

60

George Harding

Night Words The Garrison Excavating Venus Recollections

61 62 63 64

Anne Mulcahy Brendan Lonergan Rachel Sutcliffe

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Editorial Welcome to our ever-growing community of writers and readers. The statistics say that we have had 45,328 page views and, while I am as dubious as anyone else about statistics, this is a phenomenal figure when you consider that just 9 months ago, the journal had not even been thought of. It proves that we were correct in thinking that there was space out there for a journal that is based, not on famous names, inner circles, mutual back-slapping or other forms of elitism but on writers of all abilities from all over the world expressing their feelings, their emotions, their universal truth. And, thankfully, good writers have continued to support us in our endeavours. Many of our poems compare very favourably with poems found in the most 'prestigious' magazines - indeed, many of our writers have already been published in these publications. It is this variety which is our strength; less experienced writers will learn how to hone their craft through reading those who are more experienced - in creative writing, reading the work of others is just as important as writing your own masterpiece. We are grateful for the generosity of all our contributors. In this particular edition, we would like to thank Kerrie O'Brien, our featured poet, Alan Garvey for his specially written article on how to critique and Sumit Gupta for allowing us to use his article on writing. I would also like to thank two other contributors who, like ourselves,are engaged in spreading the message, namely Gene Barry of Elbow Lane Poetry and Peadar O'Donoghue of The Poetry Bus. Look them up - these are exciting times for creative writing, it is needed like never before. I recently attended An FĂŠile Bheag FilĂ­ochta in Ballyferriter, over there in West Kerry. It was a delight, all the more so in that it encompassed our own egalitarian principles. No divas here, no preening wordsmiths, no cultural apartheid, just poets enjoying the company of poets, enjoying poetry; aosdana members sitting there,taking their turn like the rest of us - its no wonder, to borrow a footballing analogy, that we all read out of our skins. Thanks to Louis Mulcahy and his committee for hosting the most writerfriendly festival in Ireland. If you would like to contribute specialist articles, illustrations, etc., please get in touch. We would also be delighted to get feedback on how you think the journal can be improved. Also, if you subscribe to Facebook or other social media, please don't forget to 'Like' us, there is an awful lot of good competition out there. Thank you to all our friends.

Mike Gallagher, Editor. Our contributing editors:

John McGrath Mary Lavery-Carrig Margaret Sheehan Tom Moloney Joe Healy Christine Allen Louis Mulcahy

Guidelines for submissions: http://issuu.com/thefirstcut/docs/about_us/3 Submissions should be emailed to:renagown@gmail.com Cover Picture: Lady of the Irises by Fionuala O' Toole. This painting inspired Richard O'Toole's poem on page 34.

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John Pinschmidt allies: christmas eve, 1993 homage to american poet gerald locklin not the forecast of snow the next day or andy williams singing it’s the most wonderful time of the year or two refrigerators bursting with food could put us in the proper holiday mood. first there were no more natchos then pat wanted early pumpkin pie “i’ve been away at college for three-and-a-half months!” but it was like the video fight. pat and dad wanted serpico or caine mutiny or french connection one but mom and sue wanted amadeus and after ten minutes back and forth amadeus went in but the picture was all static. so I told pat to go get the cleaning tape and as he handed it to me he said, “finally, we all agree on what tape we want”.

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John McGrath Glass House Girl

I must have ordered onion rings for two. They’re stacked above my steak like lifebelts; Pepper sauce and wedges on the side, salad and a cheeky Chilean Red. Beyond the glass I watch the river rise, swiftly with the tide. Swans feed frantically, bottoms in the air. Mine hugs lime-green leatherette. The waiter smiles, tops up my wine and leaves. I watch his bottom too, then raise my fork and stab my plate like a Polynesian fisherman. Out on the river, the swans swim on, pedalling frantically against the tide; Diving, feeding, pedalling again. I marvel at their weight-loss plan. I put down my fork and sigh contentedly, raise my feet onto the lime-green leatherette, smile at the waiter as he takes my plate and muse on why they choose to swim against the tide.

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Amy Barry Unexpected Encounter She never saw it coming, a blue tit fell at her feet, she lifted it, held in her hand, patted gently, a charming bird, affection unexpected, unthinkable, impact- a brief divine moment, soft eyes looked into hers, time to leave, such a shame, it flew, fading away in autumn’s blue sky.

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Mari Maxwell Unreliable Witness My reliable mother stands 4-foot 7 inches in her stocking feet. I know this precisely because I have measured every plane of her. The piano keyboard ribs scaling collar to diaphragm. The twisted driftwood of her spine. Her breasts no longer offer sustenance. Deflated with age, no use to anyone at all. No matter. It is really her bank balances that concern me. I have an image to uphold, you understand. My shirts need laundering five days a week: Crisp cotton, razor sharp pressing. Accurate, I am. I suppose she became unreliable when she no longer stood by the ironing board. She blamed it on the pain, her drooped shoulders twisted with arthritis. Sure this was just no use to me at all. Didn’t she have all day to launder and iron? I couldn’t be expected to do it. Commuting took its toll on me. You’d think at 85 she’d have known the routine – what it was I needed to get ahead in my career, in life. I just couldn’t do it any more. The clients’ annual luncheon had to be missed because My Reliable Mother chose physiotherapy for her shoulders. The car service was rescheduled because of an adverse reaction to her medication. Doubling up her doses shouldn’t be done. I wasn’t about to tell those GPs having her asleep, moan free, was best on my take home dates. That hot uni-student Miranda was worth the long seduction. Our last liaison meant a triple dose. A hospital visit followed and with no thought whatsoever My Reliable Mother decided on being admitted for that one! By the time our routine was readapted Miranda was gone. Mother remained homebound. And then, get this; her nightly groans got so loud they began to penetrate my earplugs! I need my sleep. Everyone who knows me knows that. My consultant has been very specific about my medical needs. Five pillows to keep my lungs clear. Eight hours undisturbed sleep. Tying her down didn’t work as well it might. Her squirming bruised her easily. Sure even with a walker she’d never been able to keep pace. I’m proud of my stride. My Italian loafers slide across the footpaths with ease. You’ll think me silly but well they make this soft scuff when I walk quickly. It’s a sound of opulence that excites me. Don’t think I haven’t noticed those women staring, mesmerised. They in their Jimmy Choo shoes and Karen Millen wear. Not every single 35-year-old male knows these brands. Me? I make it my business to be up on the latest fashion trends. I’ve found women like that. It’s a great chat up line too and those dazed gazes when talking of designer wear often puts me over the edge. Pure bliss. So what to do about My Unreliable Mother? There’s a lot of thinking and planning that needs to be done here. First though, there’s the 50,000EU remaining. Her children want that. Get this, for her medical needs! Oh, I don’t really call them siblings although I suppose they are – brothers and sisters. I’d don’t do sharing. I’m an all or nothing kind of fella. How was I to know My Reliable Mother had something else in mind. Wasn’t it enough that I loved her as I did? So Your Honour, yes I did sign that withdrawal slip. But the note to the teller demanding 100,000EU no way! Do you take me for a crook? Someone else must have presented that to the teller. Mommy you were standing right next to me. You must have seen? You even took a lollipop from the counter for one of the grandkids, you’d said. Spilled the cupful of them you’d recall if you weren’t so dotty on all those meds, Mother dear. I mean really. Sorry Your Honour, but well I’m a plain speaking man. A right mess, I’ll have you know, that I cleaned up. You handed it all back to the teller. Remember Mommy? Tell them Mommy. Tell them how much I love you. Mommy, who’s going to iron my shirts now?

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Joe Healy The girl at the top of the stairs You sat there on the top step and your eyes said something is wrong. But I passed by without stopping until later when I heard your dreadful news. You had climbed just twenty nine steps of your life And then He said,” Come down to me Maura, you have climbed so high now it’s time to come back home again”. Photographs can capture your smile at Listowel Races, friends at your side, in front of the bookies. Even then the odds were against you. But Kerry is where you are now near musical Dingle town. The sea is always near and did you leap from the water, Just to feel the sun warm your back once more. I could have stopped that day, a few minutes would not have gone astray. We still think of you in our prayers The girl at the top of the stairs.

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Margaret Sheehan Nobody Likes… Nobody likes to die, she said. But aren’t you old and Doesn’t the cold Eat into your bones On a winter’s night? Nobody likes to die, she said. Haven’t you lived, Given all there was to give Served up on a plate? Nobody likes to die, she said. Why do you fear When you believe God is near At every step? Nobody likes to die, she said. Why do you pine When you’ve tasted the wine, Felt the wind In your hair? Nobody likes to die, she said. Wouldn’t it end The squabbles and fights, The petty dislikes, The rush and the noise, The necessary disguises? Nobody likes to die, she said. Have you not left your mark The spark of life Behind you? Nobody likes to die, she said. When the time comes Will you cry, beg and fight, Fight through the night? Well, nobody likes to die, she said.

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Louise Hegarty Umbrella He only past by once – a blurry shot in the dark. His coat, that matched his ashen face and dusky hair, had dipped its lengths in puddles and was weighing him down. But then there was that flash of scarlet, of ruby red that had sprung up from his hand, as if from nowhere, like a blooming poppy – delicate yet resilient against the wind. His umbrella. Painted with garlands and flourishes and the now-ubiquitous Japanese script – Where did he get it? Was it picked up by accident in a restaurant or shop? Or borrowed from a granddaughter in haste? Or maybe it had been left, standing idly in the umbrella stand, by his wife, now many years dead a forgotten token that had somehow missed the charity boxes and the grabbing hands. I didn’t see his face. But still, I can imagine it now.

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Tom Moloney The Bard is the Bible I brought the original words, borrowed, But imagined to be original, All lined from the moment of wonder. At eight, though, I was on alert facing the gig Not for the reception, you’ll understand But Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence. The receptionist didn’t notice my single page, Directed me upstairs to a reserved room. (For your information the hotel had a charm That becomes any struggling hotel in a small town). It was a mid-week gig in the month of November And it was dark and cold And the hotel was obviously struggling. You’d notice this in the foyer If you were on your own. I had to repeat the question to the receptionist before She directed me to the stairs. I wasn’t late but I had a sinking feeling That the emptiness of the hotel reflected The dog-position on a product’s life cycle. I climbed the stairs and at the seventh step Some words that I remembered rolled off my tongue, A timeless edge to the forgiving line: ‘This night you will be with me in paradise’, Testament to the Bible over Bloom We all steal one another’s lines all the time.

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Ellen Wade Beals Vaya con Dios Before the moving van left, you rode over on your bike to say goodbye and I was the only one home to say it to. I nudged your shoulder, just a little, told you to write wished you good luck and all the best but I wanted more for you: someone to meet your teacher at open house, a mother who could look past the bottle or the divorce, someone who’d see you, as I see you, a boy who has enough presence to say good-bye and thanks. But I’m your friend’s mother and I ought not get emotional because it would embarrass you and your friend (“Oh mom,” he’d complain later.) Besides, you both like to remind me, “it’s only for 3 months.” Well I’ve waited for 3 months here and there. Sometimes those months don’t ever end or they end but not how you’d like. So I think this good-bye should count. You’re still a kid, and you haven’t said good-bye so much it hurts. But I’ve a feeling you’ll get to know the sharp edge of it yet.

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Gene Barry Managing When Wednesday morning had been dealt rain and wind delivered courtesy of the blonde lasher on TG4 (the one you frequently employ in your masturbation video)

soft-boiled egg spread evenly on your not-too-dark brown bread toast and cooling for precisely 24 seconds You gave up your responsibility to your already dead father, the supervisor at the Co-op superiority, captain of the best team we ever had notion, and for the first time ever promised to be polite to the fat bitch on the switchboard (if she cops herself on) Adopted a managerial stance and let your Inter, Leaving and DNA results push your finger in and slide left said,

to

right,

‘he was always a prick anyway’

when you read, ‘We regret………………….

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Hem Raj Bastola Long way of his eagle eyes In love of life To compose a life Active imagination employing Roaming like a desert man In search of an oasis. This flesh and blood Is very sick of death Since it was born When aesthetic creation Became an immortal alternative Where deep longing to distill Transitory into immutable words Came into his view to rescue The ill he is suffering from.

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L.A Speedwing The colour of mind It is one of those slow motion moments. His silky gray suit ripples through his athletic body. His jacket cut his slim shoulders to perfection. Tall and trim, with long gray hair lend him the look of a distinguished bank manager. When he crosses the street, he moves with such natural grace that three women look at him bewitched; So deeply hypnotised that they froze. He gives them a glance aware of their intense gaze on him and the corner of his lips thins out. Still unable to move, the three women located at three different points of the street, follow his trajectory. He doesn’t walk. He sways; with lust and nonchalance like a tango dancer. They are now officially staring. He arrives safely on the other side of the street. To those three, he is sophistication made man. His expressive face gleams with intelligence and his well-cut suit shows how successful he is. But if they could read his thoughts the same way they could read a weather report, they would know a huge storm was on its way. It is coming over him as clearly as the rain falls over the city and there would be no escaping it. He looks at them. They are fine ladies. He can categorise them and even read their mind. That's what he' good at. Always been good at. Of course that's not his specialty. His speciality is to read the minds of business men. He can sail upon their minds and predict any turns, any twists, any directions they'll take. But the mind of his parents that’s a different cruise. A bruise cruise.

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Mark F Chaddock Achill Archaelogical Field School In your archaeological reports you spoke of occupation on the big mountain of curvilinear structures and opposing doorways roughly-built-lean-tos and east west drains unearthing words melodious to my ears won with careful toil from the hill’s dark soil. In your archaeological reports you spoke of occupation on the big mountain of post holes and radiocarbon samples of orthostatic stone walls and agricultural implements resurrecting Bronze Age tombs and Neolithic activity deciphering time’s calligraphy with forensic intensity. In your archaeological reports you spoke of green roads, trauma, and rubble cores, of central slot features and elongated sunken features, sil stones, kerb stones and roofed circular spaces so that I am still giddy in your alphabet of words still sieving and slotting them together like artefacts. In your archaeological reports you spoke of occupation on the big mountain of expensive decorated wares, patterns, designs, colours. In your archaeological reports I was allowed a peep over an explorer’s shoulder busy on all fours, sifting the past’s bone and sinew as each naked, exhumed clue came back trembling and new into the light.

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Featured Poet My Poetry

Kerrie O'Brien

The poetry I write tends to express how I experience the world. I usually focus on the idea of memory, faith, loss and the fragility of human relationships – universal themes. I perform my work quite often and so I need people to be able to easily connect to it. For this reason my poems sometimes read like short monologues and the language is quite simple and bare. A lot of my work also explores the issue of leaving things unsaid - as shown in Block and Transfixed – how it is easier to write about things that are too difficult to voice – but that ultimately this is futile. I am still a very young writer exploring different aspects and styles of poetry but I essentially want my poems to affect people and, hopefully, enlighten them in some way.

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Ashes Is it her memory or mine? Each bit so slow and vivid I must have followed her through the house watching no need for talk As she roused the days, opening slow and bleary like young flowers It was ritual, ceremonious On her knees like a witch whispering to the ashes Invoking Fires, red flowers from her sleeve Her mouth a bellows coaxing blushes from shy embers grey birds fluttering allowing Some burn for centuries in old houses 19


Ancient art passed down, murmuring in the blood lines Not here Not with me In this house of red eyes Empty grates Block It is an opening of doors You making these small efforts We talked today - briefly Felt you were brighter Still not sure you know me Can't imagine where you've been Most days we sit in silence I've seen you struggle with yourself How you're locked in And I'd carry you back If you'd let me I'll stay out here tonight Keep you safe round the edges For as long as it takes I'll only walk through 20


When there are no more doors To be opened Cleanse I heard a man talk of it once – At the end of every mission They order them into the sea Where nothing is forgotten In salt light Stripped bare Going in slowly – Shy, almost After the filth of war The heat All of it caught In their eyes And stand Facing the light As if for the first time

Blind Someone Must have led me Through the streets Lost to it Have no memory of These mornings What was said or How I came to do this, that Madness Pulls And I am led Into this wood Deeper Than the first few times

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Transfixed By the way you do it Hanging by your neck all quiet. You’re in a different world Swaying up there each night Slow and faceless. You hang like a raindrop. And when you come down Eyes wet You are miles from me and I cannot breathe.

Biography – Kerrie O' Brien has been published in various Irish and UK literary journals including Southword, Orbis, Crannóg, Revival, Icarus, The Cathach, College Green, Ropes, Daydreamer, Wordlegs, Minus 9 Squared, Boyne Berries, Stony Thursday and Raft Magazine. She will also have poems appearing in the forthcoming editions of The Poetry Bus, Outburst and Burning Bush II. Her poem Blossoms has been chosen as the winning entry in the Emerging Talent category of the 2011 iYeats Poetry Competition. She has also been highly commended for the Over the Edge New Writer of The Year Competition 2011 Her chapbook Out of the Blueness will be released in December To read more about her visit www.kerrieobrien.com

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Rachel Coventry Answer I’m sorry but I only heard it now. The question posed in the warmth of your skin the twist in your lip the tugging. Only now, the response rises like smoke, long after, the moment has passed, eaten away by the years since we last‌ Only now, shocked by you this grey afternoon, my heart, almost awake, says yes.

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Noel King Wash Up On the sea-shore the remains of a woman, her fingers eaten away – well, all but two. Her hair green. That means she was blond, says the policeman the finder phoned. We’ll put her in a body bag now, son, all the messy stuff, no need for you to stay, thanks all the same, take care. People begin to flock to the gore, peer at the body, and the blond sixteen-year-old boy who found her. A newspaper photographer, seeming unsure if he needs flash in the fading beach-light, snaps a few shots of the boy. The policeman whispers again that it would be best if he went home now, so he walks slow quick slow, back

away across the beach

only turns his head occasionally; the unbroken string of diamonds from around her neck in his pocket.

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Matt Mooney Echo of Innocence The prison made of an abandoned High School Is now the Genocide Museum of Phnom Penh; It contains photos of victims in their final days Ruthlessly incarcerated by a madman’s dream, Evil driving force of the Khmer Rouge regime. This sad list of innocent prisoners in Toul Sleng Was meant to be a deception to blindfold us all Who’d ask why Cambodians were in there at all, Interrogated and tortured and accused of treason; But now we know the secrets of S-21, a prison, A shame on all the free on you and you and meSouls that suffered hell on earth from ’75 to ’79; Miles of faces too tormented at the time to smile: Stifled in each mouth a scream of unearthly fear And the echo is still there if you but care to hear. The killers, automated evil doers, indoctrinated, Smashed mindlessly into the minds of prisoners, Dismissive of their victims’ right to love and life; But God knew each one by name, these martyrs, Then, as they entered one by one into the Light, Full of joy they smiled again for miles and miles.

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Donal Mahoney It's Almost Sunday Morning In the summer of 1956, any Saturday at midnight, especially when the moon was out and the stars were bright, you would be able to see Grandma Groth sitting on her front-porch swing waiting for her son, Clarence, a bachelor at 53, to make it home from the Blind Man's Pub. He would have spent another evening quaffing steins of Heineken's. Many times that summer before I went away to college, I'd be strolling home at midnight from another pub, just steps behind staggering Clarence. But unlike Clarence, I’d be sober so I'd always let him walk ahead of me and I'd listen to him hum "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Sometimes, very quietly, I’d join in. I don’t think he ever heard me. However, on the last Saturday night that Clarence and I came down the street in our odd tandem, I didn't see Grandma on her swing even though the stars were out and the moon was full. For some odd reason, on this particular night, she wasn't waiting to berate him. So far so good, I thought, for Clarence. He won’t have to listen to Grandma give him hell. But then, not far from his house, and without warning, he toppled into Mrs. Murphy's hedge. It was like watching a sack of flour fall, in slow motion, off a truck. When I finally got him up, I managed to maneuver Clarence slowly down the sidewalk toward his house. He didn’t make a sound but it wasn't easy moving a man that big who was essentially asleep on his feet. Somehow I got him through his back door only to encounter Grandma, a wraith in a hazy nightgown, standing in the hallway, screaming. She began thrashing Clarence with her broom, pausing only for a moment to tell me, "Go home to your mother now so you won't be late for Mass. It's almost Sunday morning!" After that, she resumed thrashing Clarence. He never made a sound, just took the blows across his back, head bowed, without moving. But Clarence was a man who said very little even when he was sober. After that sad night in 1956, I never saw Clarence again, either marching to work in the morning, his lunch pail gallantly swinging, or staggering home at midnight from the Blind Man's Pub. But many a midnight after that, years later, I'd be coming home from the other pub and I'd see Grandma reigning on her front porch swing, broom in hand, waiting. Maybe Clarence was coming, I thought. But if he was, I never saw him. I remember coming home from college every summer and asking the neighbors if they had seen Clarence. Not a sign of him, they said. But on a Saturday night when the moon was out, they’d still see Grandma, on her swing, waiting. Now, so many decades later, as I stroll home at midnight, after an evening 26


at the Blind Man’s Pub, I can see the moon is as big as it was the last night I saw Clarence. Suddenly I realize I’m older now than Clarence was the night he disappeared. And even though Grandma's been dead for many years, I can see her in the starlight. She's sitting regally on that swing, broom in hand, waiting. So for old time’s sake, I give her a big wave, hoping to hear her say, just one more time, "Go home to your mother now so you won't be late for Mass. It's almost Sunday morning!"

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Orla Fay The Fisher King His eyes and hook cast down and out how solemn he sits on the river bank. Will he ever catch a present wriggling and gasping, full of vigour and desire? Some knight may come, a Percival to caress his cheek, kiss away the sorrow of the world, make light of his mantle. Forgiveness is the wine that passes his lips, lingers as the dew to the meadows autumn mornings. When the corn is golden and taken he recounts his tales of sadness and his misgivings as the ears listen swaying in the wind that moves across all nature like the hand of God. The same that scatters the swallows, kindles the stars, returns the roses. Thus one day he may reawaken realise how long the dreaming, walk again, go on living. With happiness and faith restored love shines, calls others forth, those who are glad to return to warmth, those who look on and shiver.

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Miceál Kearney From the Scalpel’s Quill I have been invited to a social gathering in the Galway City Museum. Hate these office-politics sponsored events. Nobody knows I’m hiding, high above them in the Martin Oliver hooker. It is lonely up here. I can see her below — laughing, mingling with the waves. Starboard side the smashing Atlantic held at bay. She makes me want to talk mix and mingle, cast my vote and God how I want to tell her. My tongue ready, set in concrete.

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John Conroy Mad John Tony was a wily sort of a character, cute as a fox but with features that suggest there may have inbreeding with badgers somewhere in his family history? He worked as a driver for one of the city’s major utilities on night inspections. His supervisor was Mick Kearney, who was married to one of Dublin’s moneylenders. While Mick never wanted for anything, Tony saved, schemed, and borrowed whatever was necessary to get by. He was also good for a joke, as he saw it. There were of course those who didn’t necessarily agree with this prognosis, like the recipients of his humour. On one occasion he was nearly sacked for playing a prank on his inspector, a very powerful and intolerant man within his organisation. This was one man who didn’t share his sense of the ridiculous. It was one thirty in the morning, what they now call one hundred hours, ice was forming on the windows of the parked cars. The light from Tony’s flash lamp was very dim and in need of a new battery. As he passed Inspector Dunphy’s house, at 1.30 am on his nightly round, he felt it would be great crack to wake up this sleeping titan and ask him if he had a spare battery. We were of course regaled with the story of Tony’s escapade later that morning, as we clocked on for our normal day shift. As soon as Inspector Mac Dunphy reached his office, he was in touch with supervisor Kearney. Mick Kearney wasn’t long in bed himself, when there was a knock on his front door and a messenger instructing him to contact Inspector Mac Dunphy immediately. The outcome of this was Tony was summoned to the personnel office and given a very stiff warning that this was not to happen again or there would be dire consequences. What these consequences were was never spelt out. Tony loved going to dances and kept the rest of the night shift in awe, with stories of conquests beyond their dreams and his ability. According to tony, there wasn’t a female, young or old, safe from his charms. When asked why he couldn’t hold onto a girl for more than one date, he replied, blaming difficulties of night work and “Shure there’s plenty of fish in the sea” or “There’s not enough of me to go around and it’s only fair to give them all a go”. Tony was preparing to go dancing on Saturday night and show off his new brown suit. The suit was new the shirt and tie were a few months old and only worn on Saturday nights. He was all the business, as he said himself except he didn’t possess a good pair of brown shoes an essential part of his image, as he saw it. 30


He drew our attention to Mick, who turned up this evening sporting a gleaming new pair of brogues, brown. “They’ve just come out of a box, fresh, and I’m going to wear them on Saturday”. According to Tony, they were the perfect match for his suit. Needless to say, there were some ripples of laughter and not a few sniggers. “How are you going to get them off Mick without him knowing”, enquired Ronnie, sheepishly. “No problem” replied Tony, “I’ll just ask him for them”. This of course caused cynical eyes to make contact, as Mick is a man to be feared and not likely to part with an item of his clothing, particularly his shoes. This of course didn’t stop tony, who straight away, in front of everybody, asked Mick if he could borrow his shoes for the dance? A sense of terror quickly permeated around the small room, where all gathered before heading out into the cold night air. Mick slowly look up from his paper work, which I’m sure was a relief, as he couldn’t read and write. The group of course knew this, as Vincent would hang back or return early from his nightly tasks and do the small amount of paperwork associated with the job that Mick had entrusted to him. To be fair to Mick, most of the crew had great difficulty with reading and writing. “Are you going to the four Ps or the crystal”? “No! I’m heading up Parnell square to the Kingsway”. “I used to go there meself, I loved the floor”. “Ye” replied Tony “a great floor for dancing. Once the crowd moves onto it, the bounce gets you moving”. He then moved around showing the watching group a sample of his dancing prowess. “Ill bring in an old pair on Friday night and you can have these when were finished. Bring them back on Monday night”. “No prob” replied Tony, giving a sideway glance to the room full of stunned night workers. Tony’s fascination with the shoes grew from this day on and no matter what, Mick was going to give them to him. The problem with this equation was, nobody had told Mick. A week or so after Tony’s visit to the Kingsway ballroom, a strike was called, over what, nobody seems to know or care. What is remembered though is the amount of men who borrowed money from Mick, for beer in a local hostelry called the Brewery bar. Everybody except Tony, who kept his mind focused on the shoes and stayed out of the pub. The strike was quickly fixed and the men returned to work, paying off their debts a little each week, or that was the plan.

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Within a month of returning to work, Mick had a heart attack and died, much to the delight of his workmates. It wasn’t that they were glad to see him dead, no! It was tradition that a debt died with its owner. Tony was ribbed about his lack of acumen, not borrowing any money. This of course didn’t bother him as his mind was solely focused on the missed chance of acquiring the shoes.“I should have borrowed them for last Saturday, then I wouldn’t have to give them back”. Mick was laid out in one of the top funeral parlours, a privilege reserved for those who could afford the money. Mick’s demise didn’t interfere with Tony coveting the size 11 shoes, in fact it made him more determined, as he saw them as a highly desirable prize, going to waste.His fixation became even more obsessive when he heard the elusive shoes were to be buried with Mick. The funeral parlour laid Mick out, as instructed by Marie, his wife. The coffin and flowers were befitting the husband of a working class woman, who had resources and money had to be displayed. Despised as moneylenders were, all hostilities were suspended during times of grief. It was important that you paid proper respect to the deceased, particularly as you were likely to need a loan in the future. It was a very frustrating time for Tony, as his various attempts to procure the shoes were frustrated at every turn, by the many visitors who interrupted his quiet moments with the corpse, essential for removing shoes from their last resting place. If nothing else, Tony was a trier and never gave up easily. His workmate ribbed him about his many visits to the corpse, remarking that he spent more time with Mick than his widow did. Tony just smiled with a wicked grin, “At least they won’t be able to say I’ll never fit his shoes”. This prompted many questions as to whether he managed to get the shoes but there was never an answer, just the wicked smile. That is until the following Saturday night in the Kingsway ballroom, on Granby row, just off Parnell Square, where he was cock of the walk, gleaming, in his three piece brown suit, on the dance floor, with a pair of brand new, brown shoes, brogues.

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Maeve O' Sullivan UNSTRUNG

This afternoon I lost a Christmas carol. It seemed to vaporize into digitally thin air between tracks. “Santa Nicholas” an old tune, maybe an angel reclaimed it, sucking the notes back in to her lungs, revived on a pillowy cloud, unmarked by sleigh-blades or reindeers’ hooves.

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Richard O'Toole Lady Of The Irises (2) Yellow glow and defiance in your brown eyes In the summer I whispered for you in the Ditches swam in the bog and lake and Marsh Your long legs empower me Lady of the Irises And now you are gone like the summer Travel fills your skies like the birds on their journeys White skin on soft red lips The naked shoulder That bares texture to Your October hair I wanted you and you were gone the traveller of time and tribeSending dreams to other Town lands Your beauty was the lady of the Irises yellow and green Green are the people that cannot see Individuals tar you There is fire in your dreams fire in your heart And in your travels you burn bridges That collapse on every journey Wild thing Those who cannot contain Will not accept you Sing for the bridges every journey burns The road that takes many turns Dance with the horses the boats and the wind at night The trucks and the cars and the vans For the freedom of every woman And travelling man And in a summer morning in a Kerry field You will flower again Lady of the Irises.

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THE WRITE FOOT – Good habits for writers’ groups. Ever been on an ice rink? It’s not easy to get your footing at first, particularly when others are speeding around and performing all sorts of fancy manoeuvres, but eventually you learn how to keep your balance and manage (very slowly and with a lot of little stops and starts) to make a full circuit. And then we start again, only a little surer of ourselves this time, surer again the next. Writers’ workshops can be somewhat similar to an ice rink – more like a frozen lake as anyone who has experience of them knows how thin the ice can be in skating around each other’s work, how every story/ poem/ extract from a novel or play submitted for review is a raw fragment of self. What most don’t know until it happens is how painful it can be if someone skates over our fingers, or what it’s like to be thrown by doing so to another and in shame never returning to the rink again, or even, arms linked with others and full of confidence, we collide full speed with another group coming from the opposite direction. If it sounds obvious and like everyone would or should know whatever it is already then it’s best to ensure that everyone does. The group contract is the very first thing to establish in a writers’ group – how do we work with each other and what are our fair expectations of the group and responsibilities towards it? We all expect a fair, balanced and considerate reading of the work we present for review, but how to achieve this and give the same to our fellow participants? This article is not going to provide an exhaustive or definitive means of doing so but offers instead a good start in doing so, with four simple Ps: preparation, punctuality, proofreading and pooling. Adequate preparation is essential to every writers’ workshop, and then some. Critiquing others’ writing is an acquired skill, honed through constant practice. I have hundreds of hours of workshop experience and I’m still not going to ‘get’ everything about a piece on my first reading of it, and I don’t feel like I’m being put on the spot and under pressure like I used to feel. But if I have the work in advance then it benefits from the reaction of my first reading, second and third readings and so on. That’s not to say that the impressions gathered from an initial reading are wrong, merely that our understanding of the work is deepened by successive readings. Distribute your work one meeting ahead and you won’t receive off-the-cuff comments such as “I don’t like it”, or “I don’t know why but it does nothing for me” or the equally nebulous “That’s very good, I like that” (without stating why). If your group meets on a fortnightly basis then everyone will have two weeks in which to read everyone else’s work, and everyone’s work benefits from that relaxed and careful consideration. Punctuality is the bane of Irish gatherings. When we say a workshop starts at eleven we know that it will be at least twenty past eleven, maybe even half past, before it really settles down – that’s a sixth or a quarter of the 35


duration of a two-hour workshop. A group with eight or more members cannot afford to lose that amount of time whenever they meet, think about time lost in terms of poems or stories that could have been reviewed, members that could have been added to the group. Try to arrive just a few minutes early – you would for any appointment to which you attach importance. Workshops should start and end on times agreed on by the group – lose that reliability and you lose each other’s goodwill. Also, many of us are familiar with the person who arrives late and leaves early (after their piece has been read and critiqued – “I’m sorry, I just have to go somewhere…”). Late arrivals should wait till last for their work to be reviewed, it’s only fair. Before you submit your work, proofread, proofread and proofread again. You’d be surprised by how much time is taken up with correcting things like misplaced apostrophes and superfluous commas. Many workshop participants commit these errors because their not paying adequate attention to there won writing and the spellcheck function in a program like MS Word doesn’t read for contest and sow can’t tell one word form the other. How many errors slipped into the previous sentence? Not a single one was underlined by the spellcheck. Now, recall a workshopped piece containing mistakes like these and how much attention was given them. Mistakes such as these are an utterly preventable waste of everyone’s time; they’re never highlighted only once, at least one or two other participants are guaranteed to draw attention to them in their critique. If you value your time then be absolutely sure that every word is spelt as it should before you press the ‘print’ button. Pool your resources, i.e. books, as buying them can become a very expensive habit (I’m sure my wife flinches every time I log on to Amazon!). Swap and share them with each other. Swap and share your opinions about the books you’ve just read or borrowed, what makes you want to read more by an author or never read them again. This is where we learn to appreciate and understand the craft of writing, also the technical side of writing. Unless your sole purpose in writing is self-affirmation then you should be reading work outside of what the group produces, dip into or immerse yourself in the rich legacy of what past and contemporary literature has to offer – almost three thousand years of writing. How are we to improve our own work except by critical reflection and feedback offered by others, and by becoming more aware of the best writing that humanity offers, stories and poems whose messages and style shine through the ages. If we fail to read outside of ourselves then we place ourselves in a situation where we are, as D.J. Enright puts it, “…exclusively each his own poet, moving in a cloud of their own breath.” The danger is no less when in a small, self-enclosed group of writers. We’re not just skating on a small pool, but on a vast expanse that stretches through time and space where 36


Shakespeare and Orwell, A.N. Onymous and Catullus too are still doing their moves on the ice. We have much to learn from them – and reading their work completes the circuit again and again. Go on, step onto the ice and give it a whirl! Alan Garvey Alan Garvey is the author of three collections of poetry, and is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing programme offered by The Poets’ House at WIT. His poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and he has read and worked in Toronto, Newfoundland and Budapest, courtesy of the Arts Council. He published two anthologies with writers’ groups, Unpublished and Sticky Orchard and is working on another. He is also a contributing editor to the online arts magazine, The Gloom Cupboard.

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Susan Tepper Dawn At Earth’s center you are its eye the always lingering primordial ooze at dawn Each one a descending factor — you know that Choose to believe whatever And I could live with whether or not Blind— a matter of time leverage and the shifting ground level

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Peadar O'Donoghue I am a crooked line And I’ve walked a crooked mile, sang every crooked song, wished for sixpence, though none the richer with the Devil at the stile. Life was brutal, kittens never made cats, rain barrel bound, drowned, except the one that caught mice, we let it stay, though we let everything else go in that crooked little house. Spuds laughed on the plate, sods of turf wafted sweet in the grate, before the lorries of change like thunder roared on the one way tarmac road. Before Tony hung himself. Before I was afraid. Before the heavy rains. Before the storms that raged in every crooked line.

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Maeve Heneghan Sleeping Rose Resplendent rose of summer, scent as sweet as song, silk eyelids close and bid adieu, bright memories linger on. Have no fear of heart, when all is fled, but thorn, for every child of God, shall see a bright new morn. As drowsy petals sleep, on softly cushioned earth, mankind holds its breath, for joyous signs of rebirth.

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Neil Brosnan Flying Solo It has taken over a year but I can now influence the dream, attempt little changes, and if it doesn’t oblige, I can simply wake up. The beginning is always the same – as it actually happened. I’m strolling through a wood, lost in spring birdsong and the scents of bluebell and wild garlic. I soon emerge into a riverside field; it’s a big field, the size of several playing pitches. I can see cattle in the distance; some are grazing, others play-fighting, but most are just lazing, chewing their cuds in the dappled shade of a rampant hawthorn hedge. The day is unseasonably warm and, after a few minutes walking, I shelter beneath the splayed-fingered parasol of a blossoming horse chestnut tree. There are three swallows hunting above the water – always three – soaring and swooping, skimming and slewing, with an intricacy that only instinct could choreograph. It’s a while before I notice that a red bull has advanced from the herd. He is a long way off – well over a hundred meters – his proud head swinging high. I’m not really worried, I’m closer to the wood than the bull is to me, and while I’m not as fast as I was ten years ago, I’m fitter than the average thirty-three-year-old. Never, ever run…somebody once told me. I look back; the bull is breaking into a trot. My neck bristling, I hasten my steps. The bull is cantering, head lowered. Even as I steal a second glance, he charges. In the beginning, I would always dash towards the wood, but I’m becoming more adventurous. Sometimes I lead him into neighbouring fields, over ditches, drains and dykes, often – like the swallows – doubling back on myself. Being able to swim in my dream, I’ve lured him across the river, to the park where I’d once won cross-country races. I’ve taken him to the beach, jogging in cinematic slow-motion at the water’s edge, feeling the moist sand filter beneath my toes. At Christmas, I dragged him through a blanket of snow and left him floundering at the edge of a frozen lake. The ground trembles. I can smell his sweat, I can hear his breath, I can sense his power. Unlike the swallows, I’m flying solo; I don’t have zigzagging wingmen to camouflage my trail.

My brain screams at me to cheat the imminent agony of the

spine-snapping impact, but why wake while my bare feet can feel the cold of snow, the dew on summer grass, the squelching of mud, the crunch of seashell and pebble, and the ecstatic pain of nettle,thistle and thorn?

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Siddartha Beth Pierce Undecided Each of you came to me open-armed stroking my silence. Each of you loved me open-hearted and we walked as One. Each of you looked at me open-minded, questioning my thoughts. I answered ruthlessly, honestly, I walk alone again. Each of you listened to me but never heard, a word. - Siddartha Beth Pierce

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Louis Mulcahy The plan Ye Gods, I’m sixty four. There I’ll be at sixty five spot lit at The Met., secured by maestro Levine’s wand and partnered by Domingo, who so dearly wants to be my friend since I sang Si Puo, and he saw me cry with broken heart, as he sang of Nedda’s end. And when free from long applause and strict répétiteur, I’ll resume the spit and polish on the century of poems, the thirty golden stories, the memoir and the novel that will surely make my name. And that is how it’s going to be when I am sixty five. It gives me Schubert’s lifetime and that of Mozart too, Ledwidge, Pearse and Byron, and even Christ the King. With my aged lode of knowledge I can cram those years with genius. Yes, I’m on the cusp of legend, for I’ll only stop the dream of being an operatic genius of a literary caste when I come to ninety nine. 43


Sumit Gupta How to write regularly, and get better at it in 10 easy steps. I have been writing on this blog for almost two years now, and as I have mentioned in a previous article, writing is not easy. From writing just a couple of articles a month in the beginning of 2010 to writing around 15 articles every month now, it has taken a lot of patience and hard work. There have been frustrations at not being able to finish a simple article over many days, and the pain of not liking what you have just finished writing. It still happens, and not all the articles or poems I come up are ready to post that instant. Sometimes I edit an article multiple times, and over several weeks before posting it. Today I am going to share some of my learnings from these last 20 months of writing, and what steps you can take if you aspire to write regularly, and become better at that. Even if you are not not writing now, these tips will help you get started and going. Since there are a lot of lessons I have learnt and I keep getting new insights everyday as I write more and more, I am going to write it down in multiple articles, but starting with 10 points which I feel the most important in this article. So here we go… 1. Just Do It You will become a better writer by writing more, not by planning to write more. So, irrespective of the fact that whether you are tired or busy, whether it is sunny or cloudy outside, just put your butt down, and write. Let me say it again for more impact. Don’t Dream about writing, just WRITE. 2. Feel It. Express it Write about something you feel and care about. Choose a topic or subject that gets your heart beating, whether it is music, sports, yoga, business or fiction. Writing is not about the language, it is about the subjects that bring out different emotions in you. And once you start writing on something close to your heart, you will be amazed to see how words flow out. 3. Keep a Notebook Ideas don’t work on an on-call basis. You can’t call out for new ideas, topics or phrases when you want them. They can sprout up in your mind anytime, sometimes even in the middle of the night. So always keep notes, either offline or 44


online, and note your thoughts and ideas, about a new topic or some interesting sentence or quote you might have just thought. When you actually sit down to write, refer to these notes to structure your article. An idea lost is an idea lost, and you can’t recall it again at will, so better note it down the first time.

The Rules of Writing by E L Doctorow 4. Keep Patience You will not like everything you like. Sometimes even after sitting for an hour, you won’t be able to write much. But don’t loose patience. This is expected, and a part of the game. If you want to write good stuff, you have to empty your mind of all the rubbish. And when you write something which you don’t like, it is only this rubbish coming out. Now you must not loose hope and persevere because only after all the rubbish is gone, the good stuff will start coming out. 5. Take Feedback Most often we are blinded to flaws in our writings, whether grammatical or structural, and it is always helpful to take feedback from a few people before publishing. What is more important is to take critical feedback and not just reject it, but work on it to make your article better. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those to whom I go for review whenever I finish writing something new. 6. No Fear Let go of any fear you might have. Fear only results in you ‘not‘ writing. So be without fear, which I know, is impossible. But recognize your fears, and get over them rather than letting them overwhelm you. Let these fears drive your writing. Write badly if you must, but do write. Because if you write, you won and the fear lost. 7. Keep Editing for Later When you start writing, very often you will feel that what you just wrote can be improved. But don’t be tempted and work on finishing the first draft of your 45


article first, and keep all editing for later. Nobody is asking you to be perfect, so have the courage to write badly, but don’t stop writing unless you finish the first draft. 8. Review and Edit Multiple Times One practice which has worked very well for me is to review my own writings multiple times, often separated by time intervals of atleast a day. After I finish writing the first draft of any article, I don’t review it immediately, but instead review it once for the next few days, and then post it. This helps me view the same article with a fresh mind every day and hence the changes (if any) I do make it better, instead of if I were to edit it just after I finished writing it. 9. Maintain Discipline One of the most important practice you can bring to the table is being disciplined at writing. I write around 4 days a week now, and want to increase it to 6 days soon. But it is very important to keep writing regularly, even if you are writing only rubbish. Even if you are not in the mood. Even if you are tired, or exhausted, or whatever. Don’t let your reasons for not writing become greater than your discipline. 10. Read a lot One sure shot way to improve your writing, and get new ideas to write about, is to read a lot. Read books, newspapers, and articles online. Most often I get the idea of a new blog topic after reading an article online or while reading a book. At this point, I just make a note of the topic and any bullet points which I might have, and come back to it later to write the full article. Due to reading, and keeping notes (see point 3 above) I always have a list of articles to write with some notes already in place.

(Ed: We hope to have a further article from Sumit Gupta on this subject in our next edition.)

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Niall O'Connor After the Funeral After the funeral we gathered four full-bodied men; once a clutch of speckled purpose, now dulled and awkward with grief. We toe the line that is the parents' death, and notice with embarrassment, the scuffed toe cap, side by side with the brand new shoe. This is a time for disentanglement, and each drawer is trawled, each picture scanned for memories to be shared. We look for clues as to why an object was cherished so long, — why an after image can represent a life. In the attic I find my treasure tin: a horse made of clip-clops, a ball of stringed ideas, a soldier stiff backed, with no fear, a car of squeals and vrooms, the forgotten pet beetle now hollow, the conker with a chestnut tree still inside, the butterfly painter of meadow's flowers, pinned, and the skipping stone, still waiting for the next attempt. All these things, that held my life suspended, since the lid, was last pressed down, now have the strange familiarity, and distance, of an overheard conversation. 47


Michael Corrigan A retiring banker reflects Contrary to popular belief most of us don’t smoke cigars big or small we leave that to the self made and parvenu the food at this, my retirement dinner, was excellent and understated though there was foie gras deliciously decadent the wines, well chosen were not overly indulged and every now and then the candlelight caught a feral gleam in the eye of an aspirant alpha coolly waiting his turn The conversation around this magnificent old oak table was low key and appropriate Otto, our Austrian acquisition, told a joke or two in his marvellously accented English and James, my successor, made the presentation a copy, beautifully rendered, of a contract between the Medici Bank of Florence and Pope Martin V dated November 11th 1417 proof indeed, if proof were needed that the rich and powerful the great and good the common and ordinary the high and low have always needed us

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and always will I shall mount it and have it framed I kept my speech short and to the point made passing reference to oak trees felled before their time raised a laugh when I reminded my team that we were not the ones to confuse patriotism with self preservation to lend money one must first be asked morality and decency are lovely words but I prefer the bottom line cold and hard we make our fortunes by knowing absolutely that the world is indeed a harsh and hostile place there are those who lead there are those who are led but most importantly of all and here I paused, briefly ,for effect, rather like the fine cut of rare lean beef we had enjoyed earlier It really is all in the breeding.

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George Rowley Lunchtime At The Unicorn (Part 2) “The doctor will see you in the morning”, the nurse, perfunctory polite. Is it routine to him? So used to it, he seems indifferent, uncaring? “Ah John, please come in, take a seat.” “Hello Doc”. I am edgy, feel like running, but there is nowhere to run to here, nowhere to hide, except in your head. But you are behind enemy lines, in your head, at least I am, a dangerous place to be. “Hello, I am Dr. Murphy and how are you?” “Not great Doc, in fact lousy, I’m all fogged up; it must be the drugs.” “Well we had to sedate you, bring you down, you were in a bad state when you arrived here. Do you remember?” “No Doc. I must confess I don’t. I don’t even remember when it was.” “You don’t?” “No Doc.” “Well you arrived here in the early hours of last Sunday morning by taxi.” “Taxi?” “Taxi, yes and you signed yourself in.” “Down that mean I’m voluntary then?” “Yes, you can sign yourself out just as easily”. “At least that it good to know”, I said. “Is it? But here’s the rub John, you’ll eventually end up here again and again, with increasing frequency until you end up out of rope.” “And then what?” I am game playing again. “You’ll meet a fate worse than death”, the doctor said matter of factly. “Which is?” I said.

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“Insanity, complete and utter insanity; you see your body is still in fairly good shape, your liver is fine considering, but it is your mind that will go first. Tell me this John, do you know this is your tenth admission to this hospital?” “And I never seem to learn”, I said. “Right in one”, Dr. Murphy said. “And I thought I had it licked Doc.” “People like you never have it licked until they admit total defeat.” “That’s a paradox”, I said. “Indeed it is. But John this couldn’t be more serious.” “I know Doc. Can you do anything for me? I’d appreciate your advice.” He shakes his head, a thin rueful smile. “I can do nothing for you John. I’m sorry.” “Nothing?” He holds his hand aloft. “Nothing that you can’t do for yourself.” “So, it’s in my hands. That’s easy.” “If it were easy, you wouldn’t’ be here so often, would you?” “No Doc, I wouldn’t.” “It’s hard for the penny to drop with cases like yours”, he said. “Am I a lost cause then?”, I ask. “No, not quite but, as I said you are running out of rope.” “You’re beginning to sound like a hangman, Doc.” “But it is you who’s the hangman, he said. But the tragedy is you can’t see it.” A laconic smile. “I can see it alright, Doc.” “But then you won’t accept it John, You can go now.” “Go? Is that it?” “Yes.” A shrug of the shoulders, as he shows me to the door.

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“Please Doc.” “I’ll tell you what I’ll do John, I ‘ll cut a deal with you.” “I’m all for deals Doc.” “I’ll discharge you at once but you must promise to come to see me every week and follow my advice, without question, without reservation.” “And if I don’t?” “And if you don’t, it is only a matter of time before your mind throws in the towel and that, I can assure you won’t be fun. To elaborate, John, you will without doubt, develop a wet brain with nothing to look forward to but nappies and ice cream on Sundays.” “You’re putting it up to me Doc.” “I am. Is it a deal?” “It’s a deal, Doc.” We shake hands stiffly. Stink of bleach, stink of urine. Inmates staring fixedly out the window. Laughter from the office. Empty or inane I do not know, do not care. A young nurse passes me, she is barely twenty, a whiff of perfume amidst decay and I think of her, the promise in her smile, the universe. I was king for a few hours, laughing on a carousel, enchanted and gay. The bubbles in the wine glass, the first ecstatic sip heading for Nirvana. An old man in a dressing gown shuffles towards me, his eyes a fantastic blue. “Have you a cigarette Sir?” “No, I’m sorry, I gave them up.” “Stay off them then, they’re a curse.” He coughs, the wheezy cough of an inveterate smoker, just like my father. He’s at the fire now, his head inclined over his fiddle, a Sunday evening in Summer and he’s playing the Sligo Maid, eyes closed, entombed in memory. In his shadow all my life, a life sentence, a death sentence, absurd, I know. And the reel is no longer a reel, it becomes a slow air as I hum it, a lament for something lost or that I missed on the road to now. I walk through the grounds, the scavenging gulls; the geese secure, precise, self sufficient –elegant but they probably don’t know it.

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John Saunders Soapstone There is no landscape only whiteness as white as itself, covering the bitter ground stretching up to a sky filled with the danger of unmade snow. Here there is no natural signage, striated rock formations, ancient caves, a gnurled tree, in the beautiful monochrome. No markers for fish holes, a stored carcass, storm shelters, except where one is left. Three stones laid on each other, a gift of survival from an unknown other now long passed.

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Mรกire Morrissey-Cummins Another year my child Hawthorn blossoms pearled the hedgerows as birds rejoiced, chiming the air with heartbeat rhythms, a cotton crisp spring as baby buds peeped in. I carried you, felt you but never got to hold you. Another year has passed and I am lost lonely in the black cold of winter, remembering the day you left me. It has been so long and we never said goodbye. My tears are frozen in time. Echoes of songs that never were, of dreams that can never be, my nights haunted until the dawn. Fog blankets the fields. The sky expresses what I cannot. I hear the clouds part. I speak with the sunrise of my love for you, your movement, your sound. I would speak of anything to bring you back, but there is only frost, and winter dwells in my heart. I see the spring, but know I will never feel your warmth Written this year in memory of the loss of my first child who died in childbirth. A very painful but cathartic write for me.

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Maurice Devitt Choices When the shadow of a bird crept across her face he saw for the first time how she might look in the loneliness of a field untouched by the argument of winter – beyond the stretch of beauty the spooling of skin across shrinking bones – yet he could feel the draft of new love the small tug on the stitching of a collar the scent when he held his breath and how it always started with the admission of what would happen and how they could avoid the hurt by never meeting by waking into a different world.

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Shauna Gilligan Pavements Victor normally whistled as he walked but on Sundays he sang. He swung his arms back and forth as his feet – small for a man – guided him up and down the moving pavements on the Sunday paper and fresh bread round. The pavements – rather like outdoor escalators – were built partly to alleviate locals’ complaints about tiring journeys uphill to the old part of the Northern Spanish city, partly to attract tourists. “Escalators in the open air!” they would cry, their cameras clicking. Sundays, Victor felt, were good days; you had more space to think, the air felt lighter and the sun seemed to shine earlier in the morning and linger a little longer in the evening. Sundays were days when you had permission to be lazy and indulgent; to have conversations which did not necessarily have a point; to linger. First thing on a Sunday, Victor would do some stretching. He would spread out his worn blue ribbed-cotton mat on the walnut wood floor; kick off his espadrille slippers before tidying them to the side. He then took a series of deep breaths before settling into his morning routine of yoga followed by a stroll in the old town to get the papers and fresh bread and then home. He'd been doing yoga for about a year now. A colleague’s new secretary, Esther, who smiled at him with ruby lips and waved to him with a variety of mock-crock patent handbags, mentioned that she practiced it. He'd joined a men's only class at the local sports club so that he could truthfully say he too was a yoga aficionado yet avoid embarrassment whilst practicing. He found his body liked the gentle pull and push and he progressed quickly. In a matter of weeks, Victor and Esther were comparing their downward-facing dogs, their cobra poses, salutations to the morning sun and the quiet child’s pose over dark strong chocolate, dipping churros, licking their lips, laughing. They jogged in the local park together, giggling as they jumped over the small metal rails to avoid the dogs and their owners or slowed down to a natural stop when one or other felt out of breath. They ate nibbles and drank wine at the bar around the corner from their workplace and dined in Ester’s favourite restaurant with silver service and fine white linen tablecloths. Esther proclaimed that she had never eaten so well. There was a wonderful unspoken synchronicity about what they had. But Victor daren’t call it love. Nor even lust. In the bedroom there was nothing, he felt, to write home about which meant also there was nothing to be worried over – a comfortable love, he thought, comfortable and comforting. Something of a fear remained inside Victor,

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however, which made him hold onto an imaginary string, like a pull-out string in a child’s toy which made it sing or speak; Victor ensured tautness remained to his string, not quite fully releasing it. As a lover, Victor saw himself as a considerate gentleman. Esther soon stopped spending the night in his apartment and he didn’t question it, not wanting to pressurise her. They still spent the weekends together, in the park, walking hands locked, in the old part of town, reading papers side by side, comfortable smiles sliding back and forth. Victor felt guilty for the gladness he felt at the space Esther left in her nightly absences, glad of the return of his Sunday mornings of lingering silence and indulgence. Eight months into her contract and six months into their love affair, Esther resigned, bored with small town talk, she said, moving to Barcelona, she said. Victor nodded, muttering that he’d miss their morning chats. It was all he could say that seemed appropriate in the workplace. The space before him widened. Someone brought in a cake with flakes of chocolate and she laughed, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder, refusing to eat, saying she was on a diet that she had put on far too much weight lately. Victor had eaten her slice; it was heavy and luxurious. It was time for her to go, Ester said, a momentary look of regret on her face. And then she kissed him twice, like a Judas, Victor thought, and gave him a squeeze instead of an embrace. She left on a sunny Friday in June, the day on which Victor lay in bed for the entire weekend smothered by the emptiness which swelled inside him. Victor surprised himself in the following weeks, though, with the realisation that he genuinely enjoyed yoga. He signed up for two new classes: intermediate men’s only class on a Thursday evenings a mixed Saturday morning class. He had considered a Sunday morning class but felt he needed to keep sacred the space which Sundays offered him. Things had slipped into a natural order and it wasn’t long before he was able to concentrate on yoga rather than the bulge of a thigh muscle or a glimpse of undiscovered cleavage. It was Sunday 12th July when he managed to slip from his routine, not waking until nearly eleven thirty. Cursing himself for having overslept, he threw on a white shirt that was slung over the back of an old wicker duck egg blue chair in the room with the views of the distant sea through the ceiling-to-floor-window. He slipped into a pair of comfortable chinos before putting on his wristwatch and sliding his bronzed feet into light tan laced shoes, wiggling his toes inside the soft leather. He automatically stretched his hands above his head; his body waiting for what normally happened next. He glanced at the time and realised he would have to skip yoga practice and get the Sunday papers

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before heading straight to the Panaderia if he was to get bread before it sold out. There was a line from a song on the radio that had been trapped inside his head over those summer weeks. “I gotta feeling…that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” And the thick guitar beat would roam into his dreams of paper shuffling and office politics like a wildebeest storming through his unconscious. It was this song that he found himself singing, mispronouncing the words, despite not particularly liking it as he hurried that Sunday morning. Morning errands done, Victor walked fast, eager to get home to sit in his wicker chair, freshly buttered bread and hot coffee by his side. He wanted to relish feeling his hands become inky as he digested the news of the day and flicked mindlessly through the Sunday supplements. His feet now led him to the moving pavement which brought him downhill and he hurried, head down, French stick peeping from its bag, newspaper tucked under his arm. He was looking forward to the holiday he had booked for himself in Barcelona. Just a long weekend, nothing extravagant about it. But he planned to visit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, walk through Park Guell and stroll along the Ramblas, stopping to have tapas and a glass of wine or beer. As Victor contemplated his up-coming break in Barcelona it occurred to him that he might glimpse Esther. It was unlikely in a city of that size but even so, there was a chance. He stopped singing and smiled, contemplating what he might say to her. What a surprise, he might say, his voice a little high pitched. What a wonderful city, he might announce as if he had discovered something that nobody knew. And where would he see her? She would be wearing red sandals with a heel, sipping a white wine, nibbling on tiger prawns. And she would be alone and ask him to join her in a popular bar on the Ramblas. He would hesitate – pretending he might be meeting someone – and then agree, just for one drink, of course. And who knew what would happen then? As he considered what might happen, at that precise point in time, Victor was entirely unaware that Esther who had not moved to Barcelona after all, felt a little lonely as she returned home from Sunday yoga class in a black velvet tracksuit and lilac suede pumps. He was oblivious to her approach as she stepped onto the downhill moving pavement alongside the uphill one which he was about to step onto. He swung his arms, happy, suddenly, and sang that tonight was going to be a good night. Via Click.to (Visit: http://www.clicktoapp.com)

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Mike Gallagher Christmas Present. All through December I tried to save him From himself, From fluorescent bulbs, From a snapping dog. Finally, I gave him sanctuary In my workshop, Snug in a warm nook. On Christmas morning, I found him On my Stanley blade, dead In all his tortoiseshell glory. He had come back to say: Thanks For all your wasted effort; Since my right to die, you me deny I decide to die by DIY. I bequeath to you, the wings You covet. Happy Christmas.

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Mary Lavery Carrig HARMONICA ON WESTERN WAVES Wrapped in a sea green nut of memory, Kerry waves crash against a stern deep under a June white sky. Frank tipples a tune from a harmonica. A salty pride lies across his tongue and his back to the mainland now. Laid low under tumbling sleeping bags ground sheets, utensils and tents, Joan nudges me. She begins to sing. She is smiling, smiling that smile for him. An Blascaoid beckons as we trickle in.

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George Harding Night Words I dreamt of words that fell into my head boxes all wrapped up gifted from the dead. Those words rose me up Stabbed me awake I knew I was alive The bed began to shake.

.

Cracks came in the boards the words slipped in got lost among the cobwebs a dark and dreary den. A spider darted out with words upon his back I offered him a fly he dropped through a crack. Now I try to separate the dream from the lie a splinter in my thumbnail a silken web to ply. The spider knits a web Dreaming another spider’s dreams from the hub of his universe come ripples – in reams.

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dippingthepen This section is for writers who are, maybe, new to writing and who would like to see their work in print with a view to further developing their skills. Anne Mulcahy The Garrison I cannot remain underexposed, yearing for you to X-Ray me, on fire, this tired resentment grows, as you again, have mistaken me. My life has been a watchful wait The Colonel at the Battle Gate Each twitch, flick, flutter, stance and pause, is cause, for me, to retaliate. My eyes bore deep into your gaze, to find the truth, behind the face. My life has been a watchful wait The Colonel at the Battle Gate I hear the Cold Black Wind exhale, makes the crisp night air part in two, the rhythm of your tongue is stale, a rainbow of words, with no hue! My life has been a watchful wait The Colonel at the Battle Gate A lonely Colonel I may be As no soldiers stand behind me, lifes battles no longer cause fear though friends are enemies, both near down I, my arms, and free, I gait, To the land, beyond the Garrison Gate

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Brendan Lonergan EXCAVATING VENUS She says more with a look and a diamond smile Than a thousand ornate words Giving me fleeting glimpses Of her gentle divine inner beauty Captivating my subservient eyes With her friendly face through god's wonderful light Revealing little secrets from her stars Making me feel so important and at ease With each precious moment in her company Floating along gracefully to life's next pursuit This elegant angelic matriarchal diva Lifting me emotionally on to a higher plain Gazing deeply into the myriad of her soul I see a loving parent's legacy unfurled To an appreciative but largely unwitting world

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Rachel Sutcliffe Recollections The feelings spread As in my head Memories race At great pace Bitter tears form At recollection’s dawn History remains Playing torturous games As the scenes flash Painful emotions lash Oh to escape From the past’s embrace

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THESE WE LIKE http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/6xmu1J/www.loc.gov/poetry/writingpoetry.html Poet Laureate Charles Simic 'On Writing Poetry'

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22380? utm_source=poetsupdate_061611&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_ca mpaign=npm&utm_content=muldoon_interview_music Paul Muldoon in Conversation (Poets Org.) http://writing.ie/ A wonderful resource for writers, driven by the dynamic Vanessa O’Loughlin http://irishmatters.blogspot.com/2010/08/appraising-michaelhartnett.html Thomas O'Grady appraising Michael Hartnett. http://gigaom.com/2011/06/20/future-of-media-the-rise-of-themillion-selling-kindle-author/ Become the next big bestseller http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv3n2/tracks/tracks1.html Wonderful http://www.bigbridge.org/100thousandpoetsforchange/?p=452 Our poems and photos for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Listowel event. http://colouringshadows.blogspot.com/

Our own Christine Allen's invigourating blog. http://writing.ie/guest-blogs/poetic-license/entry/guest-blogs/howto-approach-a-poetry-publisher.html#.TpGYa6FP96o.facebook Sound advice from Kate Dempsy on how to approach a publisher (warily, I say!)

We give you our welcome, we welcome your genius. 65

thefirstcut #4  

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