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thefirstcut #3

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CONTENTS Editorial Colin Dardis Mary O'Gorman `Kevin Griffin The Gob Kevin Graham Mary Margaret Gallagher Richard O'Toole wendy brosnahan John Pinschmidt Kinga Nowak George Rowley Kerrie O'Brien Nicholas Damion Alexander Paddy Bushe Margaret Doody-Scully P J Kennedy Linda Whittenberg Eamon O Cleirigh George Harding John McGrath Mina Lakshmanan John Saunders Niall O Connor Shauna Gilligan Miceál Kearney Mike McHugh Mary Lavery Carrig Patrick Walsh Donal Mahoney Barry Finegan Helen Farrell Simcox Mike Gallagher Tatjana Debeljački G.B. Ryan Margaret Sheehan Laurie Corzett/libramoon Maeve O'Sullivan colwin dansio Christine Allen Louis Mulcahy Brendan Lonergan Padraig Ó'Gallchobhair Rachel Sutcliffe These We Like 10 Thousand Poets for Change

After You Go Great Aunt Jo Poems Old-Fashioned Rhyme Caught Garden Gift A Letter to Séamus Who Poems Barbary Lunch at The Unicorn Fireworks/Imprint High mountain range Featured Poet Abandoned Human Desire My Bed Bridie's Gone Six Months A Lament for a Newlywed Silk of the Kine Connemara Rain its' not happening Despair Peace and Love Through the Looking Glass Found in the Guardian Newspaper eagle-eyes September Offering War and Peace Paddy Murphy's Wake Bad Poetry Themed Haiku The English Papers To Forgiveness Yoga Meeting Arise At Acre Lake Mouth is a thrush Dancing in Squares The Master Secret Garden This House Accident/Night Time Photographs

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3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14-16 17 18 19-25 26 27 28 29 30-31 32 33 34 35 36-37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58


EDITORIAL Hello to the world. Welcome to our band of writers. This month I have been flicking through my world atlas - remember those? - to pinpoint where some of you live. And you live everywhere. It is amazing that. in the space of a few short months, we have managed to circumnavigate the globe. It is amazing that we have been able to reach you all and that you in, in turn, have come back to us to share your thoughts, your words, your truths, your rich, rich voices. Thank you all from the gang in Listowel. Last Saturday afternoon, a group of writers gathered at the Seanchai Centre to celebrate the Listowel leg of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event. Many of those present have been together for years and, with our new friends, we shared the spirit of camaraderie that exists not only at local level but among writers throughout the world. Thank you Michael Rothenberg and the gang for inspiring such an awesome event. Here's to next year. This is a special edition for us, a closing of the circle. As I explained in our first edition, we evolved from a workshop facilitated by Paddy Bushe in 2003. Paddy is our featured poet in thefirstcut #3 and, gentleman that he is, he has written five new poems especially for us. This is a great privilege for us because of the esteem in which Paddy is held in poetic circles. Read Paddy Bushe's piece on how he writes; the central tenet of his message is honesty because, like all great poets, Paddy knows that, without honesty, there is no poetry. Later this month, the Seanchai writer's Group reforms, having disbanded for a year. The break made us realise how important the group was to us. Writing is essentially a selfish, lonely existence. I have never heard of any great poem that was written in a workshop. Still, the coming together of minds with similar interests always agitates the creative juices and averts the eyes from selfobsessed naval gazing. We, as a group, have become better writers through mutual support. It is not for everyone but do try it; join a group or form one of your own if there is not one near you. Failing that, you are always welcome in thefirstcut family of writers. Reading poetry is an important part of writing poetry. It goes without saying that we should read the great poets, both those of the past and those currently writing on a regular basis. But we should also read our peers because it is sometimes in their writing that we can best see what is good and bad in our own writing. Read the other poets in the journal, think of what you would do differently and feel free to comment in a positive and constructive way. Keep writing.

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Colin Dardis After You Go After you go, there is the romantic debris of dishes and tissues and empty CD cases, tomes torn from the bookshelf to confer with poems and the meaning of words in the best of good-natured debate, the mock arguments held with a smile. After you go, there are curled bed sheets to be straightened transforming this double bed into an oversized park bench for one; the residual warmth of hugs and pillows fading throughout the week until the next Friday arrives; leftovers to be enjoyed as singular micro-meals. After you go, there is the silence of the empty dwelling, the brick-held breath of one pausing to survey his solitude, and finding companion in memories and scattered mementos lying as a mosaic of our time.

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Mary O'Gorman GREAT AUNT JO When I lived under a young sun Great-Aunt Jo was eighty-one. She lived in Rose Lane, Number 5, wore an apron kind and wide. We sisters trooped in after school. She called us both my little jewel. We helped shell peas and make plum jam, Collect warm eggs, feed a pet lamb. Sometimes we helped with small hurt birds Stroked them, coaxed them with soft words; Touched her ornaments gingerly – black cats, goose-girls, specially a picture of Mary trimmed with lace, a spaniel with a cheeky face. On certain days, we stayed for tea – scones for Judy, sweet cake for me. But she grew bent and slow and frail and our visits were curtailed to fifteen minutes by her bed. “You girls are in my heart” she said, looking like a small hurt bird. We stroked her, coaxed her with soft words. She died in Rose Lane, Number 5, house full of aprons kind and wide.

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Kevin Griffin DICKCASSEL A nugget of fools’ gold, it danced from the dictionary. Dickcassel….noun, north America, sparrow - like bird , related to the cardinal. Now if you didn’t already know….. DUTY It was a morning in spring and I, on the cusp of adulthood, vaulted over our gate, cleanly over the top bar, because I had to. My mother scolded, because she had to. VANITY Loving the look of me in my best coat. Wallowing in the smile of an approaching friend.

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The Merits of Good, Old-fashioned Rhyme Straight from ‘The Gob’ (Grumpy Old Bard) So you think you’re too good for rhyme? Or that rhyme is too complicated? Maybe you think it’s outdated and unnecessary – doggerel even. Well, you’re the poet so you’re entitled to your opinion but the rest of the world disagrees with you, and so do I. Rhyme is the first thing that most people associate with poetry. Ask any schoolchild or grandparent. Rhyme is the romance of verse, the way that words and lines kiss each other and hold hands. It’s what gives a poem its music too. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not claiming poetry has to rhyme to be good – far from it! I’m just saying that rhyme ought to be in there in your toolbox alongside metre, metaphor and all the rest of your kit. Rhyming poetry may be thin on the ground in today’s sparse and functional world, but it’ll be back, you can be sure. After all, you don’t throw out a good coat just because it goes out of fashion; you wait for the style to come round again – or is that just me? Rhyme doesn’t have to be obvious, doesn’t have to hang out on the end of the line where you can’t miss it. It can be subtle and surprising, tucked away in the middle or maybe not looking like rhyme at all, only becoming apparent when you roll it around your tongue like a fine wine. The Master himself, William B., gave us Innisfree and The Stolen Child, Angus and The Irish Airman, all rhyming and none the worse for it. Muldoon and Heaney rhyme too at times, although you have to be more awake to spot it. If it’s good enough for those fellas… know what I’m saying? So come on! Give it a go! If nothing else, writing in rhyme will give you structure, and that in turn will teach you discipline. Then, once you know you can obey the rules, you’ll be free to break ‘em! ‘But if I use rhyme,’ you protest, ‘I might end up saying something I didn’t intend to say.’ Well slap my thigh! Isn’t that what it’s all about?

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Kevin Graham Caught It fell like the dropping of a hat: suddenly, mid-stride. Hands forced, we sheltered under the barber’s low canopy, turning in our reflections to see them laugh. We looked down as the rain open a course of rapids, watching the swollen mouths of drains gurgle from the swell. Cracked drainpipes eeked tributaries down the sides of buildings, gathering in the street’s excitement. Bullets of water swilled in a line, until their dropping became a game; puddles grew gluttonous and fat. Other strangers waited in the dark, gathered closely in handfuls chance beneath bus-shelters, railway-bridges, the narrow breaks of doorways. Some were talking but not us: we were listening to its rhythm, its flow of syntax washing past, wishing we could leave but couldn’t.

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Mary Margaret Gallagher

Garden Gift Red sunset, red tomatoes, warm - yielding to his touch. Tomorrow's promise held today, softly laid down on the table, free from constraint the fruit awaits the gentle slice from the knife.

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Richard O'Toole A Letter to Séamus Séamus Is it true that dreams they fall like visions of summer A shower each one Sparkling and dancing through cobbled streets Rolling on to posh lawns and swimming through waves of long wasteland grass. And Séamus Is life like a cup that we must drink half full or empty A homeless woman whose eyes sadly smile and dance with her story To the girl living lavishly at Lily's sweet Bordello? In my mind I meander like the cowboy my hat tipped from the desert wind A red sky to raise dust and hell Suddenly I kick my shoes off and we are dancing at Lunasa. And Séamus Watch out for the night traffic Wait for the red lights We will cross while the green man flashes Under the neon of a barber shop triptych which lights our way past the cat fight The shriek of night And bawling of drunkenness And Séamus Tea with Mary Mc Aleese, Jonathan Reese and Heaney Cool gin with Miriam And Noel O' Grady might sing As we coast past Trocadaro Discuss Edna O' Briens green eyes If only an artist could paint And Séamus After the dark rain Should we do it all again When lightning strikes and clears the air A pale moon might shimmer in the river When the homeless girl sees the stars at night and places them in her pocket And Séamus Thank you! Best wishes…

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wendy brosnahan Who In my mind a jungle exists Weaving and growing around my feet Neglected on a tumble of ground I hear all the calls Not to forget Feed and sleep And still it grows I stood for a moment And two acorns appeared One in my left hand One in my right I hear all the calls Not to forget Feed and sleep And help them to grow When too big I let them go Two little acorns Took routes of their own I hear all the calls Not to forget Feed and sleep Now tangled in weeds In my mind I see a light Through all the trees Tempted but afraid to step out For who am I now?

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John Pinschmidt POETRY EXERCISE # 8 To John Hartley Williams, poet and poets’ mentor Listowel Writers’ Week 40, June, 2011 “OK, People: Write five lines based on an animal, With a line each on its texture, skin or fur, Smell, movement, and the last line---a downright lie. You’ve got 10 minutes. Begin.” THE GALAPAGOS TORTOISE An ancient, battered alligator-skinned helmet, His armadillo legs slated, He smells like the enclosed eternity of Yorick’s skull. Motionless, he still thinks of the young Charles Darwin--The one who named him “Fluffy”.

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Kinga Nowak Barbary Daniela… Roll her around in your mouth, Dah-nie-la The only soft thing about her Was a string of smoke, a column of ash Daniela Smooth as Stockholm Syndrome She points over to a woman Piled in the corner like dirty linen Barbary…That’s where they lived like match-sticks That’s where it went down…the anchor and the dead She says all this from behind the cumulus Generated by her lungs and foul mood The swell under her eye, shrinking Just a purple puddle of busted blood Spreading over her cheekbone like an ink stain The woman’s skin is a waterfall Complete with ripples and whirlpools Her cheeks so water logged that Laughing requires she drop her bottom jaw Only her eyes shimmer Like two sinking coins Daniela pulls at her cigarette, the ash Gaining Fast Barbary…she whistles softly When they found her, her feet were bloody That’s what happens when you run out On time. *The above poem was printed in a self-published chapbook "Losing Puck" through the blurb.com website.

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George Rowley LUNCH AT THE UNICORN I am in the Gorman now, smell of urine and disinfectant all pervasive, floor polished like a mirror, a nurse on vigil, night and day. How did I get here, how long have I been here? Questions race through my foggy head, no answers. I’ve been here before, how often I can’t even guess. Murderous gulls scream and swoop, a few stray geese waddling with precision and poise, at ease in their skins. I feel so drugged; they must have pumped me with the usual stuff. Magoo you’ve done it again. The last time I swore it would be the last time. I am the biggest conman of them all. Inmates shuffling up and down; muttering, eyes wild, eyes glazed, eyes down-cast. What time is it? Have you got a smoke? a patient asks. I look at my watch, it seems stuck at twelve, lunch at half past. I know the routine, it is the routine that kills. Must go to the loo but I can’t. I tried a few minutes ago, couldn’t relax, an essential pre-requisite. I’m really bursting. How long have I been here? A few days at most. I am still in my pyjamas, it can’t be more than a week, a week at most. My mind can’t focus. I begin to panic. Who brought my here? Who knows I’m here? If I could only focus my thoughts. Now where did it all start this time? “No I haven’t got a cigarette, no not even a butt.” I’ll try the loo again, the half door there, no key, no lock, nurses peering over as you try to go - How in the name of Jesus can I relax? “What time is it, Sir?” I am always called sir and how I resent it. Now I recall a little. The waiter called me Sir, bowing, as if under pain of death, a napkin across his arm, a red waist coat with gold button, almost military. “Smoking or non-smoking Sir?” “Non-smoking”. I puff a little having beaten my latest addiction. “Over here Sir.” A whiff of perfume to my side, legs going up the whole way, nirvana, not always. Do I know her from somewhere? Maybe, maybe not. I haven’t been to the Unicorn before. God she’s elegant and probably knows it, how could she not? I immediately resent her, a total stranger. But perfume does things to me like the whinny of a horse to a punter. The waiter presses me into a corner, master of all I survey. It is Saturday, at peace with the world, with myself and that’s crucial. Isn’t it? Self acceptance; I had learned that over the years but on bad days the solf-loathing grinds me to the floor. “Would you like to see a wine list Sir?” I shake my head. My hand imperious. But, no harm in having a look. You see I am always playing games with myself and in a queer way I enjoy the self-provocation, the brinkmanship. I am the toreador; I am the bull. Sure, I haven’t had a drink in months. Empty laughter across from me; at least it seems empty to me, more resentment. I beginning to get irritable. Maybe I shouldn’t have come here. The laughter seems louder. I better get out of here but the waiter is on top of me again.

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“Have you decided sir?” “What would you recommend?” “Red or white, Sir?” “Red.” The die is cast. “We have an excellent house wine, Sir. Spanish.” “I’ll have a glass of the red. I’ll accept your advice. Not make it a carafe”, I said. “We have no carafes, Sir.” “Sure, I’ll have a half bottle then, and it had better be good.” I wag my finger indulgently and he bows again. There’s still time to leave, I think, before I get impaled on my own barbed wire. I look ahead, the laughter now seems hilarious. No longer empty, no longer banal, seductive now, a cure all. I long to join in as I used to. I was always great crack in a bar until the booze won the bottle and the duck could no longer quack. She’s heading this way. Her perfume hits me like a bullet. She walks like a gazelle, black skirt, a touch above the knees, black tights, perfect, maybe stockings, she’s thirtyish. How many men has she had? How many has she destroyed? My heart starts to pepper as she passes. I have to make contact; the insanity of the old days when it was fun to drink, cascades in my head. Who is she with? I muse with unrealistic envy but the desire is huge. I am really insane. Still time to leave. Too late now; the waiter with a flourish pours a little wine, sparkling as the glass catches the light. I raise my glass, as a priest a chalice at Mass; the ritual begins. All bets are off, all bets are on. I take a sip. The horses begin to canter; let the frenzy begin. Now, no limits, now no fear, now no pain. To hell with tomorrow. The impossible is now possible. The water can be walked on. The woman with the perfume passes and her walk is so self-assured, so elegant, that I can’t describe it I’ll bide my time. The old dog for the hard road and I’ll take the road most travelled by – by me that is, the only road I know. “What time is it?” The man in the bed beside me asks. “It’s half past twelve.” “Lunch time; they’d poison you here. Here’s the trolley.” Rattle of trolley, rattle of cups, discordant; the nurse stiff as a poker. “Jaysus, mutton again. Did you ever see such slop?” I say nothing. Still drugged, can’t focus. I pick at my lunch, can’t eat. Bursting, still, to go to the loo. The duty nurse seems as immobile as a statue. Does he ever get bored? What does he think of it all? Does the routine kill him as it is killing me? I am too long coming here to expect any answers to anything. Still the questions engulf me. I sip at my tea. It’s like piss, cold piss at that and lunch is over for another unending day. I look at my watch, 12:40. I count the cracks in the ceiling and Jaysus they

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won’t even let you sleep to relieve the dead hand of boredom. I have no interest in books or papers, no interest in anything. Even the 1940s film on the TV does not entice me and I used to be such a movie buff and was regarded as an expert, in the pubs anyway; an expert on everything and anything and if you didn’t think so I’d let you know. That’s the way it was and it doesn’t seem funny now and I hate myself for the zillionth time. Jesus I’d go insane here except that I am up to my eyes with that stuff they gave me. You can’t go mad when you whole system is battened down. You can’t feel, can’t imagine and you certainly can’t laugh. Nothing to laugh about now. But how I laughed at the Unicorn. How they all laughed and it was a good joke even though I say so myself. Though I can’t think of it now. The laughter no longer empty, the exchanges are now all substance, no longer saccharine. There are my people. I am throwing dice amongst the throng, the stakes are high and bingo I scoop the pot. I am the ventriloquist, no longer the dummy. I catch her eye and she smiles. A little wave and my heart rockets to my head. I am heading for the winning tape; I win by a nose against the odds. I would always succeed against the odds, odds invariably laid by myself and they were always long commensurate with my massive inferiority complex. I have analysed this in and out and up and down and I am sick to death of analysis. I know it all and know nothing; that’s all I know. Yet in the white heat of that afternoon in the Unicorn, I could do anything, be anybody and not give a damn about anything or anybody. I was free for what now sees a moment to use my emotional credit card to the limit, a limit set by me, only me. I was in control, the puppeteer, the ring master, the conductor; the show would never end unless I said so. When tomorrow eventually comes you are beyond caring, beyond control and the analysts take you over, to dissect the indissectable, to square the circle you are encircled in. “We’re all going to Nesbitts”, she said. “Who’s we?” “Does it matter?” “No, in fact it doesn’t, actually I like my own company”, I said. “Not one of those, I hope”, she said. “No, but I’m easy in company and just as easy on my own.” “We should all get on fine then”. “I thought we were doing that already”, I laughed. “I’ll see you there then”. And her smile promised the universe. “I must get some cash”, I said. “Do that”, she said, “we’ll need it’’. And that’s the last I saw of her. As I passed O’Donoghues the magic of the 60’s, the Fleadhs on sunny summers, the nights in hay sheds, beckoned me in the door. Now this is where the real action is or was when my youth passed me by. And as I waited for my pint to settle, the blurred became unblurred and I understood everything and if I didn’t, it didn’t matter, nothing mattered any more. The music soared through the bar above the early evening bedlam, and I was a child again, my father on a Sunday evening in Summer, playing the Sligo Maid – his favourite reel and when I got older it became mine too, it was inevitable; surely I was my father’s son and that was always important to me still is. Absurd, in his shadow all my life, a life sentence, a death sentence in effect. (to be continued)

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Kerrie O'Brien Fireworks Bursts of flowers Falling and pulsing out An echoing of colour The heavens are screaming They suffer to create

Imprint They will always be there Little traces only I can feel You leave a mark each time you do it – Your fingertips On my heart

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Nicholas Damion Alexander High mountain range Up here in this high mountain range one can hardly recall life in the city: the thick smog of factories and vehicles, the quick pace of feet to and fro its streets, the swash-buckle of work, school and traffic, sound systems and gunshots blasting through the night. But here, silence! Like an exclamation past anxiety, an indifference to make a Stoic proud. Soft chirping birds and tender rustling leaves, a lonely voice singing redemption there. The wide open space of vertical trees littered with exaggeratedly-colorful blossoms. The nights cold and cramping like ice, lizards croaking between the savage baying of dogs.

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Our Featured Poet

Paddy Bushe

Paddy Bushe, born in Dublin in 1948, now lives in Kerry, and is a member of Aosdรกna. He writes in both Irish and English, and has published eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which is To Ring in Silence: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2008), a bilingual volume. He has also published three books of translations, and been the editor of two anthologies. A new collection, My Lord Buddha of Carraig ร‰anna, will be published by Dedalus in the spring of 2012.

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My Poetry Paddy Bushe Almost everything I write is rooted in a particular landscape. I have written relatively few poems that I cannot account for in a very specific place, if not necessarily at a specific time. Two poems in this issue, for example, are about being depressed and how to deal with that, but they articulate this in terms of place, of weather, of vegetation. The poems in their final form don’t identify the places which I used as metaphor, but my identification with particular places allowed me to explore aspects of myself which otherwise might remain closed to me. The same is true of love poems I have written, of poems about poetry itself, of poems which explore aspects of history, of politics, of mythology. Very often the particular landscape might disappear in the poem’s final shape, but it remains always as a grounding and a source. This probably came about because of where I grew up. And while I was born and reared in suburban Dublin, I grew up imaginatively on the western seaboard, especially in Kerry. Long summer holidays surrounded by coastal mountains were the source of a great yearning during the rest of the year. And when I started to write poetry seriously, this landscape was my threshold into and my metaphor for explorations that went far beyond the landscape itself. Later, when I travelled, especially in China and Nepal, the landscapes I found there allowed me access to other imaginative worlds. This is how I write. I do not dare suggest that it is better, or worse, than any other way. General statements about the nature or function of poetry make me retreat. Statements that begin with “poetry should ….” or “the poet must …” or, God help us “the writer’s role is ….” make me cringe. It may be a cliché, but there is room for all sorts of poems, formal or free, private or public, plainspoken or mysterious.

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Bog Dream Did I dream the village, or was I told, or did I dream I was Told, or was I told I dreamt it? And the bog, the black bog That oozed and inched itself Over the track? That certainly I could recall, as from a dream. Certainly the bog was there, just As I recalled it, when I walked That old track that disappeared Here and there into the black bog That collapsed and reformed itself All the way down the mountain. But where was the village? The village Whose ruins – beside the stream Where the track crossed – I recalled From the dream or from some old telling, Whose memories of the huckster’s shop I shared in some half-understood way: Where were its tumbled, overgrown stones? For now, certainly, there was only the ooze Of the bog, of the black, absorbing bog. Paddy Bushe

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Boss You can see straightaway, yes, he’s a joke: The drawing breath to gather ponderous words To use as weapons. The hiding from the words Of others. The hiding, in fact, from others. The way he imagines a mirror as he talks, And listens only through his own reflection. His terror that the image in the mirror Might be shattered. That he might be forced To listen or to speak without his mirror. His grimacing at the thought is hilarious. The impersonation of the powerful man Impersonating the hollow man is Powerful. The trouble is he cannot see The joke. And this is deadly serious. Paddy Bushe

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East Steps, Skellig Michael for Peter Marinker From Blind Man’s Cove, The stone stairway ascends Steeply, turning and twisting On itself with the lie Of the land, until it is A great snake scaling The heights, insinuating Itself into the island As, in a medieval painting, A snake insidiously Contours itself around A paradisiacal tree, Its scales the texture Of leaf and bark, Its eyes the only Signifiers of intent. But does the snake foresee That, at the summit, In the citadel hidden Behind the towering wall And huge barred door, Michael the Archangel prepares His armour of revelation To dazzle the eye and daze The suspicious heart, sharpens A sword that will sever doubt, And raises to his lips a trumpet To sound the destruction of evil? Paddy Bushe

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January That is no season for the margins, the thin Forlorn cries of seabirds along an empty shore, The exhausted light turning a haggard face To the overwhelming clouds, and the sodden clay Of the retreating cliff falling in dribs and drabs. I will go inland awhile, accept the shelter of woods, The texture of bark and knotted twigs, will ease Myself into the dark of leaf-mould, nut-mast, And become familiar with warm, hidden stirrings Among the blind, white protuberances of bulbs.

Paddy Bushe

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Waiting When fog freezes heart’s landscape And stops the veins and wells, and drains The colour from everything that grows, Oh then heart must kernel its sweet self In hiding from the hooded crow, and wait For hints of sap. Then thaw. Then flow. Paddy Bushe

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Margaret Doody-Scully Abandoned Human Desire

A robins whitewashed kitchen looks out on the faded green grass of the empty fields. An old stanley stove lurches away from the wall. In the yard a vintage tractor rusting falls asunder. Plaster fragments of the homestead litter the floor of the rooms. In an upstairs bedroom a window sash has slipped and become a trapezoid framing the overgrown orchard facing west. Yellow buttercups carpet the floor of the haggard, their mournful winter gone. They scent their way raising their delicate trampled heads for tastes of rainfall. Behind the roofless barn a delapidated Morris Minor car, having seen better days is suddenly carressed by the groan of the wind and lashing rain committed to preserving the delicate balance between man and nature. As walls tumble boundaries fray and the line connecting dwelling and farmyard melts away and this empty house is just one bone in a giant skeleton of abandoned human desire.

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P J Kennedy My Bed Dear Bed, You were there for my birth. I was put to you with my teething teeth. I fall into you when I am sleepy. You were there with me during my sickness. You are primary in my good health. Dear Bed, Stay with me for my death.

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Linda Whittenberg Bridie’s Gone Six Months Staffordshire china, each piece made double by mirrors. He chooses a teacup, dainty flowers with a bird whose name he wishes he knew. Tastes a bit of her flavor with each sip. Outside, hanging baskets left begging broadcast the news—she’s gone. Now, the tele has become his breakfast companion. RTÉ reports: Crazed taxi driver in London guns down twelve before turning the gun on himself. He thinks maybe it was grief told him to do it, maybe grief is another kind of terror. Pictures of the oil spill in the Gulf— pelicans, gulls, dolphins painted with oil. It’s the sea turtles that make him put down his toast. He hears their death rattles. He holds the cup lightly— how thin it is, how fine, how fragile. how easily it could shatter.

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Eamon O Cleirigh A lament for a newlywed Lir’s children follow the river, powerful strokes taking them over Hyde bridge where Yeats spat the bile of unrequited love into the angry torrent of Sligo’s Garavogue. Daylight ebbs behind Meadhbh’s tomb, golden hues laying promise to morning glow where bells will toll for the newlywed, lying still, hands clasped, taken to the shadows before her time. I sit and watch the lights come up, hear sounds of my day slip back into twilight, feel a cool breeze, its gentle swirl hinting at memories of happier times. She taps on the kitchen window letting me know that tea is up, and I allow myself to exhale, slow and full, accepting that change is inevitable.

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George Harding (my version of Seán 0'Riordáin's 1948 Oireachtas poem )

Silk of the Kine I heard through the thoughts of the night, the lowing of a Cow I understood its correct meaning and disliked living now. The Droimeann Donn Dílis was in the woods in fever and the language of our forefathers cold and dead forever. I stole within the woods and brought my sorrow An Droimeann Donn Dílis quivering like an arrow and the point of his horn digging alone slowly with a blunt spade burying a precious stone. “The Lament for Art Ó Laoghaire” lying among the pearls every turn in the line of music a chain of jewels the lays of the Fianna no order or shape and “Cúirt an Mhéan Oíche” thrown in the mud agape. “O Droimeann Donn Dílis” Said I “my Cow I came to this wood hearing your moan now to face with common sense and no one in line the death of our ancestors’ language O Silk of the Kine”. I have to tell your Excellency, my Cow, my heart is broken at the fate of these jewels, and how I’ll make for you a little lay From the marrow of the pups In the language of our forefathers 30


this language never stops. She turned back to me and “An Draighneán in her stare I looked manly into her eyes’ glare and saw brightness more bright and music on the tide I saw the glow of my race and I was mad with pride. Old ancestral memories sounded in my mind as I swam miraculously with my Cow combined and every alien memory that dragged me in tow was cleansed from my mind in the presence of my Cow. Burying rare jewels she turned her face from me thoughts of my race withered when recalled by my Cow as she bent down in the black hole with all the jewels near. When she spoke her tribe’s voice became cold and clear. “Oh! Stay away from the woods I am not your Cow. A bull from abroad bellows a row and as for your little calf her whinnies do not impress she was trained overseas with a Queen’s caress. On the banks of Irelands’ rivers I sat down to pine Remembering through tears the Silk of the Kine in a grove without angles with nothing in my fist and the voice of Colm Cille gone like the mist.

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John McGrath Connemara Rain Connemara rain beats hard against my window pane and on the hills beyond where old stones fold about themselves Galway shawls of umber grass and hunch their backs against an ancient wind, indifferent to wind and rain and me. And then the sun breaks through to light the distant sea with darts of silver.

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Mina Lakshmanan its’ not happening .(1st canto to an unborn child) . my palm laced with seeds of corn. my hip fringed with the belly fruit of ripe peach with my inner desire to hold a crib within chuffs me ..no limit. as when Paolo and Francesca called for lust.. but theirs’ were a bigger sin.. should i stand at the river mouth , proclaiming my past sins ? asking for forgiveness. will the river lethe grant . worming its way through the terraces of purgatory. What’s mine…? do i need a Beatrice to guide through this run, shaking the powers of toil...truth by knowing and grinning with the odes'. but i am no sinner i am only seeking my womb. to become belly full with that desire. seeds of corn linger like the unknown seeking lust. i spread them in my palm. count one by one and sow what’s unburnt i seek the child the one with soft soft skin, cushiony soft like my breast that now could be full with readiness . that I am scared to touch. scared to nurse ..to hold. but iam no fool. yes, i stand watching. watching. this silent empty crib. Sipping sips of thoughts and i ask is this the purgatory they spoke of… and should i just have another swig of sherry? Calm me. Calm me... ( its not happening was printed in Taj Mahal Review, India.Cyberwit's international journal, (first edition 2004) anthology of International contemporary literature)

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John Saunders Despair Pace John Bunyan Despair has taken control of the House, granite face frowning at the street, sash windows shedding rivulets of tears as he slouches in the 'Chair', melancholic, contemplating the cold cyclones of change, blood vessels filled with chemicals. In the Members' bar, his wife pontificates to those that listen, on the plinth the starving populace cries justice and revenge. Along the haunted plush piled corridors his children lurk in shadowed corners, stand at sills, staring, elbows pressing marble. Each day they are heard, sobbing street urchins in the playgrounds of the abandoned upper and lower chambers. The dream and its promise have aberrated, the Order of Business now dominated by panem et circenses – per caseus, while the poison spreads to contaminate the blameless. Vacuous, toxic, corrosive, its colour is venous red.

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Niall O Connor Peace and Love. You are the child I trust To always be yourself. With each thought and breath you grow, -Strange intimacy of life, That this makes us strangers. You were in my first breath, And I will be in your last.

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Shauna Gilligan Through The Looking Glass There are five uncles of your father who are alcoholics. Alcoholism runs in genes, skipping generations. * I am boxed, trapped, hemmed in by something invisible, without a name. * Before you realise, it’s taken over you. * I tell myself a story, of fudge, turkish delight, things with colour, taste and smell. Magnolias are beautiful except we don’t have them in this country. Lilac blooms, its heady scent intoxicating. * You think you know what you’re doing but you don’t. I can see what’s happening to you. I can tell you what is going to happen. I am fine. It skipped me. The other children are too young for us to tell yet. Which means it has to be– * I’ve a note in my pocket with which I will buy vodka. I’ve not told my father that he has broken up with me. * Time is on your side. * I hate when I arrive early at parties. The awkward silences, the nods and smiles and the tick tock of my father’s old watch on my thin wrist. I follow the sound of clattering plates into the kitchen where a guy is pouring thick red syrup on top of an uncooked cake mixture. There are two large trays. “Hey,” he says and winks at me. “Ita,” I say. “Sorry I’m early.” “Mike,” he says. “Glad you are.” I laugh. “Just getting these into the oven,” he says, “people always like a bit of grub. You should try some when it’s done. Well worth it.” “Sure,” I say. “What is it?” He laughs. “Mike’s raspberry cake.” “Sounds good.” “Sit down, I’ll be back in a sec. Just going to change.” I sit down at the wobbly table. Maybe Mike’s the one to cheer me up. * Five out of seven males is over fifty percent. And before that there were twelve out of thirteen; three of them women. The odds are high. Good, even. * While I wait for the cakes to do, I drink the vodka. I’ve mistimed everything. Before I know it the vodka’s gone. 36


“Why the long face?” asks Mike who suddenly looks dashing in jeans and tux. “You don’t want to know,” I mumble. “Oh but I do. I’ve always wanted to be an agony aunt. Besides, we can’t eat in silence,” he adds as he plonks his bulk on a chair beside me. * You’re not staying here if you come home in that state again. While you’re under this roof, you’re my responsibility. * Mike is handing me fistfuls of tissues. I try to blow my anger onto them. I stuff my face with the incredibly ugly looking but amazingly tasty pudding. Mine is on a pink plate; Mike’s on a blue. It’s a rainbow house, I think, looking at the tray and dish pile in the sink growing higher and higher. “Your mascara’s run down your face,” Mike says in a fatherly voice. I wonder where my five uncles, three great-aunts are now. The mascara weeps onto the gossamer tissue. I wiped it so roughly across my cheek that it tore. * On the count of five, four, three– * Two minutes pass. I sigh. * One. * Mike’s strong arms are around me, my head spinning and light. I am contained. There will be no breaking loose tonight.

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Miceál Kearney Found in the Guardian Newspaper Josef Stawinoga, a Polish octogenarian. Famous long before Facebook got in on the act. For 30 years he’s lived in the same spot, a tent beneath a weeping willow beside PC World on the A41 ring road. The Asian community of Wolver Hampton consider Joe a holy man for his renunciation of worldly goods. The council have offered him a flat. His pension hasn’t touched it. Visitors leave clothes, food and blankets. At Christmas, bloody hell, it plies up. He’s not much of a talker: to be honest, he’s not great company. Hasn’t had a bath in 27 years.

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Mike McHugh eagle- eyes? daylight dulls the light in my bedroom. and it burned so well against the night. i often try not to think too much. i often find i've done alright. i bless my brave companions. the ones i've known for the longest time. even if we meet for a second on the street we are secret heretics within a secret rhyme. tonight i'll fall asleep before sunset. i guess i'm catching up. i'll wake before dawn, try to put something decent on and watch the light rise above my coffee cup. there's an answer to everything. just find the correct form. then you can make fire freeze and briar branches leaves shield smooth skin from thorn. i walk to the broken down station to be with the rust and soot. there's a hole in my pocket. my keys once unlocked it. now my coins fall down onto my foot. 39


Mary Lavery Carrig SEPTEMBER OFFERING Stretched on the upper tier of an iron moulded bed I blink and greet new light moving thinly through threaded pleated curtains of pale floral blue where frayed edges do not dip to touch the sill. I hear you shuffle father by our brown gas stove. You crack a match. The sheepdog barks the signal. His master's bike is resting now against our rusting gate while this bunk room creeps with heaving smells of seeping oozing mushrooms frying softly on a buttered black pan. And so you'd gone to stroll engrossed in silken treasures half bent on dew tipped grass each stringed in tenderness pierced on a knotted reed to prepare one tasty offering for Paid O as he returns along his Gorta Dubha road with his warm milch cows on this September day. You step outside with two forks and a bowl of steaming mushrooms. I reach across the stillness and lean to witness an intent exchange between men grown old.

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Patrick Walsh War and Peace We needed as many bad men On our side as there was on theirs When war raged its bloodbath beauty. And our women surely-wisely Stockpiled chocolate among other things To trade against bombs in the rain. When ceasefire and the peace was called We gathered to throw the guns on the fire. We hid as many as we thought they'd hid. Afterwards we may have been confused, For their warriors were as mad as ours So we shut our doors on them all.

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Donal Mahoney Paddy Murphy's Wake The priest had been there earlier and the rosary was said and relatives and friends in single file were offering condolences. "Sorry for your troubles," one by one they said, bending over Maggie Murphy, the widow silent in her rocker, a foot or so from Paddy, resplendent in his casket, the two of them much closer now than they had ever been. A silent guest of honor, Paddy now had nothing more to say, waked in aspic, if you will, in front of his gothic fireplace. The moon was full this starless night and the hour was getting late and still the widow hadn't wept. Her eyes were swept Saharas and the mourners wanted tears. They had fields to plow come morning and they needed sleep, but the custom in County Kerry was that no one leaves a wake until the widow weeps. Fair Maggie could have married any man in Kerry, according to her mother, who almost every day reminded her of that. "Maggie," she would say, "you should have married Mickey. His limp was not that bad," but Maggie wouldn't listen. Instead, she married Paddy, "that pestilence out walking," as her mother often called him even on a Sunday but only after Mass. Maggie married Paddy the day he scored the only goal the year that Kerry took the trophy back from Galway. That goal was no small thing for Ireland, Paddy would remind us all in pubs, night after night, year after year, until one of us would gag and buy him another drink. That goal, he'd shout, was something historians in Ireland would one day note, even if they hadn't yet, and every time he'd mention it, which was almost daily, Maggie's mother would remind her daughter once again that she should have married Mickey and had a better life. The final time her mother praised poor Mickey, a screaming match ensued, so loud it woke the rooster the very day her mother, feverish in bed, gurgled like a frog and died. This evening, though, as the wake wore on, the mourners grew more weary waiting for the tears the widow hadn't shed. Restless in his folding chair, Mickey put his bottle down and rose to give the eulogy he had needed days to memorize. "Folks," he said, "if all of us would holler down to Paddy now, I'm sure he'd holler back. Despite the flames and all that smoke, he'd tell us all once more that Kerry winning over Galway is all that ever mattered. We'll always have cold Paddy over there to thank for that. Ireland never had a better man. St. Patrick himself, I know, would vouch for that." The Widow Murphy hadn't moved all evening, but after hearing Mickey speak, she began to rock with fury as she raised a purple fist, shook it to the heavens and then began to hum her favorite dirge. The mourners all joined in and hummed along until midnight struck on the mantel clock and then, as if released by God Himself, the

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mourners rose, one by one, from folding chairs and paraded out beneath the moon, freed by a hurricane of the Widow Murphy's tears.

Barry Finegan Bad poetry (a villanelle) If I should write bad poetry Or sing you a tuneless love song Would you still be in love with me? Would you tell your friends I'm simple and silly That I try so hard and still get it wrong If I should write bad poetry? If I paint you a picture of people like trees With unshapely shapes, too fat or too long Would you still be in love with me? If I bought you flowers and brought your tea Would it be enough to keep you tagging along If I should write bad poetry? What if I hum like a swarm of bees When the glory of spring fills my heart with song Would you still be in love with me? So tonight I go down on bended knee And ask even though the rhythm is wrong; 'If I should write bad poetry would you still be in love with me?'

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Helen Farrell Simcox. (Themed Haiku) Autumn wind whipped leaves seized with swan song passion dance wildly and fall

lush greens to russet leaves swept on compost heap food for spring blooms

scent of bonfires through leafless trees a harvest moon __ Memories

golden words no longer spoken father’s name on headstone.

sepia images straw hat and bicycle clips a distant summer

yellowing paper gathering dust on the shelf father’s spectacles 44


Mike Gallagher The English Papers (I.M.O The News of the World, recently demised)

On Achill the post came twice each weekTuesday brought Queenshead fivers, postmarked Ormskirk, Tamworth, Kilburnshort letters from villages of men transplanted en masse to alien trenches. Thursday brought brownpaper rolls, neatly wrapped; Anthony Jack flung them from his bike cursed their weight, their wickedness, their Englishness with equal ferocities. The Achill mother unfurled the Sunday Post, plucked The News of the World from the entrails of The Sunday Mail; and, with a magician’s sleight of hand, made it disappear. The others were absorbed, devoured by her children, tales of dazzling sights and city lights grooming them, too, for the emigrant fate of their fathers. The mother bided her time, waited for the covert hour, then savoured the News of the World, revelled in stories of bedroom romps, relief from absence and abstinence, far-fingered foreplay, forbidden by church and state, twin conspirators who saw fit to make slaves of their sons, sinners of their saints. (Previously published in Revival and in Coming to the Well for Water, an Anthology)

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Tatjana Debeljački TO FORGIVNESS This is not the puzzle, The tree of life, Model of perfection, Diary of chronicles, Sullen neighbour, Short shower of rain, Flower of oblivion, Slim willow tree. Wake up you Sleepy butterfly Startled by emergency, You coward! You left the elysian peacock to me, Like an arrow, straight into my heart. In the glass – half full of wine, The storm of silent words... Short break is your night, Rhymes are blossom. Sour, sweet, You the enchantment. To-uncaring Lost in the grey loneliness. Cognition intruder – rustling from the mind. Unclear thread, passionate, cruel, is awaken. The fruit is not conspiracy. The lunatic, genius of silence! Get closer to the unspoken. The analysis of reason- slavery! During walking, visible shame! Exciting autonomy, Opened door, the windows, Draft! In the mist the stairways Leading to heaven. Paralyzed conscience, Portable mirror. In the plural against the fluency, Conducting, behavior, And admit the guilt. The line connecting, The road to the spacecraft. We walk on by in dishonor. Bronze woman, Brass man!!!

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G.B. Ryan YOGA Standing on one foot while I pull a sock on the other foot – about as far as I care to go with yoga positions. A friend claims yoga has kept him limber and as he explains I think of the time his son entered the gym and saw someone with heel behind neck surrounded by the members of his group female and concerned saw that the person locked in position was his own father and decided that now was not the time to come to his aid.

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Margaret Sheehan Meeting I saw your smile In your sister’s smile today Heard your laugh In her laugh I’ve known her thirty years or more But had not noticed That smile or laugh before In the twinkle of her eye Was your light You were standing there Bright as day Almost as if You’d never been away I had to blink And click my mind Back into place For once again I saw your face I’m glad today we briefly met I would not like to forget.

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Laurie Corzett/libramoon Arise! Junk News. Junk Blues. Junk Food. Junk in every room. Got no reason to believe in you. Got no reason to toe your line. You got no vision but a cesspool. You got nothing, just a waste of my time. You got power? Maybe this hour. We just need to stand up. We just need to open our eyes. You ain't playing for no Stanley Cup. You ain't saying anything wise. You haven't got a clue of our lives Time to take back our time, find a new rhyme to sing. It ain't no little thing. Gotta kick out the junk and give ourselves the go. Gotta get together with those who truly know. It's all in our minds & hands & souls To remake the world To retake our world To forsake your silly political games And set ourselves free.

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Maeve O’Sullivan At Acre Lake It’s a summer afternoon on a ninety-year-old barge, in County Leitrim. Young Alice McCool straps on her set of practice pipes and plays a reel slowly as if it’s the most natural thing in the world which, for her, it is.

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colwin daniso Mouth is a thrush Of Swedish yodellers' ilk His vocal wings unclipped he Flaps and flaps and Soars or lowers in His azure domain. And so dear to the ear is The madrigal he tunefully chirps And so dreary to the ear is The dirge he sorrowfully cheeps When inklings in the head like A cauldron bubble and sputter When from the head Inklings coiled unfurl When in the head tiny Muse like a spark flares To a large luminous flame Of Apollo"s choicing

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Christine Allen Dancing in squares

The pawn’s first step let me know the game was on. Moves later, we’ve run short of pawns – those little teases of glances and stares and words neatly uttered here and there. The knights, yet to rescue the princess from her dungeons of past. She heard rumours – they were on their way, but the thud of hooves were all in her imagination. Disarmed, no castle left and all defences blown away, she wonders why the bishop has not yet blessed the union. Though she prays, he stands distant from what has now been christened a battle. The queen – with the presence of a hundred pawns knows her power to force a move from the king. No one else here now, it’s she and he and squares that decide their fate. It’s not a battle anymore but she approaches from the side with a triumphant ‘check mate’.

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Louis Mulcahy The Master In melancholia a grey unfeeling sun declines, soft shadows trace the land of memories as they fade. Drab, wettest May yet written. It started well. We talked the roads. Now he lies as silent as the sadly dying day. He who stretched the hours to years prepares to slip into the night; ship anchor, drift out towards a far off beckoning shore with cargo of such riches, precious gems of lifetime’s mining, that he is sure of welcome to match our aching loss.

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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. BRENDAN LONERGAN SECRET GARDEN If I could plant a flower just like you Constant attentive endearing and true I would'nt hestitate mull or dither It would be a red rose that would never wither Washed and cleansed by summer rains Glistening in the shining frost from winters pains That danced in spring's coolest breeze Never fell like the leaves from trees Standing proudly from stem to head Nurtured pampered loved well fed Like an oasis in a field of green Your beauty seen and unseen Striking elegant surreal sublime Both forever in your perennial prime Making honey from life's sadness and mistakes It's weeds stones spades and rakes Like viewing the richest land through the world's window still I have loved both flowers and I always will It's the vulnerabilty and frailty in you I suppose That I see in every single red rose

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Padraig Ă“'Gallchobhair This House No hugs, no kisses, no welcome home; On a cold and snowy Christmas Day. The fire is out. The house is cold. The snow blows through the broken doors. The windows that once let the sunshine in, their glass is broken all over the floor. The roof - it leaks. The walls are wet. The ceilings are falling down. The once white rug where the children played with their toys is now all slushed and brown. The old folks are gone and nobody cares, Their children have taken the stream. They'll never come home, they have homes of their own, with children and problems and dreams. The garden that once caught the neighbor's eye, with its rose trees and flowers and daisies, is now covered with weeds and all kinds of seeds, tis an eyesore now for those neighbors. The front lawn, once so well groomed, The lilac tree square in the middle, it spread its perfumes all round the yard, its branches dried up and fallen. If those four walls could talk of happy days long gone, they would tell you all their secrets, the secrets stored in the rafters strong, of happy days when children played, those days, now, forever gone. If I knew their secrets I'd weave them into this song, Oh, why did this happen to this beautiful house? A house that once was so full of fun - and why did they let it go - to wreck and ruin forever lost, This house that they once called their home.

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Rachel Sutcliffe Accident Scattered shards of glass Reach the road side grass These wretched remains A sole mark of the pain Of failed red light And a tragic night Where once witnessed bleeding Now a place for grieving

Night time Evening falls from the sky Daylight gives a weary sigh Darkness envelopes like a glove Stars sparkle silver up above Still all life does not sleep In the shadows movements creep A nocturnal world comes alive Creatures of the night time thrive

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THESE WE LIKE http://www.rimbaud.org.uk/main2.html dee Sunshine's Writers Resources Articles, links, tips, interviews.

http://writing.ie/guest-blogs/word-play/entry/guest-blogs/the-fiverules-of-writing-.html Caren Kennedy's article at Vanessa O'Loughlins great site. http://writing.ie/ A wonderful resource for writers, driven by the dynamic Vanessa O’Loughlin Spike Milligan once placed an advertisement reading: "Spike Milligan seeks rich, well-insured widow. Intention: murder." He got 48 replies. (ST) http://www.hungermtn.org/blood-bones-potatoes/ Look up Claire Guyton's blog if you fancy a good nosh. http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv3n2/tracks/tracks1.html Wonderful A brilliant Saturday evening at the Seanchai Centre, Listowel for the 100 Thousand Poets event. http://colouringshadows.blogspot.com/

Our own Christine Allen's invigourating blog. http://www.pw.org/about-us Poets & Writers magazine; hours of reading - and we are in there somewhere.

We give you our welcome, we welcome your genius. Front cover: 'looking out on the world' by Mike Gallagher

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Some of the poets who read at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event in Listowel on 24th September 2011 The event was organised by thefirstcut Thanks to those who took part, especially Minister for the Arts,Jimmy Deenihan.

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Profile for Mike Gallagher

thefirstcut #3  

A literary journal

thefirstcut #3  

A literary journal

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