The County of Exiles

The County of Exiles.

The county of exiles and beauty,
of ocean, mountain and bog,
where the magic has seeped into the people,
who are as wild and as tough as the land,
the West restful and sleeping,
dreaming of days once so grand.

Home to heroes like Davitt, Gráinne Mhaol and dear John MacBride,
drapped in the green of the hillsides,
with the red of their passion and pride,
carried all over the world as they travel,
borne away on the currents and tides.

We are bound to the townland and parish,
to the farms, sean-teachs and boreens,
to the homes of our childhood long gone,
we carry them now in our memories forever golden and bright,
with our families, old friends and old lives.

For we walk no more on the slopes of bold Nephin,
never again to climb up the steep sides of the Reek,
or pause at the mass rock by Lough Aifreann,
where the old faith the hounded people did keep,
we have adventured the last time across Derryhick.

The arms of the West always welcomes,
the traveller needing shelter or rest,
she knows the pain of the emigrant heartbroken for the land of their birth,
we have sent our children out by the thousands,
we will gather yours in just the same.

When the scourge said to hell or to Connaught,
did he ever know how wrong he had been,
there’s freedom in the plain of the yew trees,
where our roots are sunk into the sea,
in the county of exiles and beauty forever held in my dreams.


The above image is the work of the talented Aisling Jennings from Co.Mayo, Ireland.

You may find her work here

or visit

Coaxing the Fire


Coaxing the Fire.

The poker methodically at its task,
guided by the sure and steady hand,
rosy glow of the embers coaxed back to flame,
nursed from deathbed to resurrection,
throwing warmth out over worn tiles and a grey mottled cat.

The door of the stove is open,
maw glaring molten and red,
cheap bread transfixed on the long fork,
Lyons tea keeping warm on the top,
don’t get that black soot on the edges,
be careful the toast not to drop.

Connaught Gold Creamery butter,
spread thickly with the green handled knife,
scrape off burnt bits into the coal scuttle,
cradled on the chipped porcelain plate,
quickly eat up your supper,
’tis bedtime at quarter past eight.

Smoke curling up from the Caroll,
baggy cardigan drawn over her shape,
that silhouette seen in the window,
the warmth of the welcome within,
half the day coaxing the fire,
missed for the rest of our life.

Burning Bibs

Burning Bibs.

That moment went fascination and opportunity collide,
The wonderment of innocence and a terrible price extracted on a child,
Copy cat,
flickering flames,
melted plastic and pain.

Mother, sister,
baby boy and burning bibs,
Leaving marks to be carried for life,
Permanent testament to inquisitive toddlers,
And unimaginable hurt inside and out.

Taking your eyes off them for a second,
Taking skin off to repair it,
Years in sterile wards and impersonal theatre’s,
And decades of love and care.

A man of three chins and eloquence,
A father with strength,
hope and unfathomable grief,
Parents and partners, husband and wife,
Rock and the water, together for life.




In the shadow of the Holy Mountain,
Joyous days of my youth,
Chasing impossible wolves of the sea,

On beach rocks washed by the mighty Atlantic.
Happy days tasting of salt & sunshine,

A battered rod & reel,

Brimming confidence and empty shopping bags,
Tinfoil wrapped ham sandwiches & effervescent cola,

The incoming tide pushing the intrepid Anglers back up the beach,
Until the heels of second hand shoes are pushed into saw grass dunes.

Picking seashells while holding out hope for a buried Volkswagen.

Ice cream cones dripping on hot badly laid tarmac where the west runs out and the horizon is broken by the last island.

Sweet Beginnings


Sweet Beginnings

In Guatemala babies taste honey first to start their sweet beginning,

In Aleppo dust and ash was babies first taste of war as ceiling crumbled overhead,

In Cork a mother gently weeps with joy as she cradles long awaited baby boy,

In Swansea ferry port a lady racked with sobs as another pad soaks through,

In San Paulo Grandmother hugs infant girl close as paramedic treats daughters overdose.

In Boston a family bereft as twin hugs twin, yet little Hawk lay still on tiny bed,

No matter if born in honey times or born in dread times or unable to be born at all, that love is not lost.

Each precious thing should have such sweet beginnings and should rest safe in love

The Girls

Little fingers curl gently around mine,
Long hair tumbles across mothers pillow,
Warmth pours off a tiny body wrapped soft,
Cheeks are red beneath a sweaty head.

If only you remained so small,
I love you so much my heart aches when I look at you,
Will I ever be good enough to deserve you in my life,
I am blessed by you and filled with light.

I love the words about tiny grubby hand prints,
I wish yours would last forever,
I know you’ll help us teach your sister how to make her own,
May you never change, monkey socks.

The other monster hasn’t budged this whole time,
She is deep asleep, happy and content,
Your hugs for her as she lay sleeping in my arms made my heart crack,
She will be so strong with the power of your love.

I raise you up later and put you in your own,
You cling tightly to me and stay asleep,
A tear fell when I tucked covers in around you,
I am so thankful to be your dad.

My Father

My Father.

I walked on roads and boreen’s,
And listened in fascination to both word and song,
The wisdom of my father and the hymns of the birds.

We stopped to marvel at each flower,
Counting petals and deciphering leaves,
The beauty of Nature and the complexity of life.

I miss my Father and I am his son,
The tears well up in me when I dwell on him.
The complexity of my Father and the wisdom of age.

In every hedge and beneath every tree,
I remember sharing life and knowledge.
The hymns of the birds ring loudly around companionship.

I miss my Father and I am his son,
The tears well up in me when I dwell on him.
Birdsong, Flowers and Bees.

I never said Goodbye as a son should have.
I never thanked him for his love.
I never forgave him for his faults.
I never cried by his coffin.
I never learnt more from him.

I walk the roads and boreen’s,
And I say sorry and whisper I loved you.
The birds, flowers and bees hear and I trust they take the truth home to him.