Coaxing the Fire

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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.

Béal na mBláth

Commander_Michael_Collins

Béal na mBláth

I often wonder how that young Private felt,
when he saw the blood flow from Collins,
to mingle with the dirt in Beal na mBláth,
struck down by a ricochet,
the echoes still reverberating,
ringing through the decades.

At 19 a killer,
hands stained with English and Irish blood,
armoured in the green of Éire,
sworn by oath to the free state,
the pathway to our republic,
Risen rebel soldier,
with hand grenade & Lewis gun,
bayonet & faith.

To watch Micheal dead,
the dark stains spreading out trickling to the ditch,
like civil war cancer which spread from shore to shore,
Did it fall silent?
Did the peal of rifles cease?
Did they lament & weep?
At another mothers son snuffed out amongst the ancient hills of Cork.

What genius did we lose in the moment,
as that cursed round tore his head off at the side,
what cursed luck has Ireland,
that traitors oft chose to stab her in the back,
they felled the most loyal one on the roadside,
The Big Fella lay dead in the mouth of flowers.

Note:
My Grand-Uncle William Barry was the driver of the armoured car providing security for the detail in Beal na mBláth.
Sliabh na mBan, referred to as ‘Slievenamon’ in its earlier, anglicised form, is one of thirteen 1920 pattern Armoured Rolls Royce cars acquired from the British by the fledgeling Irish Free State.
All the males in my paternal line have worn the uniform of the state, for over 100 years a Barry has served beneath the tri-colour with Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Sleep

Rest in the soft & welcome folds of blanket.
In weariness slip beneath the sheet.
Fall deeply into eiderdown to slumber.
Sleep my dear Sleep

Let go the troubles & the stress of daylight.
Cast off the robes & cast them at your feet.
Lose the chatter & the tweet.
Sleep my dear Sleep

And in the dream chasing starlight.
Speed from Earth to Mars & back.
Swim in the rainbow coloured moon beams.
Sleep my dear Sleep

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.

Mum

Mum.

She carried such pain for so long,
How did she remain so strong?
I am weak and shallow by her measure,
How did she bear such pain?

I loved my mum,
She carried me for so long,
How did she manage to make do?
I am greedy and wanton by her measure,
How did she keep all things together?

I loved my mum,
She had her little treasures,
How did she cope when she lost them?
I am destructive and careless by her measure,
How did she forgive each broken tumble?

I loved my mum,
She had such pride in her children,
How did she cope with their defection?
I was worthy by her measure,
How did she forgive abandonment?

I loved my mum,
And I miss her.

Skellig

Skellig.

You say I never write for you,
you say it with sad eyes.
so I have tried to write for you,
to help you stop awhile and smile.

I have sat about the rocky ledge and marveled at the sight,
of winged lovers far below, journeying,
o’re ocean roar and rocky might.
I reached the top and summited,
and my first thought was this.

That just like the Puffins far below,
you might find this bliss,
nestled in rare sheltered spot,
I saw a bright brave bloom,
and felt I should help it home,
to help you ease your gloom.

You are my heart,
my thoughts,
my love,
and I will not leave you behind.

Note:
This is one of my oldest poems which I have remaining in my possession.
I am delighted to say that it was also one of the first poems which was kindly selected for publication by Elizabeth McKenzie, Editor of Tintéan.
Tintéan is the online magazine of the Australian Irish Heritage Network based in Melbourne, Victoria.
You may find them here to read at:  https://tintean.org.au/2017/06/06/poetry-14/