Poems from the Book - A Narrow Escape

Quicklinks: Cancan His Grace of Cashel The Cocktail Party
  War A Narrow Escape Black African


A face
on a crowded street
from fifty years ago
or maybe more.

A student party
in a basement flat
one Saturday night
on Highfield Road.

When the booze ran out
she stood on a table
and, unexpurgated,
danced the cancan,

on Sunday morning
in Holy, Catholic
and Apostolic Ireland.

Her face
now lined
and heavily made-up
to cover what?

A lifetime
of hard knocks
relieved, perhaps,
from time to time

by standing
on life’s table,
and unexpurgated,
to dance life’s cancan?

Top of page 


In 1724 the wife of the Archbishop of Cashel
accidentally set fire to her husband.
In the diocese it was a moot point
that the event had been an accident.

However the facts of the matter are as follows:
‘Her Grace’ was a keen gardener,
and a lady who liked order,
especially when it came to her beloved garden.

She personally supervised all that went on,
from sowing and planting out,
to cropping and harvesting.
Nothing was beneath her notice.

In autumn a row of ancient beech trees,
skirting the walled garden,
littered the paths and beds
with a carpet of fallen leaves.

‘Her Archness’ detailed an under-gardener,
to keep the leaves at bay,
by raking them daily,
to make a pile to burn.

One evening in late October, after dinner,
the Archbishop having already withdrawn,
his wife, lamp in hand, rambled into the garden
to set fire to the mound of leaves.

The fire had just taken hold when,
by the light of the flames, she spotted a flash of purple,
and from under the heap
the Archbishop emerged with his cassock on fire.

Hot on his heels came
one of her ladyship’s ladies maids,
buttoning herself up
and damping out the singed ends of her skirts.

This was not the first time for His Grace.
On a previous occasion he had been discovered on the roof
with a parlour maid who jumped into a water tank
and died a week later of pneumonia.

Suffering from only minor burns, and duly contrite,
His Grace went to confession to himself,
and dismissed the indiscretion as not worthy of penance
in the context of the parlous state of the Nation.

Top of page 


There were thirty-four agendas there,
and I knew twenty-two.
Of the others, ten were also sex,
and so were the other two.

Top of page 


‘Tell Misty I love her,’
the soldier said on the day
they entered Baghdad,
in reply to the CBS reporter
who asked if he had a message
for the folks back home.

The same day they toppled
the statue of Saddam
and dragged it
through the streets,
a little boy beating the head
with a shoe.

The reporter moved on;
another message for the folks back home.
Victory assured,
the invasion moved on;
shock and awe
had worked its charm.

Four years later,
thousands dead,
not over yet,
neither rebels
nor High Command
know anything of Misty.

Top of page 


An elderly woodpecker
on an old tin can
tapped out a tune
and devised a plan:

‘I’ll find an agent
and record the tune
and retire from pecking
not a day too soon.’

He played the tune
again and again
‘till he knew the rhythm
and the verse refrain.

As he flew away
he passed a tree
that was covered with bugs
and to himself said he:

‘I’ll have these fellas,
And I won’t be long,’
but while he was feasting
he forgot the song.

Top of page 


Black African,
he picks up and drops
his passengers
on city streets
and affluent suburbs.

Was it for this
the Rising, the War of Independence
the lean and hungry early years,
emigration, growing up, sorting out,
the Celtic tiger
and all that’s been achieved?

Was it for this?
Yes it was,
For nobody owns the earth.

Top of page