Category Archives: poetry

Leave off the Light

A little poem as we note the start of spring here.

The bats indeed did come out that night and now, a week later, there are lizards and frogs about, as well as cranes coming back north and storks reclaiming their nests.

 

Leave Off the Light

Leave off the lights

At least until the light leaves;

Let us feel it while it lasts,

Catch sight of birds flying to roosts, crying

As it dies, and perhaps bats will wheel past.

Let night descend inside, too, before

Filling our night with brightness,

Let the life outside touch our lives a little,

For at last there is light as twilight arrives.

First Birdsong

This is a little embarrassing to post.

As a wildlife enthusiast, I should not admit to not taking my kids out into the wild often enough that my son has heard his first birdsong only after he’s been walking for three months…

But life is hectic with a one-year-old and a five-year-old doing dance and swimming lessons in winter, and even though Pamplona is a small city with wildlife all around (including BEAVERS in the river not 200 yards from my house as the crow flies) it’s damn hard to get out of the brick and concrete on a daily basis.

We do go to village on the weekend, where there’s plenty of birdlife (kites and bee-eaters etc…) , but the evening birdsong is not something I’ve experienced with the kids recently.

 

First Birdsong

 

I consider myself privileged

To see hills at a distance from

My window over the garden,

Graced by more than mere sparrows;

 

But my son has just heard birdsong

Today, for the first time, I had time to

Take him to city’s edge and embrace the

Twilit twittering of tits and thrushes

Scolding one another in the gloaming,

And experience, absent the ubiquitous din,

A blackbird’s sonorous cry to spring,

And say, “listen, hear the birdies sing.”

 

 

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth; at least This Part.

 

Sun rises over the mountains Christmas morn,

Shreds lingering mist strings off the oak slopes.

Starlings sing across vale from barn and shed,

Sparrows flit back and forth on tree and hedge.

Windmills steady, cows still not lowing, nor

Dinging. Dew dries, roof drips, while kite

Shifts on bough, readying to take to clear skies.

Robin skips in goodwill, trilling to a lone soul

Soaking silence embracing peace on Earth;

This piece, yet in the absence of men.

 

 

Wrote this on Christmas morning, sitting in that sun – it’s a remarkably relaxed time in Amatriain, where mass was the day before, and, dinner was very late, and  lunch has usually been taken care of already (and doesn’t consist of turkey).

Hope everyone has had a nice holiday season and that we will have some peace in 2017.

I’m about to start edits of Silver Nights Part 2, Leading the Pack…. almost as excited as a kid at Christmas!

The College Election

It’s an important day in the US, and for all of us, given the way the world is heating up.

I know it’s a bad idea to dis the President if you want to get into the country, but for the secret service dudes reading this, please understand, this is an exception…

So here’s hoping it’s a happy holiday for us all, and we can see some people who went to see the musical Hamilton paid attention, and we can stop thinking about how bad things are going to be in the New Year, but instead have some hope.   Here’s a couple of poems to mark the occasion.

The Clown Fools Us All

Remember when we thought this guy was a joke?

And now it seems so serious; yet still,

Even at this late stage, he could

Be red flagging us:

Showing us he’s seriously taking the piss,

Waiting for us to see it for what it is,

And pull the plug.

Mixed Blessings?

Remember when we used to say:

“Jays, we were blest with the weather today,”

As if we’d got lucky, and we didn’t worry,

Nor wonder what was coming?

Poems from the past

2016 has been a fuckin’ doozie. Apart from the usual shite happening in politics and war and another 12 months of carbon added to the atmosphere, we’ve had a long list of inspirational people pop their clogs so far this year. All that’s left to make a fucking mess out of it is for David Attenborough to kick the bucket – hang in there Dave!

But I’ve had an interesting year at home. 12 months ago my son was born and he’s a lively character. We just celebrated his birthday (he was a bit surprised at the sudden bouts of singing, but loved the toys) and it made me think of a couple of poems I wrote then that after a year might be al right to reveal to the world.  It’s a strange time, waiting, wondering if despite the ultrasounds etc, things might not turn out exactly as we hope.

Still no photos of the sprog himself, so he can’t get angry with me when he’s older.

 

Outside the Maternity Hospital, Three AM

 

Me and my equivalent of a cigarette

The silent night air, empty of all but the watcher

Waiting, wondering of all that is to come

Compared to what went before, and

Content for that moment in between.

 

 

Emotion on the Birth of my New Boy

 

The work is done – wasn’t done by me;

I was but a watcher of the night, but

It wasn’t easy from where I was standing.

And the last worry lingered as the time went by

Until eventually he emerged, and a tear slid

Similarly out to see his face amid the mess,

So similar to my sibling, so obviously okay.

 

 

Real life keeping me from writing.

Haven’t posted in a while because real life is keeping me from any sort of writing.

I am back to work – the day-job stuff. Since I haven’t been flooded with movie option offers, or thousands in royalties, I’ve still got this nine-to-five teaching stuff to do.

And getting time to write fiction is very complicated; it’s hard to get some intellectual space to enter any imaginary realms.

This year I have increased my hours in the school so that I don’t have to do the evening classes I have been doing. This doesn’t give me more time to write. In fact, it gives me less.

I used to have a chance to get a few hundred words done in the spare hours between classes. Instead, the new schedule gives me time to do the things people do with their kids – collect them from school, go to the park, take them to swimming and dance class. Then there’s going home to have baths and prepare dinner. The six hours between 3pm and 9 go by faster than the six between 9am and 3pm!

conkers.jpg

Collecting conkers in the park…

It hasn’t helped that my daughter broke her arm two weeks ago, and so can’t cycle her own bike, among many other inconveniences and incapacities. That means I spend more time commuting back and forth, to collect push chairs and catch buses.

I have had a chance to read a few pages of novels while the kids play or take the bus, but I haven’t written anything other than a shopping list in the last two weeks. I am one of the last letter writers left, and I love to write and receive them, but I just sent a birthday card to my sister and I didn’t include a handwritten latter – for the first time in the sixteen years I’ve been away from home.

Not only have I not had a chance to write letters, but I can’t keep up with my emails. I usually read or delete the mails in my inbox within a day or two. Sometimes I leave one or two pending – longer mails or links to articles. At the moment I have four hundred to get through. Many of them with links to longer texts. I open my mail each morning hoping that I can delete as many as possible without even opening them. Much of these would be interesting if I had time, but my priorities don’t include reading mails.

I have also been busy living life. I’ve been out collecting mushrooms in the beech forests north of Pamplona. I am not much into mushrooms myself, but any excuse to get into the woods is good, even at dawn. And foraging is my second favourite food collection method after hunting!

mushroom pickin.jpg

Pickin’ mushrooms with the lads.

I’ve been collecting veggies and making tomato sauces for jarring, roasting and preserving peppers, and I have prepared my patxaran, a local liqueur like sloe gin but with anis.  These are all excellent ways to spent time, both in terms of healthy eating and zero-kilometre food, and in the simple manual labour tasks that are communal and relaxing.

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not a big fan of this myself, but friends and family love them, and it’s foraging – second only to hunting in my favourite food collection methods!

tomato sauce.jpg

My tomato sauce stash, made from fruits picked off the village veggie plot. Should keep me for the year.

And while such activities don’t remove the urge, and need, to write, they are therapeutic in their own way – better than colouring books, in my humble opinion, in reducing stress. Which reminds me of a poem I wrote back in August, when I had time to think. Apologies to my friends who are fans of adult colouring books!

Colouring Books for Adults

I know someone who bought a book

To colour in, in her spare time.

It’s the new trend in stress relief,

She says; takes her mind off thinking,

Relaxes in its repetitive actions,

Easy, simpleminded tasks that pass

The time of a dark evening

Much more calming than movies

Or reality TV.

I think it’s akin to knitting;

If you didn’t have a niece who needed a scarf,

Or whittling sticks; since who wants to hoover

Up the shavings off their sitting room floor?

Or darning socks that are too darned thin to bother nowadays,

Or jarring jam, or bottling sloe gin, or

Washing up; which filled in time, once upon a time,

As we talked between dinner and sleep.

Misgivings

Lavender.jpg

 

An Absence in Abundance

 

Lavender lays sideways under the weight of wind and blossom

But the bees clinging to the swaying stalks are few and far between.

An exuberance of blooms festoon the garden; from geraniums to clover,

But the butterflies are almost all white. Where is the abundance?

The humming profusion we should see before us?

The insects are ever scarcer on the farm – apart from houseflies –

And sparrows are ousting the house martins.

Those looking closely can see the cracks and give voice

To our misgivings that something’s got to give.

Spring Dusk, a poem

Spring Dusk

 

The last song of the thrush before nightfall,

The final swings through the sky before swifts eventually settle:

The ensuing silence – if you can find it – as dusk sinks in

And pink clouds vanish into black.

 

These call out, loud as swift screams

To all who have ears:

Open the windows, shut off everything else,

 

Watch the darkness descend and catch the bats first flight;

You are alive now, but might not last the night.

 

 

churchdusk

My time-sensitive project

Sometimes you see a book come out exactly at the right time.

That’s luck, perhaps, or good planning. But then, there can be a slew of books on the same subject that are all on the mark, in fashion, ready to make that hay while the sun shines, and strike the iron while it’s hot.

I’ve never been one to jump on the bandwagon. The wagon usually goes too fast for me and I end up on my arse in the dust, or worse; the mud.

Many thought it was time to write an erotic novel after Shades of Grey went viral. I didn’t, but I wrote some anyway. They haven’t lit up any lists yet.

When my first werewolf novel came out, I was asked if I wrote it in teh wake of the Twilight trilogy. I wrote it twenty years before.

At the moment I’m writing a novel concerning the illegal wildfires in Ireland during the last two Aprils and the current government’s willingness to change the law so the farmers can do what they like when it comes to the environment. So it would be best to get the novel out as soon as possible to be current. However, it’s taking longer than I thought (it always does).

At the same time, it should not matter so much because I hope that in twenty years time the novel will still have its impact, like a novel set during the AIDS crisis of the late eighties still impacts us now just as much.

The novel is on hold this summer because I’ve got another time-sensitive project on my hands – one that can’t be put off, like putting up firewood can’t be ignored if one wants to live through the winter.

Time will pass, and though I will have other chances in the future to continue this project (and will have to) it’s at a critical stage right now and I have to take advantage of the time I have right now to apply to it – something that’s a luxury which thousands of others might envy me of.

The project is a little human. A mini-me, as it were; my six-month old son.

 

Boy Books Booze.jpg

Books, Booze and a little Boy – Be warned: the three don’t necessarily mix very well…

 

I’ve got him – and his older sister; at her own critical stage of development – for the summer. He’s a time-intensive creature. He will be crawling soon and I’ve already accepted the fact that he’ll do his best to wreck my house.

But it is time well invested. I’m sure he’s a quick study – already clapping hands and holding out his dodie to me, then laughing as he takes it back.

Mainly, though, the means, the brainpower to think of other projects is being sucked away. He barely gives me time to clean the house while he sleeps and prepare his purees and fruit.

Many other parents know what I’m experiencing – it’s probably light compared to some nightmares, but for a writer, at least this one, it’s easy to start projects in spare moments but hard to tie a story all together without long stretches of quiet concentration.

So I’ll not bother. I’ll have a rest – as far as that goes – a holiday. I’ll go back to my books – the long list of novel spines staring at me from my bookshelves – and relax my brain. And I’ll read aloud, to let my son listen to the rhythm of one of his native tongues.

 

 

Lines written in Pamplona

In the thick of the festival of San Fermines now.

san Fermin

A couple of dangerous and incident-filled bull runs the last two days. Reminds us that this is not a joke, and it reminded many of us of the way the bull runs used to be – before anti-slip coatings and better street surfaces.

I’ve been busy with kids and having meals with friends on our street, and have only gotten to see the fire works once, the bull runs on the telly, and haven’t been near the bull ring yet.  It reminds me of a poem I wrote during my first San Fermin festival – exactly 20 years ago (my mother-in-law was astounded when I told her we met that long ago!).

Lines Written in Pamplona

 

I have held my red bandana aloft,

Tied it round my neck

And worn it proudly:

Opened champagne at noon;

Held a candle at midnight.

Sung and danced and drank and walked and watched

And smiled in between.

But to experience San Fermin;

You need to have no need for sleep,

A body unaffected by alcohol,

The pulling power of James Bond,

The stamina and sperm count of a bull;

A bottomless stomach, to hold all there is to taste,

The ability to float above the crowds, so dense;

And omnipresence.

 

16/7/96

Yes, that was in the days when you could take a bottle into the packed Plaza Consistorial – and I was a young man!

Now I spend the afternoons doing thinks like bringing my kids up on the big wheel and having a picnic as the heat of the day dies down.

Big wheel

And another poem, before my first ever San Fermin lunch, of which my son just shared his first ever this year – he’s 7 months.

Lines Written in a Spanish Home

 

A stranger sitting at a Spanish table,

Eating things he never thought of

In ways he never knew,

Listening to the lunchtime

Talk of the household,

In another language he does not know;

But understanding something of the banter,

Wishing he could speak;

Thinking;

If, he could

Live like this.

 

5/7/96