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    Where the Three Rivers Meet
    The Sperrin Mountains
    Dander over the peat clad slopes
    find the ancient past alive
    in the bones of the Sperrins.
    Pigeon top; a silent view.
    Absorb the secrets of the mass rock
    were faceless priests prayed in whispers.
    Beagmore stone circles retell the
    hardships of bronze age man
    strong, creative, protective of family clan.
    The Ogam stone of Greencastle uniquely
    signed by the early communicators
    of this green landscape.
    Take a dander over the Sperrins.
    Sense the myths hidden in bedrock
    hear the echoes of the past re-claimed.
    Barnes Gap, Sperrins Region
    Carved centuries ago
    by the powerful elements
    of wind and ice slicing
    through the countryside.
    Glazed now by a carpet of moss
    and haunted by the hills of
    Mullaghbane and Mullaghbolig
    seem untouched by modern man;
    apart from the odd sheep
    that wandered under the fence
    leaving clots of wool waving
    frantically.
    Tense atmosphere only solidifies
    the cheek of my intrusion.
    Sun plays hide n’ seek
    behind rocks and crevices
    cooling schists once again.
    Aghascrebah Ogham Stone, Ireland
    I feel its supernatural pull
    working its way up from the earth
    and out to the universe.
    Laid by pre-historic man and
    un-earthed by modern farmer
    searching for rich soil.
    Silver almost as the November sky.
    Aiming towards the heavens
    like a beacon over the boundaries.
    Waiting perhaps in this empty field
    surrounded by hedges and bracken;
    for a gathering of a kind to recall
    the deep rooted origins of its
    sweat bearing creators. Their
    words forever notched in stone.
    Into this November air
    a supernatural force
    draws me to it like a magnet.
    Curtain Up
    The morning climbs above the house.
    I admire the beauty of the lifting mist.
    The bleached horizons above the rooftops;
    steam floating of the dewy tiles
    like smoke signals.
    Winding roads too small for map
    marking; cut paths through the county.
    The crows and blackbirds
    line up on the fence
    making the most of the drying puddles
    and refilled nut bags; meant for
    wrens and robins!
    The air blanched of spring with
    the odd housefly busying about.
    Much too early I think.
    ‘As long as the morning light
    combs across your face,
    as long as the curtains open anew;
    there draws the breath of theatre’.
    Waiting at the Station
    The October frost drapes
    the buildings in a cape
    of Christmas lights.
    Sparse maples asleep.
    Yesterday’s newspapers
    gather in circles at the corner,
    catching every now and then
    on the steel bench
    glazed in the breeze.
    A road sweeper
    wrapped in thought
    nods to himself.
    Morning noises appear.
    Milk floats, post vans,
    buses stopping and starting.
    The odd greeting from
    one driver to the other
    tired of the drill.
    I think of your transformation
    from country girl to
    college girl.
    How letting go was worth it,
    seeing how beautiful you’ve grown.
    Fire of the Gaels
    She is every woman
    who struggles for survival
    in a world of prisons
    of one form or another.
    Her stories, etched on the
    landscapes of the universe.
    She is the mouth
    of the Blackwater,
    the secrets of the Alder,
    the writing on the caves
    and the shedder of light.
    She is the blueprints
    of the past,
    the wishes of the unborn,
    the spirit of the crops
    and the heat of the sun
    bursting on buds.
    She’s the midges on the lough,
    the guardian of the wells,
    the bones of the earth
    and the ties that bind
    by spirit and blood.
    She’s the songs sung so often
    renewed on the lips of the young.
    Her tongue fiery can cut like an axe
    or sooth like a lullaby.
    She is goddess of the people,
    the fire on the hills.
    She’s the shadow on the stones
    glinting on river beds.
    The breath of a new morning,
    and a beacon in the night.
    She is every woman.
    She is Aine,
    fire of the gaels.
    Beurla *
    In the confines of my mind
    I converse in my native tongue;
    recall early school lessons,
    is mise, slan agat go foil, gradh.
    They fade like my childhood,
    warmed on knees by open fires.
    Songs of Wexford and Vinegar Hill
    fused with Tyrone’s bardic thrill.
    Secondary school brought the troubles,
    beurla, the fading of the Irish tongue
    lost in the distance of war and
    forbidden to utter out of the home.
    My words travel through me
    like the oak saturated in bogs
    awaiting the re-newel of better times.
    Acknowledged, embraced and refined.
    * Beurla is Irish for the English language.
    Bundoran, County Donegal
    Embracing the salt curtain of the green Atlantic
    sway to and fro towards me;
    waves rest on the algae rocks rounded to a
    smooth knob. Belts of seaweed find resting places
    in pools of water clear as amber.
    I hear the children’s screams from the ghost train
    shuttling in the distance, but the Atlantic calls
    me back towards it again. Stained by history,
    there’s something about this ocean that calls
    to me, healing my winter worn trunk.
    Perhaps it’s there, deep in the blue where I’ll find
    solace. Where old wrecks filled with tales
    from when time began, uniting stories of inland
    folk finding gods in the wilderness of boglands
    and meeting goddesses of the deep.
    Banba
    Tara, Ireland’s spiritual home,
    cries out to ancient hearts,
    save her from the greed of fools
    who’ll rip her soul apart.
    In myths we recall our living past,
    woven as carpet on the landscape.
    In stones, trees and bog;
    in birds, horse and dog.
    The stitches of the wisdom keepers
    relay story, song and poem,
    secure in the bright knowledge
    that their words will have a home.
    Oh sacred bile, Oh graveyard Yew,
    the Hawthorn and the Oak;
    the Hazel, Alder and the Rowan,
    the Willow and the faery folk.
    Pay homage to the spirits of Tara,
    the ones who went before
    the Warriors, Bards and Kings,
    the Queens and many more.
    Losing My Religion
    It wasn’t easy growing up
    around the fortress
    of a garrison town.
    When the troubles
    were our second coats,
    fear our constant companion.
    The instinctual things
    a teenager had to know
    by heart, by soul.
    What side of the street
    was yours to tread?
    Cover up the school
    uniform in the town,
    or it sealed your fate
    like a patriotic tattoo,
    or a flag always flying;
    when certain colours
    out of safety zones meant
    a potential beating.
    Knowing to keep your
    head down when the
    landrovers followed you home.
    Divided by a war we didn’t
    fully understand.
    When escape meant the border
    singing Irish songs of freedom,
    horslips and Celtic rock
    without the watchful eye of
    bigots.
    Now the shroud of war is lifted,
    I can envelope myself in the beauty
    of my own country without fear or
    regret.
    Either Side of the Headlines
    You waltzed on orange lino
    between hearth and couch,
    lilting like a spring sparrow;
    securing a strong arm on Ma’s back,
    not once out of step.
    News headlines guaranteed silence.
    Your face etched in thick lines
    enhanced by concentration.
    Ma presents corn beef and tomatoes,
    which you eat noisily without teeth.
    Coal spits from the unguarded fire, sending
    smoke signals from the half-circle rug.
    My daydreams, fractured by cutlery,
    moving on the empty plates.
    Haiku
    Omagh from above —
    a butterfly in full bloom,
    spreading her wings.
    Scars on the hillsides —
    gorse no longer wave
    careless youth.
    Spiders’ patterns
    on conifers
    wearing a fine shawl.
    Cracks in the pavement,
    ants pulling
    a fly.
    Daughter Dear
    Must you count every calorie?
    Every ounce of fat in the shopping bag?
    She’s disgusted at the amount of them
    in one lousy biscuit.
    We argue the toss about the taste
    of full milk and creamy butter,
    and ‘How in the hell do ye eat fried bacon?’.
    I know she has a point; yet
    I play it down just in case this
    takes over her life and she eats
    nothing at all, she at that age
    when everyone in the magazines are whisper thin,
    and without blemish.
    Whisperings
    Our ancient bloodlines
    are calling to us;
    interrogating us
    with wisps of insight.
    They are turning
    in their boggy graves,
    surfaced over time.
    They rise out from
    small lakes hidden
    on the land.
    Through dreams at
    night, and ponderings
    of the daylight.
    Among glen and forests,
    and from branches of the
    thorn and elder.
    From the angler’s rod
    cast on rivers. On salmon
    longing for the open seas.
    In tales, myths and poetry
    their marks will not fade
    like snapshots in the sun.
    Our lands are piled
    high and low, deep and wide
    with blue prints of a time when
    spoken signals were the headlines.
    Our ancestors are turning
    in their graves.
    Luna
    Losing shadows that follow
    from these troubled acres
    is hard going at times.
    When it’s those same shadows
    you seek to understand
    what it all came down to.
    Three in the morning brings relief;
    nature is more calmer and cools
    to a creaking lullaby.
    Some birds sleep sound.
    The urban ones
    blether through the night.
    The moon solemnly gives orders
    to orchestrate the night crawlers
    on missions. She casts shadows
    in dimly lit corners of the globe.
    She’ll never be the sun,
    blitzing the crops, warming
    the shadows.
    But she’ll always be the catalyst,
    calling you back to the past.
    Loneliness
    Loneliness has a bite,
    not a nibble,
    but a razor sharp bite.
    Morning flounces openly
    showing off its tie-dyed light.
    The hills beyond my window,
    glazed by the mist
    blown in off the Atlantic,
    fusing Donegal, Sligo and Tyrone
    in a painters paradise of shade.
    The starlings argue for space
    on the corrugated garage roof.
    Unnerved by the chatter on the floor-court,
    they’ve made a tiny field on the roof,
    green as the hills.
    Loneliness has a bite, razor sharp,
    and I need it like the views I see.
    It calls me back to nature,
    makes me more aware of the innocence
    and beauty of the forgotten.
    Mise Eire
    Talk to me of bogs,
    of blankets on the land.
    Talk to me of myths
    you have at your command.
    Tell me of Cu Chulainn,
    the hero hound of Ulster,
    the battles of the Tain Bo
    and the warriors of Munster,
    the progress of the firbolgs.
    The De danaans on the hill
    remind me of our legends
    of folklore through the quill.
    Talk to me of forests,
    of flora and fauna there.
    Talk to me of mountains
    in Tyrone and in Kildare.
    Tell me now of the future
    of equality in the land.
    Speak to me of serenity,
    so the tribes can understand.
    Oak Lake, County Tyrone
    It’s easy to imagine
    these scooped out hollows
    were once filled with ice;
    melting as the did stamping
    kettle holes on the landscape.
    The lake waltzes to and fro
    like a child mesmerized
    by magical stories voiced
    by an old teller of tales.
    Its edges flanked with an audience of
    purple moss, pink cranberry flower
    and the burnt orange of summer gorse,
    all paying homage by showiness.
    A clump of rushes moves slightly.
    I think of childhood tales of
    the watershee luring one off
    to the silver world of faeries.
    The light of the day now slipping
    ever so peacefully behind the
    peaks of the Sperrins. I shall go now
    and take its essence with me,
    to sooth my night quests ahead.
    Morning Has Broken
    The early morning frost leaks
    through the old frames.
    Frozen webs leave intricate patterns
    that should be framed for prosperity.
    Shadows flank the hills as mist
    gathers like midges on Lough Muck.
    Cows huddle for heat at the hedge,
    leaving billowing clouds of breath.
    Below, the newly built Texaco garage
    begins the alien noises of the day.
    Car doors slam, hydraulic breaks scream,
    and school kids fill up with energy.
    Then like an open wound, the horizon
    splits the grey morning, bringing with it
    a baked setting full of challenges and hope
    for coming hours.
    Mirror Image
    I see him stroll along Bridge St.
    in his chef’s outfit,
    with his I-Pod firmly
    placed in his ears;
    hair growing out of one style,
    curls at the collar.
    He’s got his grandpa’s dimple
    pressed urgently on his chin;
    touched by the angels I’m told.
    The spitting image of the grandpa;
    the way he nods hello,
    head slightly lowered,
    eyes raised in a half-shy way;
    a moon crest grin.
    His arms swallow me
    in an umbilical comfort.
    Strong now, his surly grip
    releases worries that I carry.
    Morning Stroll
    Petrol spills from engines
    glisten like magic rainbows
    in the wind cursed mid-day.
    Red robins leave watery drips
    on jeans and T-shirts
    flapping on clothes lines,
    dotted at the gardens of Okane.
    I’m annoyed still at the
    new great Northern road,
    carved seven miles into
    the Tyrone countryside.
    Still, there’s snickets and
    fences to master before
    I’m on the old road again.
    Traffic now slows for the
    odd tractor and a pair of
    fast walkers with earphones.
    A crafty sheep dog darts
    along the hedges, ushering
    rebel sheep. A whistle in
    the wind brings them into
    line again.
    My shawl catches on the overgrown
    Brambles. I laugh as if somehow
    they do it for badness.
    Crows squabble high in roosts.
    Leaves shower the road and me.
    The heat has brought out midges.
    They hover at the burn that creeps
    along the bank, making
    its way to the lough.
    Night Falls Soon
    The powder pink evening
    combs the sky of summer,
    like a comet trailing.
    My eyes dance the last waltz
    of daylight hours.
    A fiery thrush bobs its tail,
    singing out its last chorus
    whilst gathering up the young,
    dallying below in town.
    Trees in eyeshot
    fan the horizon in gestures
    of a soft wave, calling the
    night creatures, return to
    the hedges and stone walls.
    For the sun has retreated,
    and the mistress of the moon
    has beckoned her night creatures
    on missions over field and stream.
    The wail of the sleek tomcat
    serenades the urban air, drifting
    out to rural pathways — on the prowl.
    Old Societies
    Rain takes on a silver sheen
    thundering past the window,
    encouraging the worm to rise.
    Already the blackbird furrows
    with his yellow beak, knowing
    what lies beneath.
    I think of pre-historic societies
    leaving their stamp on the land in
    stone circles, megalithic tombs,
    standing stones and raths.
    I imagine they were signposts
    pointing the safest way ahead
    to the nearest village; gathering
    points, perhaps. Their own
    creations dotted about
    the landscape.
    I feel a
    certain kinship with them — those
    who came before.
    The worm: I wonder what its
    aura holds? What has it come upon
    whilst pushing clay,
    slipping into worlds unseen?
    I wish the rain to cease,
    the blackbird to scarper
    and the worm to live another day.
    Oldcroghan Man *
    This island is a living carpet,
    worn by clans of cousins who
    weaved into the land
    a pattern not for the
    the untrained eye.
    Oldcroghan man,
    baked in this oven of peat,
    symbolizes our spent lineage
    of boundaries and fields.
    Beheaded and tortured,
    he stood tall as a pine tree.
    Who was this nameless lad?
    A high king, killed in ritual,
    or killed in a jealous rage?
    Was it a warning to other youths
    who may yearn for the new,
    denouncing the old?
    I wear a leather twang like his,
    woven with love on May Day.
    The hands of Croghan man
    hold no labourers welts,
    but groomed nails; ideally cleaned.
    He joins others that came before:
    Meeybradden Woman and Gallagh man.
    They come to remind us to read the bog
    chapter by chapter; learn from ghosts of the past.
    * Oldcroghan man is the latest body to be unearthed after 2000 years in the bog. Found in Co. Offley Ireland.
    Endings
    The teens have called time on life
    before it’s even begun.
    Slavery of a sort hangs in the air.
    They starve themselves
    in a time of fruition;
    convince themselves that
    they’re too ugly to go out.
    Trapped by their own demons,
    visual demons that scrape
    at their youthful bodies,
    drilling, thin, thin, thin,
    from the magazines on news stands;
    from the plasma screen
    in their bedrooms.
    They don’t believe in flaws,
    the odd spot, scar, ruddy skin,
    eye slightly bigger than the other.
    They have bought into perfection;
    captive also to drugs that alter their minds.
    For some, there’s no way back.
    They’ve called time on life,
    before it’s even begun.
    Lough Derg St. Patrick’s Purgatory, 1979
    Tricha and I were punks
    in the war years.
    To rid us of defiance
    our Mas’ sent us
    off to Lough Derg.
    The basilica rose out of
    the morning mist like a vision
    out of a Hammer horror movie.
    The boat ride fearsome,
    as the oldies prayed with the bishop.
    This was it three days fasting,
    no sleep and no shoes allowed.
    We followed the elders,
    kneeling, praying and walking.
    The all-night vigil blasted us like
    a raging argument.
    Rain fell hard off the Pettico Hills,
    wind from the Atlantic.
    Stopping at cells with names
    of early missioners: St Brigit, Brendan,
    Columba, Patrick, Davog
    and Molaise.
    For three days food was black tea and dry toast.
    We touched the resources of spirit within.
    We thought of home, of
    ‘My perfect cousin’and ‘anarchy’.
    We were heroes then,
    amid the barricades.
    Black 47
    Often in times of deep meditation,
    walking through the Tyrone hills,
    I’ll stand at a fence and ease my eyes
    out over the Sperrin mountain range.
    The fields so lush and full of fertility,
    the hum of agricultural goings-on.
    The views take me by surprise.
    I think of the “starvation” that swallowed
    my ancestors — an image that stings the air still.
    Spirits roam these hills covered in mass graves,
    or deep in lanes were they fell, starved of food;
    food that was packed in ships bound for England,
    to feed the chosen few,
    whilst the poor, here, ordered to eat only potatoes,
    died of structured starvation.
    I can’t imagine what it’s like to go hungry,
    to be tortured by the power of it,
    to watch your child fade and die,
    to see a race almost wiped out; a race who
    tilled that same fertile land.
    Who is culpable? What of the mass exodus?
    Was there trickery involved? Greedy landowners
    offering ships bound for new lands
    where land, food and pay was promised.
    Thousands died on the rough seas.
    Others settled, always loving their spiritual home.
    Who will acknowledge this crime
    against the Irish nation, a nation whose scars
    are plain to see even to the present day?
    Healing will begin only when we look
    into the past, were shadows linger and questions
    hang in the air. Dark Rosaleen still awaits an apology.
    Remembering
    When old ladies in
    sheepskin jackets and
    headscarves walk by,
    I think of you.
    The secrets of motherhood
    drift into the air,
    in wisps of violets and
    wild roses.
    On the bells, too,
    of the sacred heart chapel,
    ringing out the angelus,
    in the click of rosaries
    in lofty chapels, in
    the call of the corncrake
    from distant hills,
    and from the headlines
    in newspapers
    that drift along dusty streets
    of sleepy inland villages.
    Your headscarf knotted tight
    under the chin brings a
    narrowness to your face,
    framing the Viking nose and
    Vinegar Hill pride.
    The wisdom of motherhood
    dwells deep inside of me
    like a well I can dip into,
    when sorely needed.
    St Colmcille
    I think of this monk
    born on our barren lands.
    A time when blanket bogs
    covered most of its surfaces,
    and the sea the only way out.
    How his mother was visited by an angel
    saying he would spread faith
    and an understanding of Christianity
    throughout Ireland and beyond.
    Colmcille understood both tribes.
    Pagans he knew well, Christianity
    he was learning.
    A foot in both worlds.
    I think of Jesus wandering in the desert,
    battling demons in the baking sun.
    Colmcille’s desert: a horizon met with
    deserted bog lands and mountainous hills
    from Derry to Tyrone.
    Mother
    I seek you in the lakes of Tyrone,
    the lesser known ones whose beauty
    remains unblemished by progress.
    In the curling streams at war
    with the elements, and whose
    very existence is threatened by
    housing developments.
    I look for you as summer coughs up
    its last songs of the season.
    I seek your words in her breath,
    in the secrets of motherhood
    asleep in the elderly, yearning
    recall once again.
    I seek it, too, in the faces of youth,
    in the songs they sing from
    the concrete forests they live in.
    I also seek it in me,
    when dark clouds
    gather up a storm.
    That Age
    I think I’ve reached it:
    this middle ground in life.
    Crows feet emerge without
    negotiation; bunches of
    greying hair hover like
    mist on the October hedge.
    My offspring have fled the
    roost, making their own now.
    Wasn’t easy being Ma and Da.
    I think of the failed mixed
    marriage, the 80’s being a
    time of change —
    fusing bodhran and lambeg
    was no easy task.
    I’m beginning to resemble
    my mother. Her frown and
    pondering nature, her hand on
    hip, stares out to the horizon …
    my father’s need for the headlines …
    I stand still in a changing field,
    like the Ogam stones of Tyrone,
    grey and pointing skyward.
    There are many tracks before me,
    all leading down some road.
    Morning pains subside in
    the summer heat, like the
    creaking wood of the stairs.
    I think I’ve reached it:
    endured the dark nights of the soul.
    What now?
    Thoughts on the Wing
    It’s 4.30 in the morning.
    Wild birds sleep none
    nowadays. Their talk
    in the moonless night
    takes my thoughts,
    as dawns sheet appears
    among the diamond sky.
    They float over brook
    and riverbed,
    under ancient bridges
    amid fools gold that’s
    smoothed by salmon and
    rainbow trout.
    The May bush lifts them again,
    further afield to Lock Erne,
    Devenish Island, Killybegs
    where the fishermen gather
    to read the ocean;
    to the sifting sands
    of Rossnowlagh Strand
    were winter dwells, awaiting
    spring’s coat;
    returning home refreshed,
    just as dawn bursts her seams.
    Torn
    Between love and hormonal shoals of friends.
    Estranged from birth flock
    without the pack seem lost.
    A fawn dislodged from mother,
    struggling to locate semi-safe ground.
    Her heart warmed by another’s fiery arrow.
    Confused, yet amused by gestures and similarities
    of thoughts.
    The angst inside I assure will subside,
    when no longer can she play tug-of-war
    in the playing fields of youth.
    A warm smile displays, like a cabinet,
    newfound pearls of wisdom:
    that one day she’ll walk without the safety net.
    Sure of balance
    Sure of love.
    The Fiddler
    He cosies it under the chin,
    or thereabout,
    like a favourite scarf
    from college days.
    The music already forming in
    his mind’s eye.
    He’s played this air a thousand times,
    yet each time it surges from
    a different notion.
    The horsehair bow
    gallops a few times in practice
    for the main event.
    The listeners, young and old,
    heed the waltz with arms
    outstretched.
    He rests on the waltz.
    ‘Give me your hand’
    The dancers glide in perfect
    sway to the fiddler’s tune.
    Like a shaman he leads them
    to another time when music
    filled the night air under stars.
    His ears are on alert, watching
    for one wrong beat.
    The dancers care not,
    they are lost in the music of the fiddler.
    Annaghmakerrig 2002 *
    The big house greets with an air of mystery,
    petitioning to the gods a poem or song
    to touch all our yesterdays.
    The lake pretends to scowl at night and
    wraps the waiting horizon in thought.
    The ruthless breeze is laden with insight.
    Songs find their way through the air.
    The hearth inherits the fallen spruce,
    whilst artists gather their cares.
    Spoken signals gather like crochet,
    fermenting works that ooze out in dreams,
    and filter into daylight masterpieces.
    * Annaghmakerrig is a house in Co. Monahan, left in the will of theatre director Tyrone Guthrie for artists of all
    disciplines to “create” away from the interferences of the world.
    My Sort of Day
    This is the sort of day
    that memories weave a carpet
    in shades of fallen leaves
    or in tones of winter’s coat.
    The sort of day
    when love greets
    with a pregnant smile
    below the baked horizon.
    The sort of day
    the Tyrone hills emerge
    through the mist like gods
    awaiting the day’s offerings.
    The sort of day
    cobwebs freeze lunar patterns
    on hawthorn bushes
    like maps to the silver world.
    This is the sort of day
    wars should end,
    haters make amends
    and disease should be no more.
    The Sin Eater
    Together we sat on the confessional bench,
    listening to the click of heels on mosaic tiles
    awaiting the queue to die.
    A lady who lived in God’s house
    watched us girls with her salmon eye
    and every move we made.
    Whispered penances showered the chapel.
    Orderly shuffling from oldies denoted
    our turn now; our sins would be eaten.
    The gridded partition creaked like old knuckles.
    I almost forgot: ‘Bless me father’, as my
    knees located a softer spot on the floor.
    Beads sang in a distracting manner.
    Father Brown’s pressing vowels asked after my sins.
    My soul now white, I returned to the bench.
    Starlings at Dawn
    They flounce into my morning,
    just as dawn crawls over the roof, and
    squawk to locate their newly found songs;
    eager to appease mother who shimmies
    to and fro with mother’s pride.
    The corner of my roof carries noises.
    Claws scrape pleadingly on wood,
    discontented squabbles from one who lost the worm.
    Mother squeezes her narrow body through a corner crevice;
    her silhouetted wings accurately glide into place.
    It quietens for a spell, until its time for a coaxed flight.
    Then it’s my turn to rouse the household sound asleep in the far room,
    away from the bird songs.
    Dear Sir
    Dear Sir,
    please excuse my son’s absence.
    He slept in.
    We slept in.
    The night before he studied into the small hours
    the mechanics of skateboarding,
    counting new bruises and fading others.
    How he can “ollie” sets of steps without broken marrow.
    It releases his anger,
    how the words of Curt Cobain relate to his 180-degree kick-flip,
    and the thrill of a half pipe,
    that being 16 messes with his head and
    no one understands.
    And how is it fair his girlfriend lives ten miles away,
    and he’s no car?
    Why work at the weekend tires him,
    and grunge pulls him through.
    So Sir, may I call you sir?
    I hope you understand my son’s absence this time.
    Wet July ‘07
    The late evening sky
    clamps its joyless cloud
    upon the market town.
    Cattle in the field beyond
    trudge towards the gate
    looking depressed.
    Without the TV forecast
    I read the patterned clouds.
    Plain and purl columns
    knit their way towards me.
    Smoke signals, from the Victorian
    houses on Gallows Hill.
    That’s all it takes
    to ignite the fires here.
    I await the storm, prepared.
    Stones
    I can’t pass a stream,
    river or seashore today
    without seeking them.
    The smoothed shapes,
    worn by the waves
    or carried by the escape
    of mountain springs, flowing
    toward brooks and burns,
    drawing upon them a golden glow.
    They take pride of place
    on my window sills,
    on doilies made of lace.
    Others might collect pottery
    or bone china,
    I have an indoor rockery.
    Omagh: Seat of Chiefs
    Housing secrets down the ages
    in its under-belly, and
    in the layers of rock
    and street names:
    Castle Street, Gallows Hill,
    Goal Square, Canon Hill.
    Well below, the street’s scant
    passages lead to the heavy courthouse whose
    presence dominates the town.
    Voices of the past muted through its
    thick granite outpouring.
    The essence of its history also embedded
    in the gravely basins where the three rivers meet:
    the Drumragh, Camowen and the Strule.
    Rivers that unite in finding their way to the
    Atlantic — to cast their sins upon the waves.
    Tree House at Sloughen Glen
    On our way to Sloughen Glen, deep in the hills of Drumquin,
    we hardly notice the climb; yet feel it in our fume-filled lungs.
    Out of the side of a hill, amid brambles and giant ferns,
    a shell of a house appears with postcard views out over
    the Tyrone countryside.
    The gift of life still grows from its un-thatched roof: a gift
    in the form of a blackthorn tree. It grows with pride
    up through the rooms holding, I’m sure, stories in its trunk.
    Memories of a time when its hearth was lit and life flourished.
    I think of the family who may have lived there:
    children playing in the yard, a few livestock, life.
    I listen to the quiet sounds of spring, and remember that
    the regeneration of small towns has crept nearer and nearer
    to the beauty spots. One day this may well be gone.
    Perhaps great grandchildren will return one day,
    seeking their ancestral home. They may;
    and find life grows there still.
    Where Man Fails
    I see the beauty in the clear winter moon,
    spraying its steel haze over the old town.
    Where man fails,
    nature does its best; instilling life among
    the rubble and ruins of houses and parks.
    Where man fails,
    the elements rage at the world with warnings
    and threats of disasters.
    Where man fails,
    again, I see these familiar blanket bogs;
    and find hope in the solitude of them.
    A Prayer to the Integrity of Words
    Bless the verbs and nouns that
    carry rivers of verse in their hour of need.
    Bless their totality of wisdom,
    greeting morality with novels amassed.
    Usage, bringing tribal flouncing and
    indecent drifting.
    Without the integrity of words
    our clans may never meet or greet,
    for many ensembles would slither unheard.
    52
    A Cheated Spouse
    I study your eyes;
    they waltz slowly,
    exposing the pain
    and sorrow of a
    cheated spouse.
    With the stubbornness of youth
    you refuse a tear,
    like a star dulled with the
    desertedness of distance;
    memories of love, then,
    when hearts leaped in unison.
    The tribal greeting of dewy lips,
    the sting of the lovers’ tiff.
    It’s the eyes that dance death,
    lost in socket and bone;
    the cheated spouse now alone.
    I look into your eyes;
    with no surprise you refuse
    animation of memory with rage —
    as I think I would.
    Native Speakers
    I envy your tongue,
    how the silvery words evoke
    the layered past of home.
    Snippets recalled from early
    youth slip out in dreams
    during the day-light hours;
    in particles of conversations
    on radio Telefis Eireann,
    wheezing from Da’s old wireless
    that needed time to heat
    for clearer contact.
    I can’t translate without
    a book to help me,
    yet I don’t want to.
    The words
    of your poems
    speak for themselves.
    About the Author
    Aine MacAodha was born Ann Keys, in the North of Ireland in 1963. Her sense of place
    growing up amid the war in the north, and the beauty surrounding it, inspires her writing.
    This is her first collection of poems spanning ten years. The title of Where the Three Rivers
    Meet refers to the three rivers in Omagh that meet in the town’s centre: The Strule, Drumragh
    and the Camowen. She also draws much of her inspiration from The Sperrin Mountains, in
    her native Tyrone.
    Her work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies throughout Ireland (most
    recently in A New Ulster ), the USA and the UK. She is a founder member of the Omagh Writers
    Group, The Busheaneys and The Derry Playhouse Writers, and is also a member of Haiku
    Ireland.