poems from northern-ireland

Untitled Sonnet

What are we looking for all these years
It can't be far from us through seasons change
Light's sensuous quality and our perceptions
Altered irrevocably. Like autumn sunlight
It's colder glance reminds us that there's
More to life than summers of indolent repose
What we have we cannot help but lose
None of it can go on forever

But behind Winter there's always Spring
You can't go on in silence imagining
The pure idea of silence. Look out 
Your window. The trees are waving in
Unison because the dead are returning
To us, reborn, in new, perfect forms

Mairtin Crawford (Published by Belfast Fortnight Magazine February 2004

White by Mairtín Crawford

The idea of glass upon glass, unseeable
and silence repeated, unbelievable.

An infinite apperance of nothing
so much as guitars, amps, good drumming.

An impossible Egg from Ballymena
a southpaw from Ardoyne.

The imprint of a tiny
dinosaur's foot
on the front of an astronaut's boot.

Two Lies by David James

Love is enough! This lie is grained in stone
Above a grave and like the grave is lost
Of meaning, like that imagined by those
Who gather round cold clay and withered bone
And think sweet and godly thoughts of their own
Dear ones and fool themselves that God has caused
That lifeless pit to be a place for joys
Of lost loves and loves that might have been.

And as I read these words I thought as well
Of that other lie, that would make excuse
Above the last remains of those who fell
"Pro Patria!" but not with God or sweetness,
But with bitterness of green mustard
Gas - and the knowledge that they were for naught.

poetic landmarks  by Iain Campbell Webb
He dreams in red and green,
from signal box to signal box
lines speak to lines.
In-between the up and down trains
he remembers the touch of her touch
the such and the nonesuch.
A station away an engine sits
fondling cold metal
a special kind of attachment,
purring like a big cat
after eating the miles.

In bedrooms every evening
Lovers shedding skin and rolling stock,
animated locomotives that slip off the track
give birth to tender tenders.
Horizontal rails run parallel
Learning curves of spheres and hemispheres,
carriages that pass in the night
all those brief encounters
on the plattforms of infinity.
He changes stations
seeking love like light,
like the diesels hungry for diesel.
Hearing the song of steel against steel
he recalls the touch of train on train
the gentle rain on rain,
let sleeping sleepers, sleep.

c) Iain Campbell Webb - Newtownabbey 1999
Performed at the Belfast Poetry Festival
Crescent Arts Centre 1999
Anthology of Belfast Poetry

Arriving at the cusp
The wasteland wakes
A vernal equinox erupts
Like children
Playing in the luminescence,
With cherry pink smiles.

In every street miracles occur,
Revelations of leaf and flower
Through this veil of tears
One name shines
Below his feet sap green shadows
Weave holy tapestries.

Under time photomontage
Life stories slowly develop
The divine comedy continues
Captured by angels with dirty faces

St Valentine's Equation
Passion fell down, passion fell down
On Valentine Street
Living the love of life
A tottering crown
He counted the sum
Quixotic equations,
Under the kisses, under the kisses
Of the vampires,
Such apparent but delightful distress
The womanifest needs a manifest
Calculate an arithmetic of pleasantness

We all fall down; we all fall down,
Those who jump
Those who are given a shove
That expected clumsiness
Wigs and red noses, and painted faces,
So many clowns
Bunches of poisoned purposes, supposes,
Atiooh of lies, atiooth of truths,
Believing in blood red roses.
A certain hubris
That rather exposes
The frequent heartache
Applying the cynical cream,
For goodness sake

Like paper petals,
We all fall; we all fall down
Despite being made of semi-precious metals

Lady Luna
The dark cat walked on darkness
Was heard but not seen
A journey was made
To share a celestial gift
She was shadow casts
Wearing her little black number
An amorous star came so close
Wanting to kiss and tell.

The umbras short life
Revealed so much more
The seven sisters forever taking tea
A storm in a galaxy cup
Catches the milky luminosity
Stained the coffee black sky

She wandered across the night's abstraction
An atmosphere dust paints her face
With power and rouge
She leaves her dark admirer
After an hour of abandonment
The touch of star shine
Revives the long orbiting marriage
With a full embrace
Such prodigious beauty
Leaving four werewolves
Howling at the moon.

Kevin McGimpsey
For Mairtín

In a land locked submarine they laid her out
to displace dark waters and sink on you
When Kingfishers ablaze buzzed the towpath
sounding our depths around her grave

One hundred segmented legs in tumult
scampering across a tarmacked desert
You, crouching thrilled by the furrowed tyre
to absorb this midget view of Brobdingnag

Shreds of strawberry in splintered ice
tequila song fire, second bottle of Chablis
We were Byron and Shelley in a storm
overlooking the philistine, drum beaten host

My house was yours, yet your feet never came
fixed on bar room tiles worn to your tread
And there you still jig your sure-footed slide
to the Belfast Maenad awhirl in her spin

Gentle friend, I mourn the brother of my heart
reading his poem under a parasol of leaves
Fragile words in vigorous, passionate hue
that ended too soon, in the full torrent of life

Á Mhairtín mo chara, a dhearthairín,
ní bheidh bua ag an bhás.

Into the dark
Tony Curtis
i.m. Michael Hartnett
It was a Wednesday
the thirteenth of October
a blue winter morning.
I walked the lanes
over the hill of Howth,
had breakfast by the sea,
wrote letters, bits of poems.
All this before the house
came tumbling in:

not by curse or magic
venom or lie
wizard or warlock
storm or blaze
but by pure dark –
Paula rang to say
“Michael was dead.”

For years I’d watched him
sacrifice his old-age to poems.
I know they’ll tell me
he’ll live on in them,
that when I open his books
birds will flutter from the pages,
otters scurry from the riverbank,
prayers open like leaves,
old voices fill the air –
his cigarette smoke will curl
round me like a lonely ghost.

But tonight I feel it is not true,
for I can go nowhere to meet him,
the streets are all heartbreak.
His eyes and his voice are gone;
the voice that nailed
his poems in the air.

Watch for him tonight, O Lord,
you’ll know him by his light.

When Sometimes All I Can Imagine Are Hands  by Tony Curtis
There is a winter within me,
a place so cold, so covered in snow,
I rarely go there. But sometimes,
when all I can imagine are hands,
when trees in the forest
look like they’re made of wood,
then I know it’s time
to take your photograph
and sling it in a bag with socks and scarves.
My neighbours must think it strange
to see me strapping on my snowshoes,
to hear me roar at the huskies
as I untangle the harness.
But when all you can imagine are hands
it’s best to give a little wave
and move out into the whiteness.

On 2/4/04 @ Between The Lines it was dedicated to Mairtín Crawford

Wrong End of the Telescope  by Naomi Foyle

Little details always gave you pleasure.
Snails on the cliffs at Whitehead,
crawling up.
Catchy phrases:
Easy peasy lemon squeezy
Okey doke.
Toto. “She’s a Pomeranian, you know.”
Bok choi in the fridge.
That Muldoon poem about trees
you read to me three times
perched on the edge of the bed.

Small things also enraged you.
Perceived slights.
Accidental brushes with indignity.
Dog shit
in the wrong place
before the Ulster-Scots debate.

I learned not to laugh.

If you had tunnel vision
it was a mountain shaft on fire.

Cyber-Flirt by Naomi Foyle

Across the years, you cast your net of words
trawled me in, your applet, your bot.
We chattered like an endless flock of birds
aloft on currents of desire
caught in flight, white hot.

Now I search for messages you left:
to vampires and rock climbers, hugs and kisses …
and I somehow feel a pixel less bereft
knowing you downloaded psychedelic truffles
from secure-connection savvy druidesses.

Leaving Belfast

Naomi Foyle
After reading that Muldoon poem
Wind and Tree
to a festival hall full of people who loved you
carrying your notebooks, old school essays
NASA research
strapped to my body
like a lifejacket
or a bomb
carrying the trust of your mother
wrapped up in my promise
to decipher your handwriting
gather your poems together
I find myself weeping
from one eye
in the airport lounge
on the plane
and on the train.
All the next day
back in Brighton
my left eye overflows
with clear water
tears oozing one by one
like snails down my cheek.
Did you get caught in a draught?
my landlady asks.
Yes, the door
between winter and spring
was open a crack.
A cold, sharp wind
drove me back up the Lisburn Road
to pick up my luggage
and call for the taxi
to take me away
from the people you loved
the place where you lived.
Naomi Foyle
(final poem composed after Between The Lines 2004)
the Between the Lines Festival April 2004

special thanks to Deidre Molloy