“Shopping Centre” – a poem from September 2007

Came across this rather randomly lately, will leave it as is, with its hilariously unsubtle allusions to this and that intact, as  a memorial of pre-bust Ireland:

Shopping Centre.

Time outside time is still time.

Clean floors shine. Clean escalators, eternal
As they disappear and reappear, shine. Screens
Shine. Shops shine. Glass and air shine. As in a casino, no
Sign of time here.

Try and avoid anything as obvious as disdain. Try and accept
This shining universe as all that is the case.
These clean floors, these clean escalators, eternally
Dis- and Re-appearing, this timeless void, this void
Filled with sales and selling, shining.

Time outside time is still time.
The shopping centre is on still time.
Amidst the repetition of escalators, elevators, shoppers, sales
You achieve a kind of eternity.

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This Be The Best

In 2013 I entered this in one of the Spectator’s poetry competitions, if memory serves a version of a well-known poem endeavouring to convey the precisely opposite message. With apologies to Philip Larkin:

They raised you well, your mum and dad,

You might not think so, but they did.

They made the most of what they had

And tried their utmost for their kid.

They were well brought up in their turn

By dedicated caregiver, teacher, and so on.

I am glad the soldiers were made return,

So our children could afford this glorious dawn.

Man hands on incremental progress to man

All rising, clear shore to sunny beach.

Reproduce as quickly as you can

And always enthusiastically teach.

Are Daffodils a native Irish flower?

The thought occurred to me randomly, and wasn’t sorted out by a few seconds of Ecosia searching (but it’s not Google) – only this article by Dick Warner from 2011:

I know that the hundreds of varieties of cultivated daffodil have been bred from Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the European wild daffodil. What I wasn’t sure about was the status of the wild daffodil in Ireland.

So I went on the internet — spent quite a lot of time on it — and ended up baffled and confused. One reputable site informed me that wild daffodils were a rather rare and declining species in Britain but were not native to northern Scotland or Ireland.

Another, equally reputable, claimed that they were native to Ireland, though rather rare, and there was even a mention of a woodland site where they grow in Co Kilkenny.

So what’s the story?

Perhaps they are not native here but have been introduced at some time in the past to brighten up estate woodlands in spring.

Or perhaps the daffodils that grow ‘wild’ along river banks and in some woodlands are actually cultivated varieties that have naturalised and reverted to a simpler form. Or perhaps, and this happens quite often, someone was reading a British textbook and came across the word ‘native’ and assumed it applied to Ireland. If any botanists out there know the correct answer I’d love to hear it.

I would love to too. Incidentally I cannot endorse Warner’s view that Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” is “awful.” Overfamiliar perhaps, like the Mona Lisa, but not awful.

Poem: Magheragallon

Poem: Magheragallon

A while back I posted a link to Non-Binary Review’s call for submissions for pieces inspired directly by Dante’s Inferno. Unfortunately (or not) my own efforts in this line were rejected. So I will inflict one on my readers here. Perhaps I should have anticipated this rejection given that I have to explain that Magheragallon is a graveyard in Gaoith Dobhair, Donegal :

Magheragallon
E ‘l duca lui: “Caron, non ti crucciare:
vuolsi così colà dove si puote
ciò che si vuole, e più non dimandare.
Inferno, Canto III.
Dúirt mo threoraí: “A Charóin, ná bí ina thinneas.
Toilíodh an cúrsa so san áit ar féidir
Gach a dtoilítear, ‘s ná déan t’fhiafraí a thuilleadh.”
Ifreann, Dán III (translation Padraig de Brun)

Here we are, on the rocky edge of the edge of Europa,
Far from where what is willed is done and
Far from where the inevitable and necessary
Forge together; far from where the living
And the dead never meet, where the boundaries are
Never crossed, where the ferryman holds a hard border.

We are far from there. Here is a place of stone
And sea, of island and mountain.
A battered place, tattered rocks mark memory,
Memory that lies in ruins.

Across the waters there are islands that defy the census-taker;
Who knows if they are inhabited or not? Sometimes they are deserted,
Sometimes they ring with another language, not that of
This poem. The teanga echoes each fainter and fainter.
And still it echoes. Sometimes that echo is a roar.

Ruined, overgrown, overthrown,
Far from where what is willed is done,
An edgeland of sharp stones,
Of marram grass grazed bare, of sand-dune mazes.
Here ruins still shape a form,
The overgrowth is marked by the old shape,
Things seeming fallen are only resting.

Again, I step away, making a distance,
From where, in this world, what is willed is done.
I turn my back on our Babel of one tongue.
Faced with death, I speak with Virgil:
Toilíodh an cúrsa so san áit ar féidir
Gach a dtoilítear, ‘s ná déan t’fhiafraí a thuilleadh.

Do you delight?

You act in the system.

You act against the system.

You assert your rights.

Do you delight?

You dissect a power structure.

You reproduce a power structure.

You do not completely lack insight.

Do you delight?

You are fierce. You disrupt.

You do not compromise

As victory is in sight.

Do you delight?

Fury seeps out at will,

Like crushing the gills

Of a toadstool and milk flows, it pervades

All. All is pervaded. Light is occluded.

Do you delight?

“Swallows”, George Szirtes

George Szirtes is a poet who writes both children’s and grown-up verse. His book “How To Be A Tiger” neatly shows how ostensibly children’s verse can be as valuable as adult-orientated work

One highlight: “Swallows”:

Hustling on the wing

all billow and swoop

Laughing as they go

Pouring from the sky

In one vast troupe

They fly tails forked

Suddenly uncorked.

For Jakow Trachtenberg

For Jakow Trachtenberg

The embers of bitterness did not burn in you.

The machinery of mathematics did not cease in you.

The days of hell did not rob you of all light.

The nights of death did not steal from you all life.

The mind, multiplied, multiplies. All around the world, little children, little people, images of those who were extinguished in the camps, amaze their elders, delight their parents, admonish our laziness. Wonder-children, minds like mercury, calculating with quicksilver.

Someone in the paper writes in a clear and debunking tone

Of our sentimental illusions and fond fears. The mind has

Nothing to fear from technology, he writes, citing the evidence;

The pocket calculator did not destroy arithmetical thinking

But enlivened it. Thus saith the evidence. I, though, think of Trachtenberg in the camp

Retreating into a palace of calculation, I think of his children, on stages, in schools,

All around the world, I think of it all and I think of what we have lost.