Happiness feels like undressing
On the whims of a colleague`s smile
Jumping into an indoor pool
Because you shared a moment of why not?
Emerging in the glare of a strobe light
For it`s a junior disco here
And they are perched on an inflatable swan
Synchronised you swim off together to topple them off
To give them a chance to play fight and make memories
The same kind that will have you standing here year after year
Reaching out to touch a past which is so achingly close
It`s just in fact the present
When a Turkish student suddenly
Bobs to the top of the lime green water
His unnecessary goggles utterly askew
His hello uninhibited
His smile for you
Happiness, it feels like that.

Nicolas Revisited.

I shall forever remember us here
The couch is still as red as my lips were
When you confessed you wished to kiss them
I notice that parts of it are threadbare
Like my dress was when our playful avoidance turned passionate
It`s still as hot as it was when
We lay close and spoke about our families
-All the students had left-
The house was hollow enough for my heartbeat
To fill the place up with what noise there had been there before
I went to the place where we first kissed
Three floors up from where we started.

A Teacher Takes a Morning Run, Switzerland.

There are days when I wish
To be alone and not to walk alongside anyone and simply
Follow my own thoughts down a path
Or through some vineyards
Over a mountain pass to a plateau
Observe below me the place and the profession from which I have escaped momentarily
And no longer yearn to return to
The day can keep itself to itself
But obligations snap at my heels like dogs
And I return always because of their bark
I’ve never yet needed to be bitten.

A Pause of Some Sorts.

A mother`s love is a form of extreme embarrassment.

From a detached point of view consider
The mother whose snappy blue car pumps out
Profanities to the sound of music
-She would never accept this at home-
But her son says it explains him and so
The dashboard is covered with records and tapes
The mother cannot hear the neighbours and
When the zeitgeist changes and something else
Defines her son
It is too loudly playing for her to hear the laughter.
The mother who pockets money and complaints from her husband
But deals out only the former
To her son who is enjoying the current fashion trends
He`s always liked wearing chinos
She will insist to anyone
-The neighbours still sniggering-
A month ago she knew not what they were.

Can we call them foolish?
These mothers who live in the spectre of their sons`
Ever-changing indulgences
Who choose to stand (or are blinded to the choice)
In the firing line of others who know
That their hobbies are the ghosts already gone
From their children`s minds.
Who are you and what do you live for
Is so often answered easily by providing a name
It is simple and yet behind it
Being a mother seems to be the act of
Accepting your own loss
There the truth of unconditional love.

Sunbathing on the patio
A rocking chair stops
And I realise: I am not capable of that.

A DART Driver’s First Winter.

A train pulls into Raheny
During the slippy season
That’s the season when the tracks are so
Slick with Irish frost that anything you expose
The strange thing is that the doors remain closed
Though the train has stopped and should-be passengers
On the platform are performing the anxious dance they do
When doors don’t open
Some are doing their best
Now then,
What’s all this impressions
A sidelong look up and down the carriages
Confirms that there must be a problem but
Cold like that obscures the critical eye
Behind swathes of scarves until
Someone spots it
A couple of carriages at the front of the train
Have overshot the platform and the driver is
Sticking his head out of the window to assess the situation
He must know that if he opens all doors
Some will plunge to their deaths or
Into the cold which is as bad and besides
Many passengers have removed their fifth layer
He isn’t a monster
Nodding, his head disappears and
For the first time in his career he
Addresses the stranded on the intercom
With a pause, an umm and then a
Solution that anyone not alighting here but wishing to
Will have to travel back from Kilbarrack
The next station
It doesn’t offer much solace to anyone
And isn’t helped by the little chuckle
That quickly gets cut off by the professional side of the driver
But we pay taxes for this, the face of many huff
And had I been there I might have replied that
There must have been a slip up and the government
Filed your transport tax under entertainment for onlookers
But I can’t respond at all and from here
Can only compare the commute to Paris
Where every underground encounter feels gladitorial
So, what had happened, I can at least demand
Of the driver who sits beside me before midnight
On the banks of the Seine
Oh I had been thinking about a girl I met and I missed the braking signals
He grins a sideways grin and excuses himself
By reminding me it was the slippy season.


Under the bed sheets with a light
I think about how you’re probably not sleeping
A finished article about remembrance for Ypres
Which I’ve just read
Slips to the floor and I can picture
This bed a bunker where
We’re entrenched, though warmer, mudless and
Outside there is no rain
Insults fell like shells an hour ago
But here the deathly silence
The aftermath of all that noise
is as conducive to thought now
As it was then
Some peeling skin on the back of my ankle
Is the shrapnel from the bomb
Blast of dissatisfaction you exploded
As I headed for the door
And from which I ran largely unscathed
Why can’t I be the woman in a photograph
You carry longingly in your breast pocket
Rather than a wild eyed, angry Anglo Saxon
The image makes me laugh
And tugs at my ability to forgive
We were allies once
Hey –
Are you really sleeping?

A Master at Work.

Once a student told me:
I rip my clothes just because I know my mother doesn’t like it
I told the same student:
I routinely rip my life apart for nobody’s benefit or pleasure
Not even my own
When she looked surprised I told her
With a wink
That that’s why I am the teacher
And she the student.

Etiquette Lesson.

I manage eighteen before I stop
Counting more postcards under glass
Showing Barcelona as it was
-was it this destroyed-
I want to wonder about it all
And what the little boy
Who smiled up at me earlier
With baby teeth
Settled between myself and an older man
Makes of all these
Shapes of colours and ugly bodies
And this, this collection of cards,
From the once destroyed city
His parents have flown him to
-their annual holiday perhaps-
I rest my elbows on the glass and begin to think
Until a curator,
Heels clicking on the floor,
Eyes the same colour as the portrait behind her head,
Comes to tell me not to.
Apparently this is not the right posture
For contemplating the past.

Missing A Family Gathering.

The sound of sweeping
Is not something you usually hear
Or if you do you never
Really pay attention.
The sounds of cars coming and stopping
Of families arriving and little ones laughing
or complaining,
Ears straining to pick up what those complaints
Are about, exactly
And who is going to shoot who down
Insist on entering
Their father’s family home first
Scraping chairs and padding feet
In thick socks or barefooted younger cousins,
Rushing too quickly to disdain
To get to the chocolate tin
Or the repeated pattern on a piano nobody
has forgotten how to play, despite the years,
Older aunts silence younger throats
At the moment when a grandparent
choses to speak
To drop a little cough or history here or there
And remind everyone who’s in charge
Sounds of sweeping lose out to family
In such circumstances
But in their absence
A brush against a living room floor
Can be very loud indeed.


We fought once
Over the only Seamus Heaney poem you knew
Miserable and uninteresting you declared it
And searched me for an answer
About why anyone would write poetry
You didn’t get it, you said.

But now you aspire
In your own poetic way
To keep me on a knife-edge
Concerning mundane details
From a place I haven’t lived for four years.

With your own use
Of once derided grammatical devices
You convey
What too might be lost on others.

In the spirit of that last argument
I reread your last message
An ellipsis
With it’s less common four dots
And laugh
Four dots
A dot for every year.