Dining late with Wolf. (And the empty chair)

It may have been just an accident of a kind that led me to find

a few lines, that began the search for more words of Farrell’s work.

But as hard as I searched I couldn’t find a book by him at all,

as I scanned the stacked shelves lined with lost memories,

the feint remains of times, of days, of others hands and eyes

I found a surprise, a collection of that other Thomas’s verse.

I carried the prize to look it over thoroughly in Bannerman’s Bar.

And as I sat and began to read the terse few lines of “The Return”,

two neatly folded cuttings fell to the floor. Thomas’s obituaries,

and the odour, gathered oldness and age wafted to me from the faded,

fragile yellowing page. And I could see the book had never been opened,

or rather had never been leafed through, pages hidden within pages.

It may have been the absence of those tell-tale lines on the spine,

or the lack of dog eared folds that might give away the sign of a verse,

a reader had once dwelled on, a preference of some kind, I suppose.

And while I sat there I was reminded once more of our stay at Ahakista,

in that August, and the hellish night when Farrell out alone disappeared,

and his body never found, in spite of all the searches over those days.

The Fastnet Race too was destroyed by that storm and as they said

in the Tin Shed pub it was the worst kind of blow to come out of nowhere.

And that strange remembrance brought another as they sometimes do

of our stay during that time with a friend in his old tumbledown cottage

overlooking Dunmanus Bay – and of the days finding fragments

of the racing boats, during our walks in the mornings gathering shore.

Thirty five years after Farrell’s unexplained death, a woman revealed 

the story of walking that night with her sons along the wind-blown edge.

She’d come across Farrell adrift in the towering waves of a sea in its rage,

and described the way he looked at her and drowned himself in order 

to prevent her losing her own life too, if she’d tried to rescue him

from the certainty of his grave, as she’d wanted to do. And so leave

her boys watching, alone and motherless. An old belief of those who worked

the sea prevented them from saving the drowning and so interrupt God’s calling.

At the supper table in Wolf’s house that night, talk would drift now and then.

In the lull’s quiet, heads would turn, listening keenly to the roar of the gale,

through the trees, and out on the hills. And now I write to let go of that feeling,

of that memory of you, of being haunted by you, and the storm that follows you.



James Gordon Farrell


(1935-01-25)25 January 1935 – ­11 August 1979(1979-08-11) (aged 44)

Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland.

Ronald Stuart Thomas


29 March 1913 – 25 September 2000

Pentrefelin near Criccieth.

Wolf Mankowitz

Script writer

7 November 1924 – 28th May1998

County Cork.

On the brink with narrow men.

the Cold War overshadowed much of my childhood

fear was latched and hooked onto everyday things

it was the Reds they said would do us harm

it went on through my teenage years too

that continuous threat the nuclear arsenals posed

the bombers of all sides armed, ready to go

submarines lurked in the oceans depths

then Cruise missiles came a late addition.

something changed something called détente

but the wars continued they just found a way

around that inconvenience it was simple

they stopped calling them wars

but now they’ve all caught amnesia

and fear is spreading everywhere

politicians can’t seem to help themselve

ladling fear whenever they can

it’s an all too obvious strategy

while the dismantling goes on

of Education, the National Health Service,

Social Care and so much more

it’s easy to spot the distraction of fear

while the narrow men shout watch for the reds

but meanwhile get into the Chinese bed

there is a collective amnesia at large

and we have real reason to be afraid of that

soon we’ll hear the justification for war

soon we’ll hear the need for boots on the ground

in whatever land is decided by the narrow men

and the ramping up of the war of words

to justify, bamboozle and hoodwink

that the actual threat is their stupidity

and we’ll be living in that fear time again.

meanwhile the rich get richer

and nothing has been learned

nothing has changed the narrow men

not even their history degrees.


Running out of tears


Running out of tears

running out of fears

our hearts and souls are here


On the tree lined streets of Bucha

fallen bodies lie where they died

knocked over, mangled, distorted, shredded,

alongside carcasses of rockets

spent empty useless stupid lies

that call this war “special military operation”

The black crows gather and cower

but the birds still sing of freedom

in Bucha, Kharkiv and Marsupiol

the birds still sing of freedom

are you listening from your unmarked grave Federico?

The “black crows” gather and cower.



“I pay tribute again”


“On another day

I paid tribute

to Dylan walking

across town

from second avenue

to Hudson and 11th

in some kind

of pilgrimage

to the White Horse Tavern

and sitting

on the shiny

red plastic

covered stool

at that long

dark wooden bar

I ordered a beer

and recited aloud

the words

“Over St John’s Hill”


I much preferred

Finnegan’s Wake

on 1st and 73rd

I’d meet

the postman

a Ukrainian

late at the end

of his shift

we’d sit

drink Schlitz

and talk about

songs and hymns,

of the day

he ran from

the Red Army Choir

in Bute Dock

in Wales

then he’d sing softly

Ar hyd yr nos.”

From the long poem “I pay tribute again”


Athene Noctua

fotocredit robcullen 2010

Black boughed oaks, snow whitened hills

remnants of a great wood cut for Lydney’s iron mills.

I searched alone, a white haired boy,

catching unclean little owls with the slow sweep

of a green wool sweater.

I stared long into the eyes of Tawny owls

that in another age cured madness.

Jackdaws called my name from the river bank,

I saved them, from the waters rise,

 wrapped them clustered close, in a dark green jerkin,

fed them, and on another day let them go back to the wild.

I dreamt of eagles, hawks and falcons,

but Robins flew to my call, and sat still in my hand.


At St Anne’s long strand where Irelands east coast clamoured,

black Jack ravens clawed at my brow, trying to roost

in dusks gathering glower, and the tides rush

while I stood listening to the Atlantic rollers roar,

and the weeping sigh of the one I loved.