Yesterday evening (Thursday 30th) saw the Inchicore ‘Poetry Cell’ do a ‘special recall’ of itself to host a reading by visiting American poet Angelo Verga, followed by an open mic. Angelo read about himself, his family and his city, particularly his relationship with the Bronx. Very gripping stuff, dark, with flashes of humour. In the open mic afterwards were many ‘seasoned’ participants, among them Neville Keary, James Conway, Christine Broe,  Liam O’Meara and myself. My memory lets me down, but there were plenty other poets as well. Michael O’Flanagan also read and did the honours as ‘genial host’. Great night.

He was playing on his tricycle,
the little boy, with all that skill and deftness
only known to three-year-olds when
everything went white, he fell, the pedals
spun, he started crying, didn’t stop
until late into evening when he died.
 
His father summoned all the strength he had
to bury him in the garden he had loved
because (he thought) so small, he would be lonely
for his family, and because so much
was chaos all around then— Iron bridges
buckled, bottles melted out of shape.
 
And with the small remains he buried too
the tricycle his boy had loved to ride
each morning in the garden, prayed the gods
would let him play with it because (he thought)
him being such a very little boy –
What would be the harm in the Land of Shades?
 
He never spoke again about the morning
everything went white, endured the pain
for nearly thirty years and then came back
to find the small but neatly-formed frame,
performed the prayers of ritual re-interment
with his ancestors, this time without
 
the tricycle, rust-encrusted from
its years of travelling the clay, because
(he thought) his spirit now must be as old
as was his father’s that day everything
went white— Because (he thought) the boy, become
now venerable shade, no longer needs it.

Me, trying to look important
Me, trying to look important

Another session with Edward Delaney and Micheal Mac Aonghusa. I read out a poem called ‘Little Boy and Tricycle’ which provoked some discussion on the horrors of war, ‘ultimate war’ that is, in the shape of atom bombs. My poem just lays out one example of those horrors and it hopes that it has some effect on the listener or reader. One-sided ‘polemical’ poems are tedious. We also had some diospoireacht maidir leis na ‘freagrai’ a thainig as ‘Bord Snip’. Sea, ta’s agam go raibh an argoint ceanna againn an tseachtain seo chaite, ach nil aon ealu on t-abhar. Gach einne ag caint faoi. Ach tada deanta fos! Edward did his usual review of TV films coming up during the week but couldn’t find much to please him, and yes it did seem like very lean fare. Maybe the cuts are already in action and we don’t know it? Stay tuned.

Micheal ag labhairt go daingean
Micheal ag labhairt go daingean

SHOp2

Two of my poems have been published this month (July 2009) by ‘The Shop’ magazine, edited by John and Hilary Wakeman, based in Schull, Co.Cork. One of the poems (‘Im Sorry for the Grunts Get Killed’: included in the ‘My Poetry’ page on this blog) arose from my feelings about the Iraq war waged by George W.Bush and Tony Blair on the false premise that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Unlike some other poems I wrote on this subject, where I focused on the catastrophic effect of the war on the native population, this one laments the fate of young Americans sent out to die for… well, for what, exactly? Sometimes in the reading of these poems in various locations I have been accused of anti-American bias. This poem shows, I believe, that I am only ‘anti’ human suffering, particularly when the causes of such sufferings are based on lies. I have no doubt that the US army includes its share of scoundrels and rogues (remember Abu Graib Prison?) but it must also include some fine young men and women who loved their country enough to lead them to trust their President. The other poem, ‘Little Boy and Tricycle’ (included in the ‘My Poetry’ page on this blog) concerns another war, in which the atom bomb was dropped (twice) for the first time. ‘Little Boy’ was the code name given to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and my poem is based on an exhibit in the Peace Meamorial Museum there.

 
I’m sorry for the grunts get killed, blown up 
or shot in the face in downtown Baghdad,
 Mosul, or Basra or whatever place
 in occupied Iraq the Emperor
has sent his legions to bring order to the world
with tanks, gunships and Pax Americana.
 
I’m sorry for young soldiers who stop cars
and find their lives are stopped forever. And
the way their colleagues – caught on videocamera –
come scrambling to collect their twisted bits
of intestine and bladder off the ground
and try to push them back inside again.
 
‘Sorry’. Such a word! The word I use
to squeeze past someone on the bus or when
I accidentally drop a teaspoon. But
I want a word won’t sound ‘poetic’. Won’t
turn this into another formulaic
anti-war tirade, laying blame,
 
demanding peace. I’m sorry for the mothers
and the wives who lift the phone or get
the telegram or whatever way
it’s broken to them. It must be the end
of everything. And then the airport, funeral
out to Arlington, or wherever. In
 
the catalogue of tortures every Iraqi
man, woman, child has had to suffer
since the legions came I know the deaths
of legionaries will count for little. Still,
I’m sorry for the grunts get killed, their bodies
burned, their charred limbs held up as trophies.

 

 

Highlight of this week’s show (Fri, 17th July) was our guest Sarah Williams, musician and composer, interviweing her American friend Emer on her (Emer’s) experience of campaigning for Barak Obama. Turns out that what we’ve heard and seen of his charisma is even stronger up close. Also Micheal Mac Aonghusa ag ple an ceist maidir leis an tuarascail sin on ‘Bord Snip Nua’ and me talking about how we all must face up to these cuts sooner or later. (It seems to me that most people now share this view. But it also seems to me to be a case of St. Augustine’s prayer: “Oh Lord, make me good. But not just yet”!). Our host, Edward Delaney had things to say about the anniversary of the moon landing, and some reflections on the Mars project. There’s only two more shows left, so don’t miss next Friday and the following Friday at 9.00pm for some unparallelled entertainment.

Anamaria Crowe Serrano and Helena Mulkerns read at Chapters, today lunch time. Very impressive. Particularly I liked Anamaria’s poem about her grandfather and his silence about what part he played in the Spanish Civil War. It’s a top-class poem I hope I see in print soon. And Helena’s story-poem about the ubiquitous United Nations blue plastic tarpaulin which does so many jobs for people who have nothing else to cover them, or catch water for them or act as groundsheets for them. Very moving and incredibly down-to-earth writing. Definitely a reading to remember. Sizeable group of listeners too.