Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Not quite touching

On the polished stainless steel counter,
Two paintings. One at first.
All light blue and dark blue and white.
A curving semi circle, smooth lines,
Something serene and contented.
Arriving next to it, a second picture,
Sharp angles and edginess, strange
Flowers in pink and silver on tall
Silver stalks. Lying there, the two
Images rectangular against the
Stainless steel counter.
These two extremes,
Not quite touching.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Safe to feel

Smaller than a big girl.
A small girl. Little.
Was I ever? I was, the pictures
tell me so, a little face
smiling, smiling, smiling.
Was it safe? Never, no,
a few safe islands in an
unsafe sea, but mostly
smile, smile, smile, face
the world full on and
forget how shaky it is.
Find the places that feel safe.
On top of the wardrobe,
with a blanket and book.
On the wooden slats of the
airing cupboard, the door
open a crack,and the heat
rising up through the slats.
Riding my bike to the moon
and back. And now, and now,
the safety nets, which were
never nets, the safety illusions,
slip down, slip away, as lightly
as a morning knife through
butter left out on the counter
overnight. And every step
feels shaky, every opening
a door, every opening my eyes,
and an unsafe heart at the
heart of the matter. All around
things shake, as I sit quietly
at night in the peace of the house,
black cherry candle burning bright,
sleeping dog curled on the floor,
and my heart feels shaky, shaky,
as if feeling the shaking of the world
for the first time. As if it's safe
to feel unsafe.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


When I was nine, or maybe ten, our Irish neighbours moved out, and a family of Ugandan Asians, recently evicted from their homes by Idi Amin, moved in. Not long after they had arrived, the father of the large and extended family, the patriarch, invited us to come and eat a meal with them. My mother and two brothers declined. So I went with my father.

It was strange to go into a house that was the mirror of ours in shape and size, but so different inside. We sat, my father and I, in the dining room, with the men and the boys, as the women dressed in saris brought dishe after dish in and served the food to the men. The women didn't speak to us at all, just to each other, in their own languge. The father spoke a few words of English, and he and my father, with his polished but accented English, learnt on his arrival in 1947, held what conversation they could.

I tried the food, but it was too hot for me, raised on Polish food and angel delight. So I watched, as the men talked, and the women bustled in their bright saris. When the men had finished, we moved to the living room, and the women sat down to eat the remnants of the meal. I could see them relax, as I peeked backwards down the hall.

These images came to mind as I listened to a radio programme this morning about the events of 1972 and the arrival of the thousands and thousands of displaced Ugandan Asians in the UK that year. And I was seized by a sense of how honourable both men were with each other. Such differences in culture, background and experience, their only bond the shared experience of arriving in this country to start a new life, although twenty five years apart My father in his forties, his Siberian exile behind him, a businessman, a father. Our new neighbour, guiding his family through their arrival in a strange new land, a very different land with different customs. Accepting me in my shorts, a bare legged girl, sitting down to eat with the men.

Mostly, they treated each other with deep respect. They were never friends, but for all the years we lived in Ivor Road, if my father arrived home, and our neighbour was sitting, as he often was, in the small concrete paved front yard, they would stand and talk for a few minutes. I imagine their conversation remained limited, their worlds very different. But they recognised each other. With respect.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Absorbing the sun
Moon beams swirling
Balancing high above the
Treacherous ground below
Running t'wards life

At the edge

Rain falls all day. Rain, rain, rain.
Late afternoon, we finally move,
Get dressed, shoes on, in the car.
Do the chores. Back to the
Shop to exchange the broken toy.
Groceries. Dvd's. Now walk the dogs.
A grey rainy beach, still raining
Still wet. Suddenly, as the waves
Give chase, everything glows anew.
And you shout at the sea in defiance.
And the sea shouts back.
And we stand at the edge of the world.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


The bees are collecting their nectar
The bees are busy collecting their nectar,
and I am busy collecting myself.
Those seeds thrown out carelessly
Without thought, in spring, are
beginning to flower, to
offer up sweet fruit.

So many flowers, each different and unique;
Angelica, centaury, hogweed, thyme
a little bramble and clover. I'd like
to build a small hive at the end of
my garden and gather them all in.
Sweet honey from my hive.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The world sings in Glorious Technicolour

It's a long drop from the harbour wall to the water, yet the children are leaping in quite unafraid. Your skinny ribs jump in bravely too, though the shock of the cold sends you scuttling back up the ladder. At your bidding, I get in too, tentatively, down the ladder and off the small wooden platform just at the water. A gentle jump.

After a while, I brave a dive, and finally, I jump in off the harbour wall. I swim out to the small square platform anchored in the harbour, dive back in, swim back to the harbour wall, where the puppy plays with his new friends.

Above us, the sky blue and white, while clouds heavy with monsoon rain threaten in the distance, and small boats bob in the harbour, and far out to sea, just at the horizon, a ribbon of rainbow hangs flattened above the water.

The world sings to me, in glorious technicolour.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Finding the secret tunnel

In the playground at my junior school, there were a number of brick, concrete roofed air raid shelters. The old doorways had long been bricked up, but at one of the bricked up entrances, a few of the bricks were missing at the top. I can remember clearly the heady mix of fear and excitement as the boys hoisted me up, in my short summer dress, and I squeezed myself through the opening, and scrambled down the pile of rubble behind into the darkness.

"Whatever possessed me?" I think now. But we'd decided this was the entrance to a secret tunnel; no one was sure where the tunnel led to, but we knew it led to somewhere special. There was a prize to be obtained by overcoming fear.

We never found the tunnel, of course. And we weren't caught. Children's lives were far less "supervised", and I'm sure we put ourselves in danger far more often. Much of our best exploration took place as a result of this benign neglect.

Still, I've been thinking about the secret tunnel. A tunnel that leads to a place of wonder. It's the mainstay of many a story. The character's in the story always have to overcome their fear to enter the tunnel.

And likewise - to enter the tunnel called "change". There's fear, and excitement when you start looking for the tunnel entrance. It's not as easy now for the excitement to get the upper hand over the fear - we are our own fearful adults, looking over out shoulders.

 I want to find that brave eight year old, with her skinny brown legs , and  her hopeful heart,and ask her to come with me, looking for the tunnel.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Full Moon

Everything waxes, everything wanes, and at the centre point, a full moon.
This is the full moon of my life.
Full, and plump with things to do,
and ahead a waning. All those things
that will never be done now, too many
things for one lifetime. All those sights
and smells and places. Finite time and
so many things to fill the days and nights. Full moon.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Drift away

Bit by bit, you
drift away,
slip off, like
over - ripe petals,
drift gently,
Into the air,
into the sky,

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Who are you in trouble with?

The little boy runs over to his father, sitting on the bench.

"Dad, am I in trouble?".

His dad's just sitting there, reading his book, oblivious to what the boy may have done.

We spend our lives afraid of being in trouble. "I'd better not, or I'll be in trouble". "I better had, or I'll be in trouble". The child rarely knows if he's in trouble or not. Manufactures "being in trouble" from a careless cross word.

We can spend lifetimes not knowibg if we're in trouble or not. In trouble with who?

With god? Mainly empty space full of possibility? I don't think empty space is keeping score.

In trouble with our parents? Those rapidly feebling people, if we're lucky enough to have them still alive?

Our bosses? A joke for those of us that work for ourselves.

Our children? That WOULD be ironic!

Spouses, partners, friend, neighbours? What if there's no-one for us to bein trouble with? Is that liberating or terrifying? Let's go with both.

"there's no one you can be in trouble with"

Shout it out loud:


Friday, 17 August 2012


....and heart is full, encompasses
more than it did before.
Fifty years ago and I'm
floating, as a tiny heartbeat
first appears.

Who makes a life?
We do. Mine's
more than half way through
(if averages are anything
to go by).

Starts with a heartbeat,
ends with a heartbeat,
all those heartbeats in between,
pushing against resistance;
resistance of blood vessels,
resistance of body
resistance of self.

Time to stop pushing,
start opening instead.
Maybe fifty years left
to practice.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

not god

that's not what god looks like, god's
not a man with long curly hair and
a beard, dressed in a robe. god is
blackness mainly, and colour, with
starbursts of bright bright fire. lots
of blackness and empty space. god
smells of peaches, vanilla, freshly
pressed olives, the tang of vinegar.
leaf mould in deep woods, pressed
down underfoot, and freshly brewed
coffee, served in a small cup. as familiar as heinz tomato soup, as
sweet as plump blackberries plucked
from the hedgerow. like honey.
sounds like the wind through the trees,
and waves crashing on the shore,
like the first cry of a newborn.
feels like fine bone china, feels like
your hand in mine, comes to enfold me
at four am. warm. safe. home.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Starfish stretched out wide

 There's a starfish at the centre of the family tree.

Bluebeard's gone. He didn't lock her in a cupboard, he just left her to her fate.

The witch is alive and well and living in a one bed flat, with nurses and carers calling daily.

The creatures of light, who arrived one by one, now leave one by one, as is right.

And the starfish hunts for its centre, stretched out wide in the sun, on the hot, hot sands.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Just waiting.
The buses have stopped running to my destination.
Just waiting.
The platform is empty, the train doesn't come.
Just waiting.
It's a big shop, and the shopkeepers are friendly, but the shelves are bare, there's nothing much there to sustain and feed.
Just waiting.
I'm tired and I think I've missed the flight; the taxi man won't take me with all my baggage in any case; he says "one bag only" in his broken english, and drives away, leaving me standing on the kerb.
Just waiting.
It's a simple room, but it's comfortable, in its shabby way, and its hard to climb out, down the ladder, without getting caught in the showers of rain.
Just waiting.
Something slowly growing inside, deep deep down. Slowly growing, unstoppable. Coming from deep inside, and burning as it grows, stopping me in my tracks, making it impossible to carry on in the same way.
Just wait.
Nothing more is required.

Monday, 13 August 2012

A Cave full of the Worst Dreams Ever

In my dream, somewhere in a remote part of the world, we found a cave full of the worst dreams ever. The dreams people had that led them to instigate great evil. Words flew around the cave, words and fragments of words. "six million". "enslave". "killing fields" "manacle". "golgotha". "rwanda". "inquisition".

Before human beings do evil things, they dream them, they imagine them. This cave is full of all the worst things people have ever dreamt of.

It's best left alone. We know the outcomes and stories of those dreams only too well. This is a cave of memory, not of threat.

It's the other cave we need to find. The one that contains the dreams people have yet to dream.

Saturday, 11 August 2012


Fantastic pottery workshop with Geoffrey Healy at Kilmacanogue today. Lots of new play with clay. The cowboy materialised during the day.


Sometimes in the midst of great happiness, a great emptiness also descends. It seems to threaten the happiness. And suddenly, as I drove towards home and family, at the end of a long week of good hard work, with the sun blazing in the sky and a lovely evening in the garden in prospect ahead, I recognised the emptiness as a blessing. A connection with the empty space that is most of what we are. We live in a universe of empty space. Our bodies are mostly empty space. Emptiness isn't scary. It isn't something to run from. It is the natural companion of happiness. It is the natural companion of sadness. It is the place of true connection with ourselves.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Puppy prances in

The puppy prances in with a tinfoil tray. It holds scraps of last night's lasagne. His prance is the prance of everything and everyone that has ever been young, and pleased with itself. He lifts his paws high, holds his head high, and prances Cross the kitchen floor with the tray in his mouth. His whole being shouts "look how clever I am!"

In this moment, he is every foal running with its herd, every fish swimming upstream for the first time, every bud breaking open, every child taking its first step. Everything that is young and delighted with itself.

We lose that delight. Adults don't prance. We use it as a derogatory term. Yet as I watch the pup with his tin foil treasure, I wish delight in ourselves and a little prancing for us all. Pure delight.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

It's an August morning. The sun is shining. My boy is sleeping. My dogs are here. My cats are here. This place is home. I am the centre. At the centre of the centre is my heart. It would be good for it to be an open heart.

Monday, 6 August 2012


White foxglove

I walk tenderly, softly through this life.
Those other lives that might have been
hang heavy round my neck.
Meanwhile, rivers of water and stone
run down both sides of the road,
and the wipers wipe the screen clean,
and the radio plays its tunes,
and my  life passes softly, softly by.

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Stepping stones under water at Trooperstown, Co Wicklow

One, two, three, four children.
One, two, three dogs.
A river. Pale sun through high cloud.
The boys jumping from stone to stone, full of chocolate milk and baguette,
And Annabelle, sitting on her rock tells me
"This is the best picnic EVER."

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Full moon rising

I call you out, and we walk to the end of the garden to look at the full moon rising. My feet are bare. Half way across the wet grass, you tell me you're wearing new slippers. Never mind. They'll dry.

A full moon is rising over Carrig, and we watch, and wonder about the night sky and it's mysteries. You ask me if they launch rockets to the moon from Carrig. I tell you no. "But it's so close from here!"

I go back across the dark expanse of garden to get my phone to take a picture, although I know it won't do it justice. You stay close. The dark is quite dark now, and night time noises are scary. Th dogs excite around us at this unexpected chance to run and sniff in the dark.

 Back out again, and light clouds move slowly against the distant hill. There's a light breeze, and its cool and fresh and  a great peace hangs in the sky with the big full moon

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

This Body

Riding the Universe (or maybe the universe is riding me?)

This is my body. Yes. This is my body, 
The one I came in with, the one that leaves with me, 

Five decades living inside this body, living in it
As it stretched and grew to become THIS shell,
THIS enclosure I live in. Sometimes I hate it.
Sometimes it serves me well. "This is my body".
Imagine Christ on that final night, acknowledging,
Claiming the shell as his own as he prepared to
Leave it behind. This is my body. 
How powerful it is to say those words.
This is my body, mine to treat well, mine to abuse,
Mine to live in, my home in this life.

This is my body, I claim it, my body, 
Mine for the rest of my days.