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Jim- a poem by Philomena Barry

I am the grains of sand
You carry home from the beach,
I am the spider’s web
That you can’t quite reach,
I am the fragment of dream
That you almost remember,
I am the light from the fire
And the crackling embers,
I am the rain on your face
And the wind in your hair,
I am the hand on your shoulder
When you think I’m not there,
I am the far away music
You pick out of the distance,
I am the stiff old door
That meets you with resistance,
I am the book in your hand
When you’ve fallen asleep,
I am the burst of laughter
When you thought you might weep,
I am the stars in the sky
On a clear, dark night,
I am the ink in your pen
When you feel moved to write,
I am the canvas, the colours,
The brush in your hand,
I am painting it with you,
At your elbow I stand.

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An excerpt from The Jailbird by Jaki McCarrick

An excerpt from my short story “The Jailbird”, from my debut short story collection The Scattering.

That night I arrived home to find Ma had bolted the door. I’d had a few jars with Martha in town and had walked her back on the balmy night to Josie’s, her aunt’s place. (In the pub, we’d bumped into a few old faces, including Noel, who ran his father’s butchers on High Street. He’d drummed with us for a while. Everyone was glad to see us. In fact, the whole evening had been rather wonderful. And I was closer to feeling like a god this first night with Martha than I’d felt in a long time.)

‘Open the door, Ma,’ I shouted up at the window. No sound. Then the curtains were wrenched back and I could see her staring down at me, glasses on, chocolate-brown hairnet pinned to her head, no doubt to protect for Coco Conway those grey-golden Meryl Streep-ish locks of hers.

‘Come on, Ma. Open the door,’ I shouted. I could hear her footsteps then, heavy on the stairs, and eventually she unlocked the door making a big ceremonious deal out of the whole lot – the bolts, the mortice lock – and opened it, slightly, with the chain still on, and looked straight at me, her own and only living son:

‘Who is it?’ she said.

‘Jesus fuck, you know it’s me, Ma! You just looked down at me from the window.’ And then this long, black shotgun was being pointed at me, and I screamed. As soon as she pulled back I burst clean through the door, breaking the chain. When I stumbled in, Ma was up against the stairs, pointing the yoke straight at me. I honestly thought she would fire. I could see something dark and cruel in her. In all the years we’d been cooped up in this house together (which was bad enough after Eugene and worse after my father died) I’d never directly encountered this look but I had felt it. In every sarcastic comment, in the way she’d no tenderness for me, not at any time nor in any situation, in how she would mock the music I listened to and denounce my fox-feeding to the worst animal-haters that would come into the shop. Now, in the half-dark of the room, I saw her for real, sort of maskless. I saw with alcohol-derived clarity that there was something caught, trapped between us, that was almost creaturish, like an albatross – weighed down and entangled in net: it was blame. I fucking knew it, I said to myself, as she stood there in her long white nightdress that was shamefully flimsy and bare feet with the rough-skinned toes all painted up in a brash persimmon-coloured nail varnish, her eyes ablaze and narrow like a snake’s, or a fox about to pounce on a rat. She blamed me for Eugene. (I had always the sense that because I was in a band she thought it must have been me who’d dragged Eugene into the scene he was in. But he was well capable of finding his own trouble.)

‘You were out with that one,’ she said.

‘Who’s that one?’

‘That hussy. The Cassidy one.’

‘Don’t talk about her like that,’ I said, quite viciously, near enough forgetting about the gun, though, like I said, I’d had a few jars. I pulled back then, just to be on the safe side. ‘Put. The gun. Down. Ma. For fuck’s sake.’

‘She was never any good.’

I let out a big sigh, went to the door, saying I’d sleep in the barn as I couldn’t stand to listen to her any more, nor be in the same house with someone pointing a gun at me.

‘Come back, Michael,’ she said, seeing me go to leave. When I stopped, she went to the cupboard under the stairs, lodged the gun inside, covered it with a few coats and closed the door.

‘Pretty bloody handy with that gun aren’t you, Ma?’

‘Never know what scum’d be calling these nights,’ she said. ‘And besides, wouldn’t a mother need a gun with a son like you comes in stocious drunk with the big foul breath on him?’ Well, I couldn’t resist. It was like those articles I’d read in the shop when I was bored, which was most days, about people in northern England or southern America who supposedly had ‘out of body experiences.’. That’s what it felt like as I lunged at my own mother and let out an enormous stinky breath directly into her face. She screwed up her eyes and mouth with the repugnancy of it, turned away.

‘Oh, this is what she’s done to you. What she’s always done to you. Makes you belligerent. That’s what it is.’

‘It’s not belligerence! It’s fucking freedom. That’s what she gives me, Ma. Freedom to be myself. Li-ber-ty!’

‘Liberty!’ Ma said, mockingly, and stood there shaking her head, a crafty smile spreading across her face. I was annoyed that she could come so quickly back from the disgusting thing I’d just done to her. I think I would have halted in my tracks, thrown myself down at her feet, begging her forgiveness had she, say, started to cry. But no, she’d gotten a taste for a row and was going to stand her ground, and she did, and she looked just like she did in the poster on the wall by the shop door, and it was then I realised she fucking loved it, the drama, the operatic proportions of things, the rows between us.

‘Come on, Ma, let’s go to bed,’ I said, afraid for the thing to get out of hand and all too aware that both of us had easy access to a gun.

‘I’ve heard a few things about Martha Cassidy and her fabulous singing career. Oh, I’ve heard plenty.’

‘Like what have you heard? And from whom? The biddies round this way? They’d make muck of a saint,’ I said.

‘It wasn’t a biddy who told me,’ Ma said.

‘Who told you?’

‘Never you fucking mind who told me.’

‘Don’t swear, Ma, it doesn’t suit you. Told you what?’

‘Just how your precious Martha Cassidy’s been making a living over there, and it’s not by singing. It’s by lying on her back, best way she knows how.’ I looked at my mother, at her mouth all foamy and thin and twisted, and all the horrific stories I would read in the newspapers each day came suddenly into my mind, instantly metamorphosed as stories with me and Ma in the starring roles: Son bludgeons own mother to death in row; ‘Meryl Streep’ mowed down in Castlemoyne; Son of woman-who-ruined-his-relationship-with-the-love-of-his-life-and-caused-her-firstborn-son-to-stop-taking-his-insulin-in-order-to-get-the-fuck-away-from-her turns nasty and shoots his mother’s head clean off. All this zipped through my brain (along with the words Ma had just said about Martha earning her keep in a supine position), as the two of us stood there, simmering with rage in the alcohol-scented room, and way way way back towards my spinal cortex a little thought started up, that just maybe my mother was right (about Martha). This was the terrible, insidious hold Ma had on me: that even when she was spiteful and wicked, a part of me thought she was right.

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A story by Nick Smith: My Father.

My Father was a big man. He measured over six-foot-three and weighed as much, but his hero’s stature was stunted, his shoulders rounded by the burdens of several life-times. Now he lay, almost un-burdened. My Father smiled at the two visitors who rested their hands on the foot-board of his bed, one short, the other tall. Confronted with the transient, their fingers shuffled for something solid to grip.  Pleasantries were exchanged: Nice day. Nice House. Nice life. The clock ticked on the mantelpiece in the living room below. Eventually he spoke – he was good at removing the awkwardness of others.

“You’ll have trouble getting me out of here” he said, laughing, a wicked glint in his one remaining eye. The undertaker smiled benignly and made mental notes. His assistant, an uncouth rock of a man, looked out of the window to a different horizon. I half-expected him to spit into his hands as he rubbed them together with anticipation. After more talk of little consequence their unusual visit had reached its inevitable conclusion and they bade my Father farewell. They would meet again, later. We shuffled out of the bedroom and onto the landing. The assistant paused at the top of the narrow stairs that twisted their descent through ninety-degrees to the hallway below. He shook the landing-rail. It wobbled gently, like a loose tooth. “Does this come apart?” he asked hopefully.

“No,” I said. “It would be a bit of an inconvenience.” I felt guilty at my lack of assistance. The two men irreverently wound their noisy way downstairs, forgetting the true purpose of their reconnoitre. They made their way along the hallway to disappear through the front door into blinding sunlight as if to their paradise. I could hear My Father chuckling upstairs as his dying weight grew heavier by the hour.

Two days later, in the early evening, he slipped away. We washed and dressed his body and strapped his jaw with a tie he once wore. His false teeth were, for once, in their proper place. That night my mother slept next to him, which I thought was brave.

Next day, the two undertakers returned to the cottage. They carried a plastic coffin, worn, earth brown, well-used, always a different occupant. With no room for manoeuvre, it was passed up the stairway vertically, over the banister and onto the small landing. By reversing into the bathroom, they were able to guide it into the expectant bedroom. It took a while, but we knew My Father would wait. He was in no hurry, nor were we, knowing of the route that lay before us. It was like a dress-rehearsal in reverse and we all careful to follow the script.
The coffin was an ingenious contraption. The undertakers, like magicians, unclipped the top and the sides from the base which was slid discreetly beneath My Father, as though not to disturb him. The sides and lid were snapped back into place with a flourish and he was lost to my view, for a while anyway. We paused for a respectful moment and then my mother, wishing to avoid embarrassment, took herself off to her garden whilst my Father began his final journey. We gingerly carried the now, considerably heavier coffin into the bathroom to be rotated through ninety, a ship nudged by a tug, until it pointed towards the landing rail. The stronger of the men reluctantly made his way half down the stairs whilst we paused and surveyed our obstacle like climbers about to descend Everest. With unspoken agreement, the coffin was placed on the rail and shunted across to the point where it rested in the balance. The man on the stairs, looking up as though from Hell, nodded and we lifted the coffin and slid it over the rails towards his waiting hands. The rail leant, but held. We heard my Father’s body slide. Instinctively we paused and listened for it to settle. Reassured, we continued in silence with muted grunts and hasty hands to lower the coffin onto the first, available step. We paused, took breath. In the narrow stairway we gave assistance as best we could, the lead man turning the coffin and lowering it from step-to-step as though in a waltz with an overweight partner. My Father bounced and jolted around the corner until he reached the bottom tread. We wriggled between door jamb and coffin and gently lifted my Father and coffin onto the waiting trolley. We all breathed relief. This particular mountain had been scaled but we discreetly hid our sense of achievement as my Father was trundled along the narrow hallway to the waiting, morning light.

The long path to the cottage was made with cobble-stones. These presented a challenge, even for the sure-footed. The trolley bounced and lurched resistant over the uneven path as though possessed by an unwilling spirit, cajoled by the two men, their coat-tails flying. They gripped the coffin like exorcists and wrestled the apparent demonic all the way to the narrow gate. I remained by the front door and watched my Father go, trying unsuccessfully to stifle my laughter. Eventually they reached their destination and My Father’s coffin slid, without resistance into the back of the patiently waiting hearse. The doors were firmly and finally closed.

I knew the stronger man by sight; in a former life he used to drive a cattle truck, more familiar with living beasts than the dead. After the doors were closed he stood, panting. He tucked in his errant shirt, leant against the side of the hearse and wiped his brow. He must have felt my eyes, or heard my laughter which, hopefully, he mistook for grief. He turned and caught my gaze. He jerked upright and restored his dampened handkerchief to his pocket. He looked at me for a moment, uncertain, then shouted, with reassurance, “You’re Father wasn’t that difficult”.

“Well,” I said, quietly, “You never knew my Father.”

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Grey Deafening by Caroline Farrell

Memory wandering

Twice a year, in summer and at Christmas, I replenish my elderly father’s wardrobe with the essentials. Vests. Pyjamas. Jumpers. Shirts. Trousers. Socks. I don’t expect to get any thanks for it. He doesn’t know me anymore. His personal awareness diminished, the man I grew up fearing has shut down, cocooned in mysterious layers that cruelly consume his former self. 

and victim of victim remains

I will place nametags onto every item of clothing. An important task as otherwise, it will all get lost in the wash of the nursing home’s laundry process. Even his socks will be labelled. This ritual, I’ll put off for days, even weeks. The new clothes wait, bagged and tagged in the corner as each time I find it harder to psych myself up to do it. To dress his former self. 

in the stifle

Such is the experience of living with Alzheimer’s. Anger masking fear. Personality. Style. Essence. Autonomy. All slowly devoured. I am awash with sadness that he is there. A small, protected life. I know it is not the way this fiercely independent man would want to end his days. Vulnerable. Frail. Completely dependent on those who are paid to care for him. 

in the grey deafening

In those early days, he tried to escape, and relentlessly paced the corridors. Lately, he sleeps, or stares into space. Transported to some deep labrynth of his mind, unmoored, and I wonder if he is ever heartsore, as I am. From the irony of our present. From the grief of our past. 

and when they are gone

From the dark days of my fettered childhood. Pacing the grey edges of an industrial school. Where my father left me to fate. To the mercy of a religious organisation who rarely had any. Curtailed. Confused. Afraid. Abandoned to the gothic shadows that walk with me still. 

and we can’t remember who they were, or what they did

Watching my father succumb to an existence that he will never be able to describe, is a dismal, morbid process. To see him wane. Thin skin taut on bone. But there is healing too. Epiphany. The passing of time. The rituals and the bearing witness enabling trauma and resentment to dissipate. A bittersweet void. Fertile for empathy and forgiveness to flourish. 

dear heart, the tears go wandering too. 

Yet sometimes, his eyes search mine, and I wonder. If he could, what would he tell me?




Caroline Farrell. © 2020

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The Days of Jael by Paul Kestell

I wanted to leave home loads of times.

I think the first time I was about seven years old; we were living with grandad then and I woke to hear his soft music fill the house. I slide down the stairs and pushed the door of the sitting room open using my shoulder. He was siting with his back to me his hands delicate his long fingers catching the notes. Some were trying to escape from him, but he’d catch them and pull them back. He had a little fire going it was orange but there was no flame. It caught me and I went to stand by it to keep warm. Grandad played on oblivious to me turning his music sheets intermittently and playing with considerable ease. I was glad to be wearing pyjamas so cold away in the corners of the room—but by the fire their porousness allowed the heat in and my skin was burning underneath—it began to itch. Grandad started to sing, and I could see the first light through the tiny window. The soft clouds were covered in dazzle and rain fell in thick drops, not sure if it were sleet or just rain, the wind scooped the out of season rose bush it hit the windowpane in sharp repetitive thuds.

Grandad eventually acknowledged my presence he stopped playing with his right hand and allowed a space for me to go close to him. He cradled me under his wing and then releasing his hand he rubbed my curls and took the itch from my scalp. He then gave his right hand back to the piano and started to sing, but I was fascinated by this face. He had the makings of a beard and it stained his chin, but it was like something that would scrub away with a cloth. His nose was steady but his mouth opened so wide and his strong voice didn’t suit his frame or his face—-his whole face exploded when he hit the high notes and suddenly bang -bang—the neighbours were knocking on the walls a signal that they’d had enough and whatever about the piano his singing was too much. But undeterred he kept going and his glasses started to shake like somehow his neighbours displeasure made him nervous.

-That’s the price you pay for a council house Jaelyn, a man cant fart, but those daft folk are moanin’ should be up and on their way out at this stage—but their probably lyin in their beds thinkin’ how to complain—believe me little one complain they will, as complainin’ is what they do and what they are good at.

I went back to stand by the fire I didn’t take to his tone, grandad was usually quiet and peaceful, I didn’t like this grandad so much—the fire was nearly out just the last glow of diseased coal it still threw out traces of heat but suddenly I was sorry for my porous pyjamas again—maybe I would quit and go back upstairs and wake Marie, but she was tired and grumpy earlier and lashed out when I first tried to wake her.

Grandad had stopped playing and the banging on the wall stopped too, there was a series of shouts and one last bang and that was it. He sat with his fingers addressing the keys like he was about to start but he didn’t he just sat there at his piano stool rigid like he wanted to play but had forgotten the notes. I wondered had he fallen asleep he was so quiet but no, he was just staring at the keys like he was trying to figure out what they were. I saw that the big blobs of rain had turned to snow and the little flakes set on the rose bush like a box of Lux was upturned in the sky. God shook it the tiny flakes fell, and it was no worse than that.

Isobel Matthews might be out there forging that’s all she did was forage, like someone told her that being a kid meant being a forager. In summer she would collet bees in a jar and sell them two euro for a Teddy-back—three for a big black bumbler. In winter she scraped the bottom of the hedgerows with a stick if it was snowing, she removed tons of snow—if there was no snow she assembled a load of pebbles and small rocks. She was always busy forever foraging she was never still—-wrapped in mittens and a heavy winter coat. In summer she wore shorts and a girlie top—-but even then I knew what she wanted and what she was destined for and I knew what I was destined for but maybe I was not prepared for it.

Michael Byrne followed Isobel Matthews about wherever she was he was. He might stand near her or behind her or the opposite side of the wire fence—but he was always near her and he smiled all the time like someone actually beat him on the back as the clock striked midnight. Michael was harmless meaningless and empty the smile was with him from birth. He used to play with his curls and stick out his tongue in amusement and this was what Isobel loved about him that and the fact that his father walked up the path at the same time every day. He would always stop to inspect the roof that was well built but sported a huge television aerial—huge for the size of the houses that is. Isobel loved uniformity she loved the same thing every day it was the prize for being alive —-doing the same thing every day and collecting rocks and collecting snow—-if she could sell them on it would make a stack of sense.

Grandad started to cry he turned to face me his glasses had slipped to the edge of his nose. Tears flooded his face the folds of his skin turned to gullies. I was stuck rigid and fascinated by the deep ravines in his face. His eyes were endless they were made of layers of glass and his head shook like he was some kind a maniac. He held his hands out beckoning me, but rigidness turned to flight and left him and the fire and ran out to the cold hall. Up the stairs I bounced and went to see if Marie was awake. She was the worse for wear—her skin yellow and her eyes kept opening and closing like the conversation was exhausting her.

‘There is something funny with Grandad—he’s wailing down there.’

Marie acted like she didn’t understand she pulled the covers up over her head.

‘He’s playin’ his piano—leave him be.’

‘He’s not Marie, that’s what I’m sayin’ he’s cryin’ his eyes out and he looks really sad.’

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The Desecration By Trudy Hayes

Elsie is sitting on a bench. She does not look up as a man approaches. He skirts around her playfully, watching her, smiling.

    Paddy whistling breaks into song

       ‘When I fall in love, it will be forever’

He takes Elsie into his arms and waltzes her, owning her in the dance, his hands on her body. She sways to his touch. He gently seats her back on the bench.


Happy anniversary Elsie.


Good place for a drowning.

    You’d like that, wouldn’t you?


Yes, I’d like to see you struggle.


But at the last minute you’d rescue me.



I’d hold you under the water until you went limp.

Good for the fishes.

They have to eat too, you know.

You never think about that, do you?


Everything eats everything. 

That’s the jungle for you.


Me Tarzan, where my Jane?


Ran for her life.


It is not good for Tarzan to be alone.


Bliss – the drowning experience bliss they say.


That’s the sinking part – after all the gaspin’ and thrashing about.


That’s what a fish does on land, you imbecile.



D’you come here often?


I come for the talent.


I’d say there’s a run on you. It’ll be the lucky man gets you.


No man will ever get me


Ah, you’ll fall for some Lothario some day.


I was married once.


 Did you love him?


Sure t’was yerself.

Paddy walks to the railing and stares out to sea.


Did you love that man? 

Did you worship him with your body?


He was a mere mortal.


A human. 

A fallen angel perhaps.


I used to draw my wedding dress when I was a child.


White, no doubt. Silk.


No. It was made of shards of glass.


Shoes, even pretty shoes?


Yes, pretty shoes.


Well, at least he turned up.


Do you ever think about it?


Often. It’s seductive, isn’t it?


It’s where we all came from I suppose. 

That great amniotic sac.


Soothing though. Rhythmic. 

And after the sea devours you, 

You’re tossed back on shore by an indifferent wave, 

washed up by the tide.


Fishermen never learn to swim. Prolongs the struggle.





Mercy is exercised by those with power




You can only pity the pitiful.


You’d need a heart though, wouldn’t you?


Sometimes it’s one heartbreak,  – or another


All those roses I bought you.


I remember the roses. I didn’t think they were real.


You just didn’t SEE them. 

You can’t SEE a rose unless you LOOK at it.


I put them on the compost heap.


Is ANYTHING real to you? Was I real? 

Did you ever even SEE me? 

I know this is a revelation, but I’m actually made of flesh and blood. 

What Are you made of?


I’m actually a fish.


You’re not a fish. You’re human. 

You have a human face.


I have fins.


You’re a cod.

For the full extract click here 

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Excerpt from Darkling by Fiona Cooke Hogan

Excerpt from Darkling, a dark faerie tale taken from The Lights Went Out and Other Stories by Fiona Cooke Hogan

She slipped through the woods with the agility of one well used to nocturnal ramblings, knowing how to pick her way along the meandering path regardless of the moon’s milky glow that shone through the thickets of hazel and birch. She hummed low to herself a verse that was popular amongst the young girls in her village.

“Rose petals, rose petals, red and white, he that I marry, come to me this night.” It was custom for maidens on Midsummers’ Night to make potions to bind their admirers in love and matrimony, and Emma Loxley needed only one more addition to a concoction she had ready: leaves that could only be harvested after nightfall.

She moved on further into the wood, her thoughts on the son of one of her father’s friends, a handsome boy who was much admired among her circle of friends for his pleasing manners and brilliant blue eyes. Emma smiled to herself, pulling her cloak tight against the chill air. She was dressed for concealment; she wore a grey cloak over a brown wool dress, clothing she had changed into after her parents had retired for the night before she climbed from her ground floor bedroom window and slipped from the grounds.

As she wandered, the path narrowed and disappeared in parts. She stopped at a gap in the trees, a clearing of sorts. The area seemed strangely unfamiliar to her in the moonlight. Emma had wandered further this night than ever before. She had missed the church bells chime the hour. The sounds of the outside world failed to pierce the dense canopy. Branches crossed above her head creating a network of tunnels where even the moon light found it hard to penetrate.

As she turned to make her way back to the more familiar path she noticed the dark pointed leaves that she required, pulled a small knife from the pocket of her dress and proceeded to cut several stalks low from the base, careful to leave enough of the plant behind. So absorbed was she in her task that she didn’t notice the stranger until she was nearly upon him.

He walked upon the hummock between the ring of gnarled and ancient rowan trees, where the ground rose up to a point past the twisted branches to resemble a bald pate above a broken crown. An old place, the heart of the forest it was said, a place she had never trod as the light grew dimmer and the trees formed a ring that scratched and pulled at the wanderer who had strayed from the path. It was an area of the forest that local lore guarded against with tales of strange noises and lights. Emma pulled herself up smartly and half hidden behind the stout trunk of an oak, she observed the wanderer.

He appeared to be of above average height with shoulder length golden hair that shone in the moonlight as he moved about the hill. He looked to be well dressed, like a noble man in his frock coat, waistcoat and breeches; each of a different woodland hue, the greens and browns of bark and leaf.

He wore knee length hunting boots, the leather bright as a new chestnut. A most beautiful creature, he strode with what purpose she could not tell. His long limbs moving with fluid grace. He seemed a part of the moss-covered hill he walked upon as if he had appeared from the earth itself.

Unable to take her eyes off the stranger, Emma moved from tree to tree until he seemed close enough to touch until finally as if in a dream, she stepped out from behind the cover of the trees to face him – a bird released from a trap with no choice but to fly towards danger.

The walker between the trees turned on his heel sensing her, then moved towards the slight figure of the girl in the grey cloak whose wide eyes shone at his approach. The stitching on his waistcoat glinted in the moon’s light as he neared. Her eyes were drawn to a face of contradictions; ancient yet youthful.

His skin was white as the light that the moon poured down.

White as bone bleached in the sun.

Pale as the ice in the village pond in midwinter.

Pale and cold as death.

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Three Extracts from Daniel Wade

Extract 1:
Port of Kinsale Sonata

A harbour chain once hovered heavily underwater

where yachts now lie in watch, like jangling centurions.

Past shorefront restaurants, sun-seeking day

trippers hoist their selfie sticks like battle ensigns

over a pier that time and tide sponge down together,

identikit ‘keep-out’ signs blocking each gangway.

But you’ll find me loitering on a different gangway –

far from the walking tours and tapas bars, by the water’s

swollen edge, watching breakers spume together,

both ears pricked for the plunked mutter of stones.

Seagulls riot for scraps, booze cruisers ignore signs

in the sky that have since burnt out, but may, someday,

rekindle. I just am as I am, unshaven, workaday,

here for a season, with nothing, not even this gangway,

to keep me. Pleasure boats fly their lurid ensigns

at half-mast, and the bay is beloved of amateur water-

colourists and guidebooks. No talk of centurions

or fleets here. It’s been years since men stood together

alongshore, waiting to fight or die, apart or together

under English steel, their ashes dumped off the peninsula.

An almighty fort crowns the bluff, its cannons

poised for the slenderest sight of belligerent sail. Gangway

and anchor chain plunge headfirst into gusting water

the sprays past the lighthouse it broke over. Ensign

and signal shudder in a heraldic array of design,

but lightning has yet to gash the horizon. Together,

the milk of evening simmers the polished water,

sidelights gamboling in the current. Today,

the tide ripples like a Spanish mosaic, pub doorways

leak a mad medley of bodrans and uilleann

pipes, and by the cove the harbour mouth’s cast-iron

fangs are bared to crunch clean below bowlines

as a basking shark weaves through the estuary,

daring kayakers to come alongside, whether together

or apart, in flat calm or high winds, and the day

splashes like a wave over the glazed water.

Centurions smoke pre-watch cigarettes together

as ensigns flap in the rosy seethe of day

over this gangway, and over me, staring underwater.

Extract 2: Docklands

Medieval craftsmen who built the cathedrals of Europe did so with the understanding that they wouldn’t live to see the scaffolds removed, nor their labours completed.

From cornerstone to spire, advances in architecture allowed those edifices of brick and limestone to soar above the cramped alleyways, hovels and crowds clustered around them, for their gargoyles to keep a slack-jawed lookout on the city, for the belfries’ hourly clang to be heard for miles around. Most importantly, they served as oases of sanctuary from the daily tumult and disarray of the street.

But of course, time changes everything, including the intention, if not the significance, of grand buildings. For better or worse, commerce replaces faith; centuries of grandeur and accomplishment are reduced to mere fodder for our Instagram feeds.

As with any city, Dublin is no stranger to such changes. Take a stroll down the cobbled quays toward the Docklands, where office complexes housing multinationals and Eurospars loiter on the site of the old tar works, where cranes hover far above street level like crows pecking at soil, where restaurants made for ‘premium casual dining’ stand where ships once offloaded, and where glass-fronted apartment blocks, with names like Opus and Neptune, names implying paramountcy, the principle of dominance, loom in place of Corpo slums. The damp, stucco rooms where entire families of the great unskilled once shivered together, coughing up blood on dusty floorboards, are replaced by the luxury suites of CFOS and actuaries, and all for an asking price of €1,122 a month.

The reek of coal-dust and brewery smoke has long evaporated from the breeze. The streets are newly-paved; yet still we walk them, living the story of our existence. None of this is necessarily bad; time is a river and we have little choice but to float with its current. The future is merely one more port of call.

And so, as with the many nameless artisans who chiseled the world’s wonders into existence, many of us will sink into history’s abyss at the moment of death, taking with us our names, our passions, our struggles, our myriad loves and griefs, the story of our lives left unknown and untold. But there is nothing to fear in this; for we are all the masons our own private marvels, the tellers of our own legends, the carvers of our roughened dreams. And this, I often find, is enough.

Extract 3: Search and Rescue (play extract)

Last call there, lads! Last call!

(checking his watch):
And that’s me cue t’shoot off, lads. Herself’ll be goin’ spare if I’m not back soon.

Fair ’nough, Charlie.(to
TOMO) You, youngfella, what’re y’at? Y’need a lift off Charlie?

I… I think I should… (GILLEN wordlessly gestures for him to leave)
Eh, yeah, a lift’d be good, Charlie. Sound.

Grand, so. Me and Essam’ll rock on here for a while, won’t we, Essam?

(exchanging a glance and nod with a visibly concerned CHARLIE):
If you insist.

Sound. (to
CHARLIE) Remember, yis’re t’be down at the quay by four bells, yeah?

Four bells, skipper? Jaysus.


How’ja manage to be up by then?

It’s no bother to me, horsebox. Is it to you?


Four bells, skipper. No bother.

Dead righ’, Charlie. Sleep well, youngfella. You’ll need it.

turns to ESSAM.

Y’realise, I’d to say somethin’, yeah? Get them all fired up, like.

Yes I do. Talk to me, Gillen. You better hope we bring in a good haul this time. And that we see the tail-end of this thing… this storm –

GILLEN: Storm Herbert.

ESSAM: Right. Therefore, I need you to go only where I tell you
to go, and don’t try to act otherwise. Of course, we’ve a problem here, because, knowing you as well as I do, you’ll feel the waves slapping off the hull, and you’ll want to show off how close you can get to the eye of the storm without capsizing. That’s even
on top of making sure we all get paid. I’m not saying you won’t manage it, but it’s a big task for any man to take on.

GILLEN: Withou’ capsizin’?

ESSAM: Yes. And getting us all paid. That’s how you work, Gillen.
I say one thing, and you’ll just steer in the opposite direction. It’s just how you’re built.

GILLEN: Y’know why I’m glad you’re comin’ on this trip, Essam?
It’s not ’cause, y’know, you’re one of the best fuckin’ navigators I ever sailed with. ‘Cause, y’know, we’d be fucked without yeh, yeah?

ESSAM: Sure.

GILLEN: Righ’, ‘xactly. It’s not ’cause, y’know, y’give me all
this wisdom abou’ I dunno, the fish and the birds. ’Cause, y’know, I know enough abou’ birds as it is, wha’?

ESSAM: If you say so.

Gillen: It’s ’cause every time we head ou’, and you’re there workin’
away on deck, I know we’re in for a good trip.

EESAM: No disagreement there.

You’ve fam’ly, don’t yeh?

Yes. They’ve gotten used to me being gone all the time.

GILLEN: Are they eatin’?


They survivin’?


Mmmm. Well lookit, I coulda just recruited y’in from one of the agents. Drove y’down from Belfast, no questions asked, have y’sleepin’ on the boat, maybe. But no. That’s not how I work. Y’won’t be one of them poor fuckers, not on my watch. And sure, don’t
I always pay y’fair, same as the others?

ESSAM: Yeah, because it weren’t for me, you’d have sunk long ago.
Don’t even deny it.

GILLEN: I know, man.

As do I. Despite it all.

I mean, you’re still a pedantic prick, though.


all posts Speaker's Corner writing

Suzy Suzy – a new novel by William Wall

The Irish Times review of the new novel Suzy Suzy by William Wall says  Suzy Suzy is “Everything a great book should be.  William Wall’s central character is vulnerable, unwittingly hilarious with a powerful voice.

The book is set in post Celtic Tiger Ireland, where Suzy’s property developer dad is another source of constant irritation and anxiety, with his unpaid taxes and thickening arteries: “We even debated the housing crisis in religion class . . . and I think maybe my dad is causing it. Like single-handedly causing the shortage because he owns like everything almost.”

From the novel (many thanks to William Wall for permission to print)

“According to Miss Leahy religion is all about meaning. But get this: God created the world out of chaos, then he created man, then he organised the days of the week so that Sunday was boring af, then he had the Jews faffing about trying to find the Promised Land which turns out to be Palestine which is an excuse to kill Palestinians, then he sent his own son to be crucified like you do, then he encouraged his true believers to crucify a lot of other people to save their souls, then finally we get Sunday Mass, The Blessed Sacrament, Forgiveness Of Sins, The Parish Fucking Priest, The Pope, Michelangelo, The Sacrament Of Marriage, The Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Into Heaven and Giving Up Sweets For Lent. If I ever saw a completely fucking random get-up, this is it. Like he should have left it at chaos. If God was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company he would be toast by now. Come to think of it, maybe he’d just be a billionaire and making a major contribution to Global Warming and the Extinction Of Planet Earth aka Armageddon. Which is kind of cool, when you think about it; chaos coming again. Come back, God, all is forgiven lol.

Actually I think Armageddon is an actual God thing from the Bible idk I should google it but I’m like totally cba.
Serena doesn’t like Holly. She tells me things she thinks I don’t know. Like Holly Had a Urinary Tract Infection in second year and according to Serena It Was Because She Was Having Dirty Sex. I told her I already knew about it and it wasn’t sex just some infection. Serena thinks that’s hilarious. Or she pretends she does. She’s studying all the news reports about the Graham Dwyer trial. She has googled them all. She has screenshots. She wants to talk about what it would feel like to be completely in the power of a man.

I say: Try my dad.

Serena puts on the concerned medical professional face. How is your poor dad?
He’s in the recovery position, I say. If he obeys orders he’ll be fine.

I worry about him, she says.

Like totally randomly she’s worrying about my dad. She has her own dad to worry about and frankly if I was her I’d be worried just being in the same house as him.
She tells me that Holly’s dad did time in prison. She’s wondering if doing time in prison makes you a dominant. Less like a dominant I never met. Holly’s dad is a total pussycat. Serena doesn’t know why he was in prison, but I do and I won’t tell her. I pretend it’s a mystery. For a while we make up things he might have done. Serena’s favourite is some kind of murder – with knives or an axe. I point out that you don’t get out in under a year for an axe murder. Her second fave is pyromaniac. That’s because she likes fires. When we were kids she used to light fires in a part of her garden where she couldn’t be seen. They have this huge garden with a glasshouse and a boathouse (disused) at the bottom and a view over the sea. They have a see-saw and a climbing frame. They have a paddling pool (disused). We used to say we were experimenting with how different things burned. She even started to get petrol out of her mother’s car using a tube and a bottle. She watched YouTube videos of people throwing petrol bombs during riots. I know an OCD when I see one believe me”.