In the Land of Ire & Vice – a poem about an island

In the Land of Ire and Vice

It was all about buy to let

Invest in property to get rich quick

Sell a field

In the high risk “I risk” sea

And buy a nuclear power station with the profits


Pushing a trolley

Down the Emerald supermarket aisle

Dark horses gallop home to roost

A neigh shunned once again

A light knock to the shin

But the shin feigns injury

My head hits the ground, concussed

An array of light engulfs my vision

An “eye array” you might say

But they’ll deny it ever existed
Would you Adams and Eve it?

A man cuts the grass

With a broad black strimmer, and

On the other side of the cowshed

A small brown bird chirps out a song of indifference

The wren behind the byre

Meanwhile at the bar I order a coke and an orange

They just bring the coke

forgetting the orange order
I need to relieve myself outside

taking a leak up against the corner wall

Which turns out to be

The slash my father swore

Would get me into trouble.

A man in black approaches

“Do you pee?” he asks

Then continues

“Pee? Yes and I

Are, you see,

a policeman

Please come this way, you’re in eight

times more trouble than me”

So the police now have powers

To guard a sheer corner

And look after their own
Chucking our laws out the window
As clouds of steam from the east are rising

The German bankers say “Devalue Eire”

As he turns in his grave.

The headlines scream

The Queen sips tea – shock!

With the Taoiseach

You won’t find a finer foil

Out at sea,

A flat fish swims past

A ray? A plaice?

Aye, a ray

it is

But never was a ray

To Labour the point

A voter at a political conference

In the south of France

set himself on fire,

The ballot box and the arm alight

It was quite a conflagration

In the Ardèche

The shattered dreams of an ex-justice minister

Haunt the waves out at sea

a collision with a coalition

There’s a fish caught in a storm

a fin, a gale…turns the waters choppy

No fee nor foil

Can buy off a government

But playing dumb is simply

To feign a fool

With fingers fumbling in Greecey tills

Farmer doffs his CAP subsidy

Colours his sheep a shade of red

A cause worth dyeing for?

Meanwhile across the Irish Sea

A lone poet sits in exile

Tapping on a keyboard to the tune of a long forgotten song…


A poem about the joys of cycling



I wanted to ride the Tour de France
Then one summer my dreams
Of yellow jerseys fell to pieces
On a downhill descent head over handlebars I flew
My chin scraping the hard tarmac.

Just another crash I thought, no harm done
Until I noticed my white t-shirt soaked in blood
front wheel badly buckled, bike now unrideable
walking towards home bike over my shoulder
a passing motorist picked me up

The doctor spent an hour taking grit from the wound
then one stitch after another
I still have the scar to prove it.

And I’ve never ridden a bike since that fateful day you may say
But some years later I was back in the saddle

Cycling along a shiny wet tarred surface
I glance down to see my reflection
As raindrops sting my face.

Poised like a lance, arms strong
As I grip the handlebars
Living the lie, the bigger they come the harder they fall.
But my only drug of choice is caffeine
in small roadside cafes where
town gives way to country.

An uphill climb
Lactic acid builds up
Thighs ready to die
Lungs take the brunt

Then the
in low gear
the cool
breeze in
my face…

It’s not the Alps or the Pyrenees

There’s no supporters urging me on

no painted message on the road
But this is one of life’s simple pleasures

Which no drug can manufacture

a multi-coloured carbon fibre and lycra parade.

woods and fields go whooshing by.
Endorphines pumping in

what psychologists call “the zone” –

That transient state of bliss where body meets mind.

A Limerick Limerick

To celebrate Limerick being named as 2014 City of Culture (@Limerick2014), I’ve penned a limerick about Limerick:

The Limerick Limerick

A city on the banks of the Shannon

Renowned for its rugby and gammon

Though it’s not quite Paris

It spawned Richard Harris

A man who could drink like a salmon

A Poem That Has No Real Meaning, Yet Literary Critics And Academics Would No Doubt Find Some Hidden Connotations About Life And Death And Draw Some Significance In The Fact That The Title Is Longer Than The Actual Poem

From my forthcoming collection of short stories and poetry:

“A Poem That Has No Real Meaning, Yet Literary Critics And Academics Would No Doubt Find Some Hidden Connotations About Life And Death And Draw Some Significance In The Fact That The Title Is Longer Than The Actual Poem”

A fish opens its mouth

In a pond

Closes it

Opens it again

Over and over

Eats weed

Swims away

And gets eaten by a passing heron.


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Memoirs – Episode 3: The School Magazine and the Great Belgian Crisps Caper…

In our final year at the school, a small group of us, the usual suspects fulfilled our long-held ambition which we’d aspired to since 1st year by joining the committee of the annual school magazine. We thought we were the dog’s bollocks, but the truth is we were a bunch of cocky wee bastards who probably deserved a good hiding . In my early years at the school I’d looked up to the older boys who ran the magazine and wanted to be like them with their clever, witty articles, sophisticated sense of humour and sarcastic quips. Several years later when school was but a dim and distant memory one of my proudest moments occurred. I was in a pub in Omagh with a bunch of old schoolmates. I got talking to a younger lad who had been a few years below me at school. To my shame I don’t even remember his name, but he said he remembered my contemporaries and me from the school magazine and the articles we’d written and told me – “I used to look up to you boys – I wanted to be like you”.

In any given year the magazine would have articles on the previous year’s school trips, the excruciatingly bad 4th form adolescent angst-ridden poetry of the “I’m so depressed and misunderstood” variety, cartoons plagiarised from Gary Larrson’s “Far Side” collections and similar such odds and sods. The quality of material wasn’t always top rate, but if nothing else it was a great ego trip to see your own handiwork in print.

We put up a publicity poster featuring a warrior from a sword-and-sorcery “Lord of the Rings”-type graphic novel, glistening sword in one hand with his other arm around a comely young wench, the wind in their hair with the legend “Many are the pleasures of writing for your school magazine”. But inevitably some “comedian” had to deface the poster and change the word “writing” to “riding”.


We also tried to slip a few risqué pieces in, some of which successfully made it. The editor Pete McGrane, a tall thin red-haired chap had been on a short trip to Belgium after having won a schools essay–writing competition on the European Union. To his (and our) great delight and amusement he discovered that the leading Belgian brand of crisps, (their equivalent of Walkers or Tayto) was called Croky. He wrote a witty account of his Belgian experience for that year’s magazine. At the end of his piece he included a cheeky afterthought. I don’t recall the exact words, but it went something along the lines of:

“…and finally no trip to the low countries would be complete without a mention of Belgium’s favourite junk food – Croky crisps!”

Accompanying this paragraph was a photo of a packet of the fat-saturated potato-based snacks bearing the distinctive “CROKY” logo in large letters. It’s probably a safe bet that the crisp manufacturer’s namesake was well aware of young McGrane’s intentions here, but sensibly he chose to turn a blind eye.

A Homage to the “tit and fang” film

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Philip Larkin (the dead poet of They fuck you up, your mum and dad” fame that is, not the Philip Larkin who occasionally contributes to this blog) during his time as librarian at Hull University in the 1970s was said to have  complained to a friend about the lack of late night horror films on regional TV at the time, claiming ‘We’re absolutely starved of tit and fang up here.”  It is of course conceivable that the other Philip Larkin holds similar views.  But I couldn’t possibly comment on that.

Larkin was referring to that unique, but long gone staple of the British B-movie industry, the Hammer horror.  A classic combination of gothic horror – plundered from the literary works of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Dennis Wheatley and Sheridan le Fanu among others and endlessly recycled – and soft porn.  Cheaply made and featuring a regular cast of actors, such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley, the Hammer films would be considered quite tame by modern standards, not to mention tacky with their extensive use of unrealistic rubber bats and plastic fangs from Woolworths, but nevertheless are still highly entertaining to watch today.

Phil Barker in his review of Sinclair McKay’s history of the Hammer films, A Thing of Unspeakable Horror, published in the Observer sums up the genre perfectly:

“Hammer gave us a world all their own, a place with Home Counties woodland masquerading as Transylvania (it was Black Park near Slough), heavily cleavaged vampire women, lashings of fake blood with a strange milkshake texture, and the occasional bad sets, particularly in the later films, as if Dracula lived in a branch of the Angus Steak House. It’s immediately recognisable, this land where ‘the inns are full and boisterous only until someone mentions a certain word’, and McKay does a tasty job of evoking it. We all remember the red lining of Dracula’s cape, but what a pleasure to be reminded of Peter Cushing’s eyeball, suddenly seen huge through a magnifying glass as he examines the brain.

I realise The Dreaming Arm is in serious danger of becoming a branch of the Kate Bush fan club at this stage, but to celebrate Hallowe’en, here’s her very own tribute to the Hammer films – Hammer Horror .  In contrast to the very heavygoing “This Woman’s Work” of the last post, “Hammer Horror” is a light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek number, in which Kate takes a leaf out of Alice Cooper’s book.  Dracula will be turning in his grave.  And then he’ll get out of it and find some healthy young virgins to suck the blood of. 

Kate Bush: Hammer Horror

Some crap poems

Here’s some poetry I wrote during a moment of boredom.  I don’t think Seamus Heaney’s Nobel prize-winning reputation will be too badly affected, nor I supect will WB Yeats be turning in his much-visited Sligo grave in the shadow of Benbulben, but here goes.  I might give Radovan Karadzic a run for his money though.  Alternative medicine proably pays more than poetry anyway.  Just think of all those prison guards and judges in the Hague taking oil of echinaea for their bad backs or going through acupuncture and aromatherapy to cure that sprained ankle.  Many will no doubt think it serbs him right.

Cue eerie, deathly silence punctuated by the swoosh of tumble weeds in the whistling wind and the distant clanging of a funeral bell…I’ll get my coat.

Rhyme without Reason

Marcel Marceau liked to mime

I write poems that don’t rhyme

But this one does

Some of the time

But not many words rhyme with rhyme

And…in fact I can’t think of any at the moment

Some words are common, some sublime

If you can’t get the dollar

Go for the dime

Why have lemon

When you can have lime

Parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme

 If you can’t serve time

Don’t do the crime

The mountain’s there

For people to…


This poem’s unclean

It’s all dirt and…


This poem is so…

Nearly over

It is now.

(Thank fuck)


The Crap Poem

This poem is crap, it has no rhythm

The poet’s here but you’re not with him

It has no reason to even exist

When I wrote it I was a bit…