The Pros and Cons of Living Alone


No-one to make a mess of the place

No-one to take up your personal space

No-one to hog the remote control

No-one to sadden or vex your soul

No-one to stop you reading in bed

No-one who wants to sleep instead

No-one to mind if your clothes get too tight

No-one to pinch all the covers at night



First published in Reach

Precious Metal

Tacky on cheap, plastic accessories

tasteless on rich ladies living to shop

sordid and peeling on dirty, chipped nails

brassy and vulgar in budget baubles

brutal on grammatically challenged rapper

brash bright burnt harsh light



Cool and mysterious, clean, unpretentious,

mystical, magical, unostentatious,

subtle, seductive, stylish, intellectual,

smooth, understated, sensuous, shimmering,

glimmering moonlight, shivering starlight,

glinting on skin like elusive promise


First published in Reach

Pearse’s Oration at the Graveside of O’Donovan Rossa

Pearse’s Oration at the Graveside of O’Donovan Rossa

‘Found’ by Eleanor Dent, January 16 2008


We stand at Rossa’s grave not in sadness


that is has been given to us to come into thus so close

a communion with that brave and splendid soul.

Splendid and holy causes are served by men who are

themselves splendid and holy. O’Donovan Rossa

was splendid in the proud manhood of him,

splendid in the heroic grace of him,

splendid in the Gaelic strength

and clarity and truth of him. This is a place

of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak

with all charity and all restraint;

but I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa

held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth,

to hate oppression, and, hating them,

to strive to overthrow them. The Defenders

of the Realm have worked well in secret

and in the open. They think that they

have provided against everything; but the fools,

the fools, the fools! They have left us

our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves

I reland unfree shall never be at peace.


Padraig Pearse, August 1, 1915


A workshop I belonged to set members the task of writing a ‘found poem.’ I had never heard of this before. To be honest, I thought it a bit of a cheek for people to take existing prose and chop it up to make something new. However, this was my effort.


Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa (1831 – 1915) founded, in 1856, the Phoenix National and Literary Society ‘for the liberation of Ireland by force of arms.’ In 1858 the society held a public demonstration and O’Donovan Rossa was interned without trial on conspiracy charges for eight months. In 1865 he was accused of plotting a Fenian rising and sentenced to penal servitude for life. In 1869 he was elected to parliament for Tipperary but his election was declared void because he was imprisoned. He was released in 1871 and exiled to America where he died in 1915. His body was brought back to Ireland and given a hero’s burial, with Padraig Pearse giving his famous oration.


Padraig Pearse (1879 – 1916) became interested in the heritage and history of Ireland at an early age and joined the Gaelic League when he was 21. The purpose of the League was to promote the Irish language and culture. He was a pioneer of Irish writing and published poems, stories, articles and essays to further the identification of Ireland as a separate culture. When England entered the First World War Irish Nationalism was split between those who wanted to take advantage of England’s plight and those who wanted to assist England in the war in order to gain concessions when it was over. Pearse was a member of the supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a militant group that believed in using force to remove the British from Ireland. Shortly before 1915 the IRB had plans for a full military revolution in Ireland. He was heavily involved in the planning of the 1916 Easter Rising which was the catalyst for the subsequent War of Independence, Civil War and eventual declaration of a Republic in 1949. The Rising failed and Pearse was executed on May 3, 1916, with fourteen other rebels.


The ‘found’ poem is an extract from Pearse’s Oration at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa, which many Irish men and women can recite by heart. It is a powerful piece of rhetoric, but the extracts I have chosen fall very easily into the form of a poem. I have neither added nor taken away a single word; nor is the punctuation mine. The whole oration can be found online (Google ‘Padraig (or Patrick) Pearse O’Donovan Rossa.’) I would also recommend English translations of his poems, if you speak no Irish. The most famous are ‘The Mother’ and ‘I Am Ireland,’ both of which are almost unbearably poignant.


My father spent his later years trying to learn his favourite pieces of poetry and prose by heart and I remember him reciting Pearse’s oration in the kitchen on many occasions.

Nothing Rhymes

There was a young fellow called Orange*

Who lived at the foot of the Blorenge.**

Although he was willing

He couldn’t spell ‘shilling’

And, like me, could never spell ‘floringe.’ ***


*Possibly a relative of Jason Orange, former member of Take That!

**A mountain in south-east Wales

***’Florin:’ a pre-decimal coin worth two shillings

New Outfits

See, my sisters, all of us together

posing in the snow, the perfect Christmas Day

showing off our brand new winter coats.

You, Marianne, the eldest, still flaunting

those fine, fair legs in short style

emerald green neon and loud red stripes

like a feminist crusader parading the cross

on which a million fashion victims died.

You, Geraldine, are younger and more coy

covered neck to ankle in muted moss

the new length, not to be outdone

by your older sibling. Hat, too, soft

and subtle, while she prefers a statement

big brim, not to shade the sun, but

calculated to invite closer scrutiny.

And what of me? I was nine or ten

and chuffed as hell with my outfit as well

encrusted with diamonds, red and green

and blue, double-breasted chic

and warm, blue legs. Three lithe lasses

on snow patrol. Three bright baubles

twinkling in December gloom.

First published in Reach Poetry


A Wheel in the Country

 My feet don’t touch the ground, but still

I wear the right gear: the leggings from Llanberis,

the boots from Blacks, the fleece top from The North Face

and the Goretex coat I bought in Go Outdoors.

I never go in winter. You can easily stay warm

with the effort of pushing my great bulk

up mountain tracks and over stony paths

while I, inert, stay cold. I do try

not to whine, ungrateful, and I love

my wheels away from shopping centres

and the same old streets, but still

a little wheel is good enough for me

and the comfort of the coffee shop

is calling. Here the view is still as pretty

and the steaming mug of chocolate

sings its solace to my shivering, solid flesh.

First published in ‘Visible Breath,’ Indigo Dreams Publishing



The Talisman

 When days were darkest, folk took refuge

In quaint old shops which offered comforting

Old-fashioned faith in manageable chunks

Prayers for pockets, secret saviours

Especially one: to Joseph, patron

Of happy deaths, if such things be

(he died in the arms of Christ, they say)

And soon we all possessed the same

A talisman to drive death out.

We chanted faithfully, day on day,

In school assembly, church and home

While still devouring every word

Of doom-laden missive in daily news.

How many names we recognised

And thanked God they were not our own!

How many Josephs died again

While saviours cradled their shattered limbs

Shielding their eyes from the terrible truth

Preserving their image of being whole.

We wept to see our brothers’ pain

And wept for our own despicable flaw

Forgot so soon, and prayed again:

Thy will be done. Let it not be me!

I lived in Northern Ireland, where I was born, from 1960 to 1982 and thus through many of the most violent days of The Troubles.  The Belfast Telegraph and/or The Irish News once showed, on its front page, a powerful photo of a British soldier holding a young boy who had been badly injured in a bomb blast.  The soldier turned the boy’s face towards his chest so the boy could not see that his legs had been blown off.

First published in Reach


That Villain, El

That villain, El has now been caught

And ended is her vile career;

no more her freedom will be bought


The net around her, tense and taut,

Her escapades will cost her dear.

That villain, El, has now been caught.


With tantrums, pleading, temper fraught,

With cool persuasion, burning tear

No more her freedom will be bought.


This is the outcome we had sought

And joy returns where once was fear;

That villain, El, has now been caught.


With stuff of gold and silver wrought,

With suspect goods and gaudy gear

No more her freedom will be bought.


Rejoice! The good fight has been fought!

So let us raise a heartfelt cheer!

That villain, El, has now been caught!


To struggle will avail her naught,

Though men may jibe and women jeer.

No more her freedom will be bought.


To justice she will soon be brought.

The day of reckoning draws near!

That villain, El, has now been caught.


And so, the lesson can be taught:

The downfall of a racketeer.

That villain, El, has now been caught;

No more her freedom will be bought.

This is the first villanelle I wrote. I later learned that it is better not just to place a full stop after the third line of each three-line verse but it can be the first part of a longer sentence which continues in the next verse.  Still, not bad for a first effort.

Probably first published in Reach


Sonnet for a Wedding

For Tim and Gemma

You were not half, and neither was the other

that you should now be whole. He was himself

and so was she, by father and by mother

each beloved, joy absolute, and never

would either feel their child was incomplete.

Your body is entire, your mind, your soul.

You breathed in and breathed out. Your heart kept beat

without your mate, and yet you were not all

you could be. You must wait for love to come

for all your gifts to blossom, for your life

to start for real, to stand before the world,

proclaim, ‘This is my husband,’ ‘This my wife.’

You were not half, and now, with love to share,

you’re twice the man and woman you once were.

First published in Reach Poetry