Clifton Redmond is an Irish poet, a member of The Carlow Writer’s Co-operative. He has had poems published in various literary journals both in Ireland and internationally.
We filed along the ditch on Brennan’s lane,
ushered quick steps the tempo of dusk.
Adrenaline fuelled through a slip in the fence.
We trudged a landscape of perfectly raked ridges,
a million miles of drills, tiny combed back hills
of soft inviting clay, green life climbing from it.
We hoarded them into turf sacks, separating
scrawny green stalks from heads of yellow-brown bulb,
after it was turned and forked and scattered,
strangled debris littered our thief’s trail,
like the broken promises of earth and people.
We ran thoughtless, lawless, into darkness.
watching the ditch for tractor headlights.
(in memoriam, Patrick Fetherstone, 1900-1916)
Mammy, take your head out of the gash,
you can’t stop the ink-spill, my story’s written.
Mammy, why are you on your knees,
sobbing, a banshee kneeling on glass-confetti?
There is no me in that empty skin-and-bone-bottle,
I am elsewhere now, I am gone.
Forget the arguments we had,
your harsh words hissing, cutting, crushing;
me begging for a bag of sweets,
just to see how sweet they tasted.
But I had my day, running up Sackville Street,
drunk with hope, to see the great glass
frames of Noblett’s unprotected, blinded
by the sight of cherry red stones,
sapphire globes, orange suns dawning…
And I ran with my loot, a silk purse of treasure
through the pushing crowds, mouth full
of ecstasy, heart pulsing for the taste of freedom.
And nothing would have stopped me,
the smell of mortar shells and gunpowder,
the crack-fire of rifles, the hole in my leg.
And I watched those little treasures
I tasted for a moment, a perfect moment,
dance away, free, along the concrete.
You think you’d find it easy to escape,
drive anywhere, the radio feeds,
You can go your own way,
signposts, stone crosses
and farmhouses flashing past.
The windscreen wipers slash
and wrap to constant rain slaps;
asphalt roads pour from asphalt clouds
from Coolmanagh to Kelerig; the cars
you meet are two yellow eyes looking back
through the teary rear-view mirror
at the little town you left behind
that knew you by a different name,
the pitch you scored your first goal,
the ditch you toked your first fag,
the schoolyard you got your first black eye,
You’d think you’d find it easy
to walk away from school yards
and church yards; abettors,
graveyards, narrow-minded streets.
In this scene from a past life
I’m on the shed roof we share with our neighbours,
crossing the worn line from ours to theirs.
Our side is covered in moss stubs and chippings,
a woodworm ladder with two missing rungs
and a wobbly leg. On their side, mysteries:
a polished conker, an oversized cockle,
the skeleton head of a Sika stag
with a bullet hole in its skull.
I hold it above my head like a trophy,
the lost remains of Tuan MacCarill.
When he speaks he warns me home,
‘Leave the Byrnes to themselves, bold intruder.’
His ancient antlers tremble in my hands.
Through his hollow eyes, I see Nemedians perish,
engulfed in a wave of fire and plague.
I leave the relic back where I found it, cross
over the border, destroy the ladder, never return.
Fishing off Kinsale
We sailed out on an hourly rental,
the little motor revved and hissed,
fussed over ripples, spit
playful bubbles in our briny wake.
We fixed fishing rods to the sides, dangled
them when we found a good depth.
I loved how the boat swayed
when it stopped, how the bay took us
and had us dance. When the lines strained
there was excitement as we hauled in marcel,
haddock, catfish, a few cod
and a slippery thick cable of conger eel.
The gods grew tired of our blaggard ways,
Manannán slapped the water with his steel strap,
whipped Aonbarr into a galloping frenzy;
his white mane drowned the harbour,
buried us in a piss-pale mist. The raft jumped,
flipped on the waves like a dying salmon,
took each slap like penance. Some prayed
to the Blessed Virgin, some to Saint Peter,
and some hid their tears in washes of salty splash.