Author Archives: Kevin Higgins

President Michael D Higgins (centre) presents Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Disability Equality and Integration, his seal of office watched by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin at Dublin Castle last June

Kevin writes:

A new poem inspired by President Michael D signing the Mother and Baby Homes secrecy bill. Apart from the bit about the fourth world war, which hasn’t happened yet, it’s more or less a true story.

Presidential

When you finish reading this poem,
you’ll remember only
the Black Forest Gateaux
I bought you once.

I had no option but to vote for
that tax on women’s shoes
but greatly admired the fight you put up against it;
have kept all the press cuttings,
especially those that took care not to mention me.

As you, me, and the mirror know
I’ve always been a great
pro-choice advocate;
that’s why I spent thirty years
never mentioning the issue.

When I stop talking
all you’ll remember is
the Black Forest Gateaux
I bought you once.

When I signed this bill to keep
what we did to the children secret,
you, me, and my bodyguards know
how vehemently I’m against it.

Trick is: what to remember
and what not,
because of a Black Forest Gateaux
I ordered you once.

The history books are littered with
shit I voted for but was against
in the restaurant afterwards,
as I eyed the Black Forest Gateaux
and thought of you.

And as I explain at length in my book
‘The Art of Statecraft’,
when the Fourth World War descends
and the division bell rings,
I’ll have no alternative but to leap up –
with nothing in my heart but peace –
and, at best, abstain.

As you’re vapourised
you’ll remember nothing
but the Black Forest Gateaux
I fed you once.

Kevin Higgins

Previously: ‘My Department Engaged Extensively With The AG’s Office’

Soon to be demolished site of the Oasis nightclub, Salthill, Galway

Kevin Higgins writes:

This is poem is from my 2005 debut collection The Boy With No Face. In it I take a comic look at my mostly unsuccessful attempts at wooing the opposite gender in nightclubs such as The Oasis in Salthill, which is now to be demolished. For the most part, the ladies in question very wisely ran away.

Letter to a Friend about Girls
(after Philip Larkin)

What losers we were when it came to girls.
‘Pull up to my bumper baby, drive it in between’
played soundtrack to the wet dreams
of small, inconsequential fellas, the likes of us.
And we’re talking small on an almost monumental scale.
In duffel coats and awful glasses
we shuffled around the edges of other people’s parties
all through the eighties,
gawking down in the general direction
of our stupid, stupid shoes.
If charisma could be distilled,
ours would have been measured
in somewhat less than millilitres.
So small, we barely existed.

On the rare occasions when opportunity
—the tastiest variety—put herself there
to be availed of and there was nothing for it
but to press the advantage all the way home,
we either failed to spot the most obvious signals
—our radar were useless at picking incoming aircraft up—
or else managed to inexplicably miss.
She grinned through the worst jokes
and was clearly prepared to overlook that duffel coat,
but the score on the board stubbornly somehow stayed zero.
The goal could be yawning wide open
and still the ball would either trickle
pathetically wide or go sailing miles over.
And just what exactly were we supposed to say
as another cut-price night at The Oasis declined
(with no bachelor flat to which she might be lured back)?
“Let’s explore the universe with my last fifty pence piece.
If I empty my pockets perhaps I could stretch as far as a kebab.”

Kevin Higgins

US President Donald Trump (left) and Democrat Presidential candidate Joe Biden

The Joke
(after Walter Benjamin)

A barrel of industrial waste poured into a suit
donated by a casino owner who knows people
with a tangerine tea towel tossed strategically on top
because it was the only available metaphor for hair
was running for re-election as CEO of South Canadia
against an old coat with holes in it.

The barrel of waste was trailing
histrionically among professors emeritus
whose brains were in the process of being dismantled
by lethargy and time, and among those
who, as and when the stock market permits,
take a year off to celebrate their dividends
by doing good works among brown people in far countries
not lucky enough to have stock markets or dehumidifiers.
Such people agreed with each other that the barrel of waste
made the raging boil on the nation’s privates
way too obvious, and hoped by throwing
the old coat over it they could again
forget it was there.

The barrel of waste said the old coat couldn’t deliver
on the promises he wasn’t making,
and maintained good leads among morticians,
pimps, and police informants
and had the total bastard vote
ninety nine percent sewn up –
in essence everyone except the late John DeLorean
and perhaps Alan Dershowitz.

There was a minority faction who wanted the boil
on the nation’s privates given free antibiotics, lanced
with a big needle imported from Sweden
and then cauterised. But most people found
though they were in favour, in their hearts,
of lancing the boil,
in practice they were for
allowing the boil to grow redder, angrier, more toxic
under the old coat with holes in it.

So the minority extremist faction
who wanted the thing treated
were sentenced to the echo chamber
to argue about whether the old coat
with holes in it really
was the lesser evil.

The midwife of history,
grown bored with the year twenty twenty,
had decided to play one of her jokes.

Kevin Higgins

Earlier: Mudslide

Getty

Poet Kevin Higgins

This morning.

Kevin Higgins has responded to criticism of his poem posted yesterday to mark the 5th anniversary of the Carrickmines fire.

Kevin writes:

I grew up mostly, from the age of seven, in the Rahoon/Newcastle area of Galway City. We moved here in 1974, and I have lived back here since 2004. This area has been notorious for its anti-traveller racism, much of it stoked by local politicians. The area has even added the word “Rahoonery” to the language.

I know the voice of the anti-traveller racist, which I channel for satirical purposes in my poem ‘After The Barbecue’, intimately. I am happy that this poem has provoked outrage; I think the idea that a tasteful poem should be written about such an event is itself a disgrace.

There was nothing tasteful about what happened and certainly nothing tasteful about the anti-traveller protests of those Carrickmines residents.

The Irish poetry world is awash with tasteful poets. I do not aspire to be part of that tradition. Mine is the tradition of Brecht and Swift, neither of whom, despite their very varying politics, gave any consideration to what crying liberals and closet racists considered tasteful.

In this sense, though I don’t take pseudonymous comments on the internet very seriously, I embrace the distaste of some of the commenters on this poem. I am delighted that I have succeeded in exposing the fact that they appear to be far more exercised by a poem than they were about the deaths of these travellers, and the racism of local residents.

Let them get up an online petition against this poem; I couldn’t care less. If anyone has a serious critique of this poem, let them write an article about it and publish it somewhere.

Kevin Higgins

Yesterday: People Like Us

The aftermath on the morning of October 10, 2015 at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in Carrickmines, Dublin 18 where a fire broke out killing Thomas Connors, 27, his wife Sylvia, 30, and their children Jim, five, Christy, three, and six-month-old Mary; Willie Lynch, 25, his partner 27-year-old Tara Gilbert, who was pregnant, and their daughters Jodie, aged nine, and Kelsey, four; and 39-year-old Jimmy Lynch, a brother of Willy.

Kevin Higgins writes:

Below is a poem I wrote at the time of the Carrickmines fire (and the resident’s protest against the surviving traveller’s being temporarily relocated) and published in 2016.  I thought, given the 5th anniversary, it might be suitable.

After the Barbecue

People like us,
always been here
and always will,
until we bequeath this land
to the bacteria.
We were fine with
the War of the Spanish Succession,
only thought it not quite long enough.
When the day gets here we’ll happily
bless our great-grand-children as they go guffawing
off to the next officially sanctioned
bloodbath of the nations. But have agreed,
by unanimous vote at tonight’s meeting,
we must
build a barricade against this.

Those people’s demise –
Thomas and Sylvia, their children Jim, aged 5;
Christy, aged 2 and Mary, five-months-old.
Willie Lynch and his partner Tara,
their Kelsey aged 4, Jodie aged 9.
And Jimmy Lynch, 39 –
in the Carrickmines
barbecue is a tragedy

made all the worse by how
it contented itself
with half-measures.
We won’t have the gypsy leftovers put
in the field across from us,
to mar our hard earned view
of the surrounding countryside.

We are not the Ku Klux Klan,
in fact are profoundly jealous
of their much better outfits
and all the great movies
they, without fail, get to turn up in.
We but dream of riding horses
sharp as theirs, as we make our stand
in defence of what we see out the window
when we alight of a morning
on our genetically superior
polished, wooden floors.

These people’s Kentucky Fried
relatives are not our issue to solve.
We have scribbled our names
in their book of condolences.
but you, me, and The Evening Herald know
we are what most of the country thinks
when it draws its floral curtains,
shuts its eyelids and tells itself
truths it will never utter in polite company,
or in front of nuns who do great work
in the third world and other parts
of Africa. We realise
we’ll be vilified by people
the majority of whom wouldn’t have them either.

We just don’t want them here,
or, if possible, anywhere else.

Kevin Higgins

Previously: Carrickmines Fire on Broadsheet

RollingNews

Kevin Higgins writes:

Below is my tribute to what is, hopefully, the worst public toilet in Irish history. It was perched by O’Brien’s Bridge in Galway City, immediately above the River Corrib, beside the Bridge Mills. It is now boarded up because it cannot be demolished because it is part of the structure of the bridge.

In Memoriam: the worst public toilet in Galway

Hidden like a pimple on the City’s most intimate bit.
We went down your steps to tiles
that were never white and had seen things
no lavatory attendant should have to look at.

You hung above the river
as it went viciously about its business.
Whatever the temperature
you were ten degrees less.
No one visited you except out of desperation
or via the sort of mistake American tourists make.

You belonged to gents in questionable coats
with even more questionable things
hanging hopefully beneath them
like ukuleles.

Though you’ve been boarded up
since what’s now the last century; it’s said
each Halloween and Macnas parade,
in your far dark, their coats come alive
to again disgrace your tiles.

Kevin Higgins

The Oireachtas Golf Society’s dinner, which took place last Wednesday at the Station House Hotel (above) in Clifden, County Galway, was attended by a host of senior politicians and notable public figures.

Who Runs Ireland?

Not the Deliveroo riders named Tariq and Omar
who Gemma O’Doherty is terrified will try to marry her.
Nor the taxi drivers from Togo John Waters fears will
make him go around the place wearing a veil.
Not the Hutch Kinehan wet squad The Sunday World keeps
telling you are coming to ruffle your dahlias.
Nor the puppets of George Soros
Jim Corr knows, from his research, are trying to put
a brown paper bag over his head.

But the Supreme Court Justices,
the Banking Federation chief executive,
the Ministers past and present,
the journalists who are meant to ask them questions.
These are the people who sign off on your life.
They go by the secret name ‘Oireachtas Golf Society’.

And for the sake of what Saturday’s Irish Times calls stability,
you must allow such people eat in peace:
the French onion soup, the seared king scallops,
and a selection of ice creams,
all from the one big bowl.

And if they wish to have a sex party afterwards,
to slither across each other, pink as piglets;
such eventualities are covered
in the terms and conditions
of the Oireachtas Golf Society.

For the sake of what The Sunday Independent calls
the national interest, such people must be let gobble
who and what they will.

Kevin Higgins

Pic via Twitter

Former US president George W Bush (left)  and daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres at an American football game last year

Poet Kevin Higgins writes:

it seems time I shared this which was provoked by Ellen’s friendship with George W. Bush…

The Continuing Confessions of A Daytime Talk Show Host

My catalogue of pals stretches beyond Bush,
Trump, and the Emperor Bokassa’s personal crocodile.
For I am everywhere, and always have been:
helped Claus Von Bulow rewrite his Tinder profile
the day they switched his wife off;
had the Cleveland Torso Murderer judge
my show’s inaugural belly dancing competition
which, it being 1938,
was only available on radio, but, hey,
I’m always up for a challenge;
celebrated John Gotti’s twenty fifth
successive acquittal by gifting him
a diamond crusted
knuckle-duster, and paying
Annie Leibovitz
to photograph him wearing it;
and, yes, tried to hire
the Zodiac Killer as my show’s
resident astrologer
but Letterman got there first.
.
People misunderstand.
It’s my job to talk
to the guy who tied
Sacco and Venzetti to the chair,
like two sad salamis,
so I can ask him which
has been his favourite
fry up so far.

The fact I shared a table
and chicken skewers
with Vlad the Impaler
at a mutual friend’s wedding
and found him
a delightful conversationalist
is no criticism on my part
of those he had boiled
in his giant copper cauldron,
or hammered giant
wooden spikes
through.

I’ll be friends with anybody
as long as they’re somebody.

Kevin Higgins

Ellen DeGeneres’ show ratings plummet amid explosive claims of ‘toxic’ workplace (irish Mirror)

Peter Tatchell (second left) with Green Party members at the Dublin Pride 2018, including new Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. Roderic O’Gorman (left)

Poet Kevin Higgins writes:

I am dedicating to all those on the far Catholic right in Ireland who are currently busy smearing Peter Tatchell. In this poem the statue of the Virgin Mary at Knock speaks their darkest fantasies.

What The Virgin At Knock Would Say If She Could Speak

We need to get back
to when confirmed bachelors
found their own kind through holes in cubicles
during untelevised All Ireland Finals.
To when there were no government funded
lesbians on display in public parks,
or self-confessed sodomites in the Senate.
To when there was no obscene use for
Vaseline, or sexual intercourse in Headford.

To when no one put Coke bottles
where they weren’t supposed to go.
And there were no automatic
washing machines for women to sit on
when Rock Hudson was unavailable.
To when the Irish people stood
at the end of lanes waiting
for nothing to happen,
which it mostly did.

To when young ones who forgot to cross
their legs at the crucial moment could be put
steam ironing curtains for the golf club, sheets
and pillowcases for your mother’s B&B;
still be safely there eight o’clock
in the evening having hot flushes
the hottest day of that century
to which we must get back.

Kevin Higgins

Yesterday: ‘A Small Group Of People With A Very Clear Agenda’

Galway’s Christopher Columbus monument in Spanish Arch was recently vandalised (top). Gifted by the Italian city of Genoa, People Before Profit said it ‘glorified slavery and racism’ and have demanded its removal

How to Get Rid of Christopher Columbus

Don’t get photographed presenting your
two thousand names to the Mayor,
looking as if you’re graduating
with a qualification you’ll never use.
Don’t ask the Church of Ireland or National Council
for the Advancement of Concerned People
to intervene.

Do it yourself.
But not explosives, no.
There’s always a mostly innocent
retired car park attendant with a limp
(or some such) passing at the exact moment.
He retired five years ago
but because of the limp
was still on his way home.
And now he’s in small pieces
or, even worse,
one piece;
and you’re the reason
he has that stutter
when the journalist talks to him
on the every o’clock news.

Nothing like a spot of terrorism
gone amiss
to make all that racism, pillage, and slicing
off most of a native’s thigh
just to test your blades
or a child’s hand
because their parents wouldn’t cooperate
with what was
an honest attempt to improve them
seem civilised in comparison.

Arm yourself with
no mere plinkety chisel
but mallet, kango hammer,
a couple of the like-minded,
and high vis jackets marked
‘City Council’ or ‘Irish Water’
and present the slow citizenry
with the fact
of his stone tribute
in the sea

Kevin Higgins

Previously: Glorifying Slavery And Racism

Pic 2: Kevin Higgins