Paul Murphy TD (seated second right) during a protest against a visit to a food bank in Jobstown, Tallaght by then Tanaiste Joan Burton
My poem in response to last evening’s episode of Reeling In The Years on RTÉ One, which covered 2014. I’ve chosen one inspired by the reaction of the common-or-garden Irish media liberal to Joan Burton’s car being blocked in Tallaght by anti-water charges protesters/
Irish Liberal Foresees Own Enduring Relevance
My words are smoother than the essential oils
the Taoiseach last week
had his parliamentary assistant rub
into his badly traumatised buttocks.
My psychotherapist insists
half the people who’ve taken
shotguns to their own heads,
during this recession, would’ve reconsidered,
if only they’d heard me talk for an hour
each week about the dangers of Sinn Féin,
or how I live in the hope of a woman Pope.
I’m all for the good people of middle Ireland
making their point in a dignified manner
with china cups of nothing stronger than tea in their hands.
But when thugs from the far parts start burning vans
and generally acting as if they owned the place;
and gurriers from the depths begin picking up bricks
and tossing words so terrible,
they’re not even in the dictionary,
at the Minister for Poverty’s hair-style.
(How would you like your wife,
sister, great grandmother,
kidnapped in her car
for two and a half hours?)
The world will not be changed by fools
banging on the bonnet of a BMW.
But by the likes of me talking
against social exclusion in TV studios.
And fundraising concerts organised
by former pop-stars.
And the well-meaning priest
with whom I regularly have dinner;
between the two us we’ve enough
concern for the poor to construct a second
Fergal Keane of the BBC,
as a back-up in case
the existing one breaks.
Trust in us. Pay no heed
to the sweary-mouthed crowd,
who if they’re not put back where they belong
will soon be eating pot noodle from scooped out skulls
confiscated from their betters
in defiance of international law.
By the likes of them,
the world must not be changed.
Reeling in the Years: 2014 (RTE)
At the G8 summit in May 2013 at Lough Erne in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland were, from left: United States President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Sunday evening’s Reeling In The Years [RTÉ One] included the visit in 2013 by the Obamas, which was a spin off of the G20 summit on Lough Erne.
Around this time, I was doing two Culture Ireland sponsored poetry readings in Washington DC and Huntington, West Virginia. The poem below was inspired by our train journey from Washington to Huntington, which took us through the northern Virginia and West Virginia via the Blue Ridge mountains. At the start of our journey I spotted an Obama ‘Hope’ t-shirt for sale at a knockdown price in a shop in the train station. The poem was inspired by that journey.
Amtrak: Washington DC to Huntington, West Virginia
At Union Station hope is a t-shirt on sale
at seventy per cent off. Yesterday,
all the bow-tied barristers gathered
in the Hilton Hotel.
At the end of the street
the man from JP Morgan told Congress
investors prefer trophy real estate:
Manhattan office blocks to houses
for the little people.
Out here, the tuxedo gives way
to the pick up truck. Red winter fields
dotted with cattle that will soon be
hamburgers; demolition yards
full of cars that were once
Out here, the taxi drivers are all local
in tiny white towns, each of which
glowers on its mountain side
like a schoolmistress.
Out here, guys
who’d have been happy
to point you in the direction
of the hunting supplies store
if they hadn’t got
killed in whatever war.
Happy Poetry Day.
To you and yours.
Poet Kevin Higgins (top) marks the occasion in a special video made by Galway Public Libraries.
My poem in response to yesterday evening’s Reeling In The Years on RTÉ One, which covered 2012. I wrote this in the immediate aftermath of the death of Savita Halappanavar at our local hospital [University Hospital Galway], which you can see from our kitchen window.
(after Peter Reading)
A great and sure remedy
for unmarried ladies. A boat
somewhere so she can sort this out
and then get back to her life.
A Ryanair flight to Leeds-Bradford.
A pill the modern woman
can take with her coffee.
An ex-nurse above a fish and chip shop
who helps girls in trouble.
A day trip to a clinic
near Liverpool. Flushing it
down the lavatory. Something
the Irish government is in no rush
to legislate for. What the Bishop of Kerry
is definitely against.
Something no one wants.
The world’s second oldest profession.
A number in England her doctor
suggests she phone.
Something the Irish government
will deal with in a prompt
and appropriate manner.
The constitutional amendment of 1983.
The letters A, B, C. The letter X.
If we leave it long enough
all the letters in between.
Something you can’t have women
walking in off the street
Reeling In The Years: 2012 (RTÉ)
Aer Lingus desk at departures in Dublin Airport, 2011
The end of last night’s episode of RTÉ One’s Reeling in the Years focused on the resumption of emigration, particularly of young people, from Ireland as the great recession continued in 2011. I wrote this poem back then when I overheard someone bemoan the fact that their hairdresser had moved to Canada…
Inconvenience: A History
When the housing market went further south
than the East Antarctic Ice Sheet,
my chiropodist climbed Croagh Patrick
to consider his property portfolio
and never came back down.
The toe nails on my left foot
are not expected to recover.
My hairdresser abandoned
me for the scalps of Alberta, Canada.
It’s been one bad hair month
after another four successive quarters,
which reminds me of the time
our landscaper, Seamus, got skinned
alive and driven around
in the passenger seat of a taxi
by a breakaway UVF faction.
The Rhododendrons were not
themselves after that.
Tragic, almost, as the night
the truck pulled up to take
our family tailor, Shmuel,
to the train and
Birkenau. Trapped in the nightmare
from which we’re all
trying to wriggle free, I went about my
business as usual
in desperate need of a decent suit.
Last night’s ‘Reeling in the Years’ on RTÉ One covered 2010, the year of the big freeze
First in a new 10-part weekly series.
Reeling In The Rhyme.
Everything must be on the table.
Your ninety seven year old granny
is no longer cost effective, would
benefit greatly from being brought face to face
with a compassionate baseball bat.
The figures speak for themselves and will
be worse by morning. The paraplegic
in his insanely expensive wheelchair
will have to crawl as God intended.
Here are the figures that won’t stop
speaking for themselves, this is the table
everything must be on. Yesterday my name was
Temporary Fiscal Adjustment.
Tonight, the insect in the radio calls me
The Inevitable. When the economist
puts his hand up, take care not to cough.
Everything’s on the table and
the table’s tiny. I’d send you a pillow
to hold hard over the child’s face
‘til the kicking stops, but at current rates
there’ll be no pillow. I am the unthinkable
but you will think me. Pack her mouth
with tea towels, hold down firmly
your old mildewed raincoat,
‘til there’s no more breath.
Tomorrow I’ll be known as
Four Year Consolidation Package.
Lock the cat in the oven and bake
at two hundred degrees centigrade.
Tie your last plastic bag over
your own head. The figures speak for themselves
and there is no table.
Austerity Mantra’ appeared in Kevin’s 2014 collection The Ghost In The Lobby (Salmon Poetry)
Reeling in the Years 2020 (RTÉ)
Poet Kevin Higgins and a portrait of himself by artist Chris Banahan
This poem (below) refers, at the end, to my lack, thus far of a vaccination date despite my condition…
Two words that strut confident of
their own historical inevitability.
Everyone in time meets them,
though hopefully not both
ringing your door bell
the same day,
unless your name is
Nagasaki or Vietnam;
or you’re the first village
no-one’s ever heard of
from thirty thousand feet
by a transgender person
pressing a button;
or you’re the first Somali in history
proudly turned into a pile of burning mince
by a drone designed by a woman of colour;
or you’re the wrong type of Australian
whose computer told us the names
of the obliterated
and so can only leave prison
in a fair-trade white cardboard box;
or you’re me, delighted
to expire unvaccinated rather
than spark a diplomatic kerfuffle
by sticking in my bicep
something as sinister sounding as Sputnik
without written permission from Brussels
who’ll surely deliver
a keynote speaker to my grave
to thank my corpse for its contribution,
and find a plausible way of saying:
I’m down here, getting acquainted with the snails
so they can be up there, polishing their idea of themselves.
At 6.30pm Irish time.
The Smurfit-Stone Corporation Endowed Professorship in Irish Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis presents the writings of Kevin Higgins (above left) and Susan Millar DuMars.
People here are MOST welcome to join the reading. It’s simple. Just click on the ‘Register me, Please!’ link below, and register. St. Louis is six hours behind Irish time. So the reading will start at 6.30pm and finish at 7.45pm (our time).
UK Labour Party leader Kier Starmer (left) alongside former leader Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons
(after Sophie Hannah)
It’s 2152 and Cumbria’s declared independence
after a campaign during which they blew
bits of Princess Eugenie all over
Lake Windermere. There’s a free market
in carcasses throttled by the latest mutant.
On Newsnight Kirsty Wark mutters from her crypt:
we may have run out of ambulances,
but at least we dodged the bullet that was Corbyn.
London’s dead have mostly been snapped up by a Russian oligarch
with a place overlooking Hyde Park
and a lifelong interest in taxidermy. Tonight he’s away to a party
where he hopes to be introduced to the late Eddie Izzard
who, despite being dead, still sits on Labour’s National Executive.
Mock The Week is seven skeletons rattling
in unison at something one of them belched
about Diane Abbott. The country’s now being led
by one of Andrew Neil’s more senior pubic lice. On the BBC
Suzanne Moore’s hair and the new strain of bacteria
they found on Tony Parsons agree:
at least it’s not Corbyn.
Brits from the six disease ridden bits
into which the Kingdom’s now splintered
have been barred from entering Bulgaria, Guatemala, Yemen…
But news of this is drowned by Ian Hislop’s skull chuckling
at something Andrew, Duke of York,
now reincarnated as a fungus, just said about Corbyn.
Jess Phillips hasn’t blown her trombone in
a hundred and thirty two years. And Starmer’s
deported so many Jews from the Labour Party*
he’s received a congratulatory telegram from IG Farben.
He shared it just now on Twitter as proof
he’s not Corbyn.
* Kevin writes:Since he became leader of the British Labour Party less than a year ago, Keir Starmer has expelled more Jewish people from the party than all other previous Labour leader’s combined, many of them on charges of “anti-Semitism”
Creative Writing – Induction Speech
It’s not all hanging around the college bar
pretending to be Ted and Sylvia;
or escaping to Italy with your lover,
like the Barrett Brownings;
or head-butting rivals in the green room
during what you’ll later call
your Norman Mailer phase;
or leaving your top hat behind you
in the brothel that week you thought
you were Baudelaire.
Most don’t soar
up the Times best seller list
on their way to being given
an award by Prince Edward.
Not everyone can be the next
Ocean Vuong. Or the
Ocean Vuong after that.
And critical acclaim after you’re dead
won’t buy you the tiniest
bag of Hula Hoops at Tesco’s.
You’ll likely have to diversify.
When you leave here you’ll have the ability
to lie more plausibly to detectives
and make up dossiers
about Liechtenstein’s secret
nuclear weapon’s programme.
Others of you will graduate to be entrepreneurs
who sell bags of badness, imported via Amsterdam
up other people’s orifices or stowed away
in their stomachs to emerge gloriously later,
but never use an unnecessary adjective.
At least one of you will likely become a hit woman
who always has the perfect closing line,
and be known to both victims and those
who sent you to their door as The Poet.
And a few will mature into waistcoats who get high
typing pungent updates about drunk women you spy
squatting in shop doorways
with binoculars you bought courtesy of your Writer’s
Bursary For The Partially Sighted.