Thursday 11 December 2014


(with apologies to Patrick Kavanagh)

A year ago I failed to fall in love with a dysfunctional 
ward in a public hospital: the nurses overwrought, 
each task interrupted by more urgent ones, the low morale,
not counting how the fellow in the next bed roared all night
in vain for his wife and son, and every now and then
the overwhelming whiff of incontinence. The main gate
beckoning me to freedom or a quick cigarette
when I had to be content to sit in a smoke-free suntrap
beside the entrance door, the Sister’s allegation
that I falsely occupied an acute bed, and oh the ailments, crammed  
and ever-changing, that I lay among! I write this without claptrap
because there’s an awful lot of it about, disguised as sense
in the mouths of our government ministers who have named
my sad dysfunctional hospital a ‘Centre of Excellence’.

© Ciaran O’Driscoll 2014

Wednesday 5 November 2014


In the ward the Nurses come and go
but they’re not talking of Michelangelo.
Oh No!
And one came down to me and said
‘You’re taking up an acute bed’.
Which meant, of course, that I wasn’t acute.
I may have been cute but I wasn’t acute
as far as she could see.
‘I think I’m fairly acute, you know,
acute enough,’ I retorted.
‘You’re not acute’, she snorted,
not really acute.
You’ve only had a CABG with complications,
a collapsed lung and a duodenal
and then this whatever-it-is infection,
if I had my way I’d have you
out there at the bus stop on your head.’
‘I think I’m fairly acute,’ I said.
‘Reasonably acute, but not yet
 among the all-but-dead.
Why don’t you give me a private room
as I’m entitled to with VHI?’
‘VHI me eye, 
are you so green? 
Wake up and smell the Ovaltine.’ 

In the ward the Nurses come and go.
Do they talk of Michelangelo? Oh No!

‘Mr O’Driscoll,’ they intone,
‘have we put on our dressing gown?

‘And did we move our bowels today?
And what, oh what, is our Birth Day?’

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2014

Wednesday 10 September 2014


Hiroshi Hasebe, poet and musician from Japan, performed this improvisation on his Japanese translation of my poem 'Scobie in the Bisque' (see my blog of the same name for original English version) during the recent Golden Boat Translation Workshop in Skocjan, Slovenia.

Acknowledgements: video by Urška Černe Potočnik, uploaded on YouTube by Zlaticoln. Original poem in English 
© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2014, Japanese translation and blues improvisation © Hiroshi Hasebe 2014. 

Sunday 20 July 2014


This is an early, uncollected poem of disappointed love which came back to my mind on holidays here in Istria. (See my previous blogs 'Waterfronts in Istria, Croatia' and 'Did Magritte Holiday in Novigrad?' for pictures.)
The poem surfaced again probably because we are staying in an apartment 80 metres from the sea front, and the constant sound and sight of the sea called it up out of the bittersweet depths of my memory.
'Sea Shanty' is set in Northumberland, England, in a little harbour town famous for its kippers. I camped near the harbour there with my girl friend of the time – it was the famously sweltering summer of '76 – and we used to fry kippers on an old hubcap in the mornings. I had thought of bringing a pan for the holiday, but left it on the bus from Newcastle!


A bitter breeze blows off the wall of little Craster Harbour
and tousles a balding head which for a year has seen no barber.
I sit on the stone steps and watch the surface of my lager
get flecked with flying grime as life gets harder.

I sip my grimy beer and Oh there’s nothing I would rather
than be that seagull perched upon that rock out in the harbour.
Now you discard me as you would the stale food in your larder.
Your appetite went so far and no farther.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 1976

Thursday 29 May 2014


My blog has been active since 17 September 2010 and now that I have just passed the mark of 50,000 page views, it is perhaps time to take stock.
    The blog began, as one would expect, with a modest count, not exceeding 1,000 page views a month until October 2011. In January 2012 it exceeded 2,000 page views a month, apart from a sudden drop to 734 in May 2012, followed by a sudden rise in August to over 3,000. The highest number of page views so far was reached March of this year, with 3,314. This month's quota is well on the way, with three days left, to be over 3,000. All very forseeable and low-key, I'm sure, but nonetheless a cause of a small celebration (*pours himself a glass of Pinot Grigio*).
    To the anonymous cyper-pilots who touch down on my blog from time to time I say, Hello, how are you? Hope you got something out of your visits.
    My travels to various countries, whether on family holidays or because I was reading my work at foreign festivals and launchings; some poems and excerpts from my own writings and some works by others which I admire; publicity for poetry festivals, particularly Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival and sister festivals in Slovenia, Italy and Brighton; a few reviews and some publicity for my novel, A Year's Midnight (published April 2012); photographs from our garden and some ancestral stuff; occasional reflections.
    According to the statistics, visitors from the USA are the leaders by a long shot:
    United States 21758
    Ireland 3606
    China 2972
    France 2021

    Germany 2009

    United Kingdom 1855

Followed by Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Indonesia, with figures in the upper hundreds.

    The top three are as follows:
    (1) 'On the Edge of the Sahara 2', a picture taken of the ruins of Fort Bou-Jerif, on the rim of the Sahara in Morocco, with 4,233 page views.
Scene at Fort Bou-Jerif, ruins of a French Foreign Legion stronghold (left) where nasty things were done to Berbers and lots of wine was drunk by the officers.
    (2) 'Testing the Water', a picture of two figures, a man in bathing suit and a woman, standing on rocks conferring about the safety of the currents of the Reka river at the entrance to the Skocjan Caves in the Karst Region of Slovenia, with 3,556 page views.
    (It's interesting that the two most viewed items have very little commentary attached, merely a caption. )
    (3) 'The Great Wall of China', a commentary with photographs, on a visit by me and my wife to a section of the Wall, with 1,615 views.
    Information blogs about poetry festivals are also high up on the list.
    Of my own work which I published on the blog, the most viewed item is the poem 'A Message from Olympia', in the post 'Olympia Leaves a Note for Me'. This is number 6 in the current top ten, with 1,027 page views. The next highest item from my own writing is 'A Desecration of Considerable Magnitude', an excerpt from A Year's Midnight, with a view count of 779.
    It puzzles me that the 'Desecration' episode of my novel shows a disparity between the 'page views' as recorded in the statistics, and the 'view counts' as recorded in the list of posts. The 779 'hits' recorded for the Desecration episode is a view count, and if a page view is the same as a view count, the post should be in the top ten page views in the all-time statistics, but it is not there, and numbers 8, 9 and 10 of the top ten all-time statistics have less than 779 page views. So: either a view count is not the same as a page view or else there's something wrong with Blogger's calculations! Some other anomalies I have encountered lead me to suspect the latter.
    But let us rejoice! LOG ON, BLOG ON!

Wednesday 21 May 2014


Limerick is well-known for its horses. They can be seen all over the place harnessed to sulkies, with a single driver holding the reins and leaning almost horizontally across the skeletal, one-seated frame. Horses can be seen grazing in fields within and on the edges of the city boundaries, piebald and roan and patchy and thrown-down looking.
    The Rubberbandits, a comedy hip-hop duo from Limerick, have taken the horse to their hearts. Is this because the horse might be 'a metaphor for a community centre' as one of them asks in a prank call to a psychotherapist? But as the psychotherapist says, humans are very complicated and it's hard to know exactly why the caller constantly dreams of horses as a result of a dog 'having sex with his head'. If his head was made pregnant by a dog, the caller wants to know, why is he dreaming of a horse, shouldn't he be dreaming of a puppy?
    'Horse Outside', a single released by the Rubberbandits in late 2010, had phenomenal success and led to the duo's being catapulted into fame. The phrase reverberated in the English language as spoken in Ireland. It was even alluded to in an article about an architect in the Arts Section of The Irish Times. On You Tube its fame went viral and global. I remember how much all three of us loved it in my home. It struck some truly resonant chord for us. As it did for hundreds of thousands of others. I want to suggest why this might be so in the following few paragraphs.
    First of all, 'Horse Outside' presents a traditional, animal mode of transport in the midst of flashy mechanical modes of transport which have become status symbols in a pathologically status-conscious society. When the sexy young woman mentions the alternative modes of transport available to her from rival suitors, the Spar-bag-masked swain dismisses them all in favour of his equine means of conveyance:  'F**k your Mitsubishi, I've a horse outside....'
    This admirer of female allure comes into a highly artificial and class-conscious society like a blast from the past, like a healthy force of nature, full of primordial, unselfconscious confidence. He doesn't give a damn about the claims to a woman's heart represented by ownership of flashy cars; he believes (as I think we all do deep down) that a horse is a far superior being to a mechanically propelled vehicle. This cocky wooer is making a claim for a true gradation of status: the superiority of a living being over a piece of metal.
    Not only that, but the image of a horse outside is a powerful one. The horse which is outside the door of the church is also outside our society, outside the wedding feast, outside the pale. It conjures up in my mind the Ancient Mariner, the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth, An Inspector Calls, The Green KnightDeath the Leveller, the Eumenides, the Reckoning.
    I don't think it is too over the top to say that the Rubberbandits' horse outside also conjures up death and judgement. In one of their sketches, a claim is made that the only things that ghosts are frightened of are horses. There is also the echo between 'horse' and 'hearse': 'I have a hearse outside'. The church is a scene of funerals as well as of weddings. First Love, Last Rites is the title of a book by Ian McEwan.
    Not only does our society shut out the horse, it also blanks out on death. In the old days, it was a horse that drew the hearse to the final resting place. This is still so in the case of travellers, who are like the horse in that they are also 'outside'.
    Class distinction, sex, death and disparity are, of course, the life-blood of comedy.
© copyright Ciaran O'Driscoll 2014

Friday 2 May 2014



Laden with desk diary, handbag, lunch pack, 
raincoat, umbrella, an extra pullover,
my wife is going out the door to work
on a windy morning in late October.
I watch and recommend myself to take
this snap of eight-fifteen across her years
of nine-to-five: the way she bends to put
the key in the ignition, settles herself,
then takes a moment to survey the street.
The engine stirs and she who is my life-
companion, my momentous one, who grows
with the advancing days more weather-proof,
has driven off and left a parking space,
a jackdaw preening on the opposite roof.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2014

Friday 18 April 2014

Friday 21 March 2014



If it hadn't been there from the start... But it was,
and this is what it means to you: morning,
no matter, without reason, above all.

Morning no matter, if it hadn't
been there without reason above all,
you huddled in an overcoat and gone.

Against the rain, against the wind, with this,
no matter you huddled in an overcoat
and doing the morning without reason.

Rain raking the trees, tattooing the windows,
the changing of the light, the distances
of sky and shore, this irresistible.

If it hadn't been there above all from the start,
no matter the changing of the light,
you with an overcoat covered and gone.

But it was yours and this is what it means:
morning, and doing these rainy distances
of sky and shore, you irresistible.

From Life Monitor © Ciaran O'Driscoll (2009)

Thursday 27 February 2014



Postwoman, ply your metier
from door to door and street to street
in balmy sun or when it’s wetter
in rain and fog and slushy sleet.

And leave your bicycle to stand
outside a local pub or grocer’s
except where things are out of hand
and thieves ignored by law-enforcers,

then you must wheel it as you pop 
from letterbox to letterbox
resting it everywhere you stop, 
which slows you down like when you knock

at homes that lack postal access,
or when you deliver bulky parcels.
Once, as you chatted at a house,
I saw your cycle seized by rascals

complete with mailbag. Luckily
the theft turned out to be a prank
by youngsters on a cider-spree.
Postwoman far from being a crank,

you tongue-lashed the culprits, then set to
your task again, a pleasant hike
because the man you were talking to
kindly offered to mind the bike.

Whether bliss, indifference or woe
the tidings in your missives meet,
postwoman, ply your valued chore
from house to house, from street to street.

In a uniform labelled Post
that’s slate-blue and whose badge is green,
in summer plod through heat and dust,
through ice and snow in winter’s spleen.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2014

Tuesday 11 February 2014



What happened to sympathy and compassion?
We don’t even ask these days, it wouldn’t be
too bad if we did. One after another
calamities, and then disasters, come
numbing us, while charity bosses line
their nests. This afternoon I watched a bird
for half an hour – or was it this morning?
I forget what struck me about the bird,
its compact size, feathered fragility
or aerial prowess? All three, perhaps.
Yesterday the Shannon burst its banks,
and a man from the city council appeared
on the news, staring into the face of doom. 
The highest tide on record, he said. Seven
inches higher than the previous one. 
Noah’s Ark, I thought, that’s what struck me about 
the bird, sent out to look for landfall from 
the Island Field, simultaneously 
a bird and symbol of deliverance.
Today, all of a sudden, climate change
is a fact, no longer open to debate:
politicians have begun to use the phrase.
Seven inches up from the previous high,
said the man from the city council on TV,
gaping at the future. Lucky so far,
I live on high ground, on the other side.

The Island Field: St Mary’s Park, a housing estate in Limerick which was very badly flooded during recent storms.

© Ciaran O’Driscoll 2014