Two Irish Poems

Two poems just published in the An Aítiúil anthology. The theme was Ireland, so my poems are about what it means to me to return to live in Ireland generations after my family left.

Carrowbehy Bog

A lot has happened in five generations,
but nothing can have changed between these hills
that have been holding their breath all that time
and now empty their lungs in this slow, cool breeze
bringing underneath its earthy smell
a fresh hint of the lake that once stood here
and of the glacier that gouged it out
while sliding away in a grinding mime
that left this message: an instant has passed,
no more, and the sun hasn’t even blinked.


This is a gate to the underworld, they used to say,
and it’s easy to think so when the mist floats up at dusk,
a guardian spirit hiding secrets in a cloak,
and the earthy smell grows richer in the dampening air.
Places like this are Ireland’s unconscious, storage rooms
lasting millennia, so somewhere down there –
maybe right near the bottom – must be a bit of me
locked in acidic stasis, patiently waiting
while my ancestors left and I at last returned.
I will not go digging, afraid of what I’d find,
as I learnt to think of underworlds as Hell
and I know already how that might feel:
the clawing anguish and need to escape
that leave you gasping for breath, groping for the surface,
desperate to cross back to the other side,
a shattered hermit emerging from seclusion
after battle with the Devil; I hurry on.

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