Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Category: Poems

THE SILENCE WITHIN

 

 

 

Written after a ten-day retreat at Dhamma Kuta meditation centre in Sri Lanka.

 

Bhikkhu – a Buddhist monk

Anicca (pronounced anitcha) – Pali word meaning impermanence, all things must pass.

 

 

A bhikkhu sneezes. Anicca. Bless you.

Inside the meditation hall, buttocks squirm,

Noses sniffle, throats tickle and phlegm.

Geckos squeak. Outside, temples and mosques

Decibel their faithful to prayer. Sirens police the roads.

Helicopters take the air highway to the war.

Semtex gouges rock from the earth. Rifles shoot wild boar.

A demon hectors on my left shoulder, mocking

My ambition of equanimity.

 

Dawn finds the valley obscured by clouds.

By noon mountains have materialised. Anicca.

Dusk reveals human dwellings climbing the valley,

Lights on top of mountains, the lit pathway to the top

Of Adam’s Peak. Sleep douses the lights. Anicca.

 

The angel on my right shoulder tells me

I cannot silence a sneeze, tame a gecko,

Much less stop the war. Phenomena beyond control.

Anicca. Observe the turmoil without, the flux within.

Search for the jewel of silence at the heart.

Bless us all. May all beings be happy.

 

 

Openshaw Poems

URBAN RENEWAL

It’s a jungle out there.

Jungle sounds.

The damp echoing of a diesel’s klaxon.

Feline hiss of wet tyres.

It’s a jungle out there.

The pocked yard fills with oily pools.

A distant, unidentifiable irritant

Like a dentist’s unceasing drill.

 

A night like an aching tooth.

 

An eighty-year old woman is dying

In a state of siege.

Her body shrinks,

Eroded by insidious

Winds of time.

Her spirit dissolves

Imperceptibly into fog.

 

It’s a jungle out there.

Outside, a derelict wilderness

Gestates predatory creatures.

Loose bricks that once formed the homes

Of friends and family,

(Now dead or dispersed

In the diaspora of the downtrodden,

Disappeared by council decrees

Into spanking new slums in the sky)

Thud against her door

In the long threat

Of the night.

 

GHOSTS

 

A dog’s body

Is deficient for the challenge

Of a charging bus

And becomes mere matter

For the flies to kiss.

 

Mind over matter.

A dogsbody in the wireworks

Was crushed to matter

Under a toppled crane.

He didn’t matter to anyone much.

They didn’t mind

Getting another from the labour exchange

Didn’t mind sending some flowers.

 

The “purveyor of fine meats”

“Is pleased to meet you,

And has meat to please you”.

An ultra-violet insect repeller

Hums and gives out a purple glow

Like an undertaker’s neon sign.

A bluebottle settles with a

Cyclorrhaphous

Languor on a lamb carcass.

Among dripping cadavers of cows

And smaller pieces of mutilated animals

The butcher reads in his news paper

Of carnage and mayhem in Ireland

And frowns.

 

Reflections of derelict houses

Mingle with sample headstones

In the funeral director’s window.

He’ll always do a good trade here.

Old people steal

From  the social to put money by

To be respectably buried.

 

Crepuscular purple light

Casts a mortuary pallor

On crumbling streets,

Where generations of spirits were stunted.

Strips of brown wallpaper

Flap in the spiteful twilight.

A dead armchair still bears the greasy

Imprint of some Brylcreamed pate

That now may be a hollow skull

Growing weeds.

 

Green weeds and dandelions

Sprout stubbornly

Where hungry childhood died into vicious

Querulous old age.

Human spirits become carrion

For voracious vegetation.

What a carry on!

 

How do they carry on?

Why do they carry on?

 

The street names here

Give a frisson if you have read

Beyond Belief.

Years ago, when there was some kind of life

In these houses,

Hindley and Brady trod these pavements,

Carrying in their minds

The unthinkable,

Seeking children to torture.

Do the ghosts of their victims

Socialise with the factory-maimed?

Do they compare and contrast

The respectable and bureaucratic

Mutilations

With the perversion that sickens us all?

 

RELICS

 

Old stomachs rumble

Behind watchchains.

Time is buried in linty recesses

Of brown serge.

Old minds, stifled

In shiny brown wallpaper

Fade beneath flat caps.

 

On Thursday morning

The pillar box

Is so certainly scarlet

Outside the Post Office.

Old women, pension books

Slimmer by another order,

Arthritically finger their change,

Reckoning the chances

Of buying one more week.

 

WAKES WEEK

 

Throughout this first day of almost summer

They have poured out of their

Dark and dusty terraces.

 

In Abbey Hey park

The old and the halt,

The wage slaves and the petty clerks,

The jobless and the feckless,

Have tried to enjoy

The blue but airless sky.

 

In Abbey Hey park

Young women on leave from Atora,

Tresses lank from their work,

Faces pustuled from the suet

Usurping their sebum,

Broiled gently under the low flame of the sun.

 

A young mother in a short skirt,

Exposed shins mottled and marbled,

Brindled like brawn

By her winter fires.

She hoped the sun’s blessing would heal

Her flesh, erase the purplish yellow

Shadow about her cheekbone.

 

Pale sandy- haired children have

Smeared their faces

With Mr Softee

And fingered the old dog turds

Baked white in the sunshine.

 

In Abbey Hey park

Hennaed women offered

Varicose veins in benediction

To the heavens.

 

The sun is a glob

Of phlegm

Hawked westward from the

Rubber works

Slithering down

The greasy sky

Over the suet factory.

 

 

As the sun sets

In the mad alien fire of the

Polluted sky,

Women’s bodies sweaty and glowing

From the heat of a long day,

Freed from imprisoning foundation

Garments flounder and slide

Across plastic sofas

Draped with laddered tights.

Laughing hips flop

In defiance of loosened girdles.

 

As the sun descends to its nadir

In the now infernal sky,

Dentures are abandoned

To swim or sink

In pint mugs of water.

They grin back at their owners

In a rictus saying, “You’ve got to laugh”;

And “Mustn’t grumble”;

And”Tomorrow’s another day”;

And “As long as you’ve got your health”;

And “You don’t have to be mad to work here”;

And “We’ll all be pushing up daisies one day”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAND OF WELCOMES

 

 

Sauntering in to The Old Thatch,

My brown-faced friend is full

Of the Bailey’s Cream of human kindness.

Back in his savage homeland,

Kindly Irish priests brought culture

To his benighted youth without

Pedagogical pederasty,

The usual bonus

Of beatings and buggerings.

On this account,

He thinks well of Ireland.

 

Back home, in darky land,

Vishnu and Kali and Ganesh

Quailed at the onslaught of Foster and Allen

And Daniel O’Donnell from his battered Dansette.

His love of such high Gaelic culture

Is so strong his brown-faced

Chums call him ‘Paddy’

And his garden, ‘the paddy field’.

 

He has been to Ireland before-

Land of saints and scholars

And Bridie Gallagher.

Hibernia, winterland of warm hearts and hearths-

Within a controlled tourist cordon sanitaire,

Protected by the full force-field of cead mile failte.

 

As we stroll to the bar, the Bord

Na Mona fire in the grate sputters and dies.

A susurration, like a fart at a funeral.

The air is sucked from the room,

The craic is drowned in the vacuum.

All eyes turn to us.

 

A Citizen, leaning on a pint of stout.

Big, hairy ginger tweed jacket;

Brown corduroy trousers;

Highly buffed brown brogues;

Checked waistcoat stretched across

Belly full of crubeens and cabbage.

Atop the ensemble, a red face,

Foxy bristles, complementing the tweed jacket,

Sprout alarmingly from the ears.

The Citizen’s voice booms

Into the vacuum. ‘Jasus Maloney!

Are they letting the little fuckers in here now?!

Will we live to see this land of Cuchulain

And Padraic Pearse swamped

With picaninnies and cannibals?’

I guided my brown friend out of the door.

Failte to the real Ireland my brown friend,

The Ireland of Jackie Healy-Rae.

 

If you’re Irish, come into the parlour.

There’s a welcome there for you.

If your name is Timothy or Pat,

As long as you’re not

A nigger, wog, spick, tinker, yid, dago, chinky, gook

There’s a welcome on the mat.

 

Ah, the toxicity of taxonomy.

 

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