Tony Deffely lives beside the Neiphin Beg Mountains, north of Castlebar. He writes for the inner peace he gets from creativity. Despite his considerable life experience, he is a novice in relation to poetry. “The more I write”, he says, “the more appreciative I am of the genius of others.”
End of the Season
The winter stadium is bare,
its crowds gone gabbling home;
grey stands abandoned now,
left for gust-tossed gulls
driven by the eke of life
to scan for scavenge in the cold.
The squalls roar through the seats,
cruel warriors of winter,
gusting along terraces,
with icy pant,
freezing the warmth of victory.
The seats are laughter-less.
The rafters creak and rust,
shorn of their vivid flags
that black and rot with mold
in some rain-sodden shed,
shredded of dreams.
Where are the cheers
that surged along the terraces
bristling with passion,
the scorching deeds
that sweated us with pride?
It’s not that time. Now
the hard-blown slanting rain
ghosts onto the pitch;
in haunting lines, it plays
with the prevailing storm,
each drop a prowling memory
sluicing to gutters.
The sun warms up the cobbled bridge,
tones of a busker’s saxophone smoke
up the universe and down the Milky Way.
Like tail-trailed meteorites,
patrolling swallows zoom around their nests
in pockmarked overhanging roofs.
Somewhere a Shih Tzu barks.
I am undone by edginess,
pricked by impatience
to move on now this agitated instant.
Life’s bleeding while I’m hanging round,
doing nothing when there’s
nothing to be done
except rushing to do nothing.
I could, however, sit in sunlight,
listen to the waters of the weir
chant pleadings for a rising tide;
watch graceful sardines in the pools
circle in social schools;
count steps as chirping sparrows
brash closer to my toes;
view seagulls’ scavenging alertness,
driven to stalk in everlasting want.
I am a prowler in this astral village,
cell of an exploding universe,
reconnoiter and survivor,
colonising since the Big Bang.
A Grandmother’s Lament
On 8 June 1799, Fr. Manus Sweeney, aged 36, was executed by hanging in Newport, Co. Mayo, for the crime of speaking to soldiers who were part of a French invasion led by General Humbert during the previous year. Fr. Sweeney had been trained and ordained in France.
I can’t remember every horrid curse
I anguished on the Redcoats as they drummed
my holy grandson’s cart from Castlebar
and hung him up in Newport on the crane.
I can’t remember every empty prayer
I lavished upon martyrs and on saints,
babbling my bile along the broken road
until my neighbours pulled me to my feet.
That hideous 8th of June is scorched in me,
the nightmares haunt me in the howl of night,
torment me as they drag him up the street
and rope his neck to ready him for death.
When some malicious planter from the crowd
cried, ‘To-day the meat is hanging very high,’
fateful words came from his priestly lips:
‘Your own meat will be higher by July’.
A sergeant bawled the order, then a gasp
came from the deathly gallows and the crowd.
I screamed and howled with every twisting spasm,
sharing his choking torture to the death.
The crowd made shrieks of sorrow and lament
that rose the rooks out of their nesting sites
to screech their raucous protest in the sky
until his precious body became still.
A sudden shadow and a thunderous rain
rattled the soldiers on their grisly guard
until the dye soaked from their coats
and blood-red stains dripped from their hands.
His final words were a foresight of fate
for that harsh planter with the bitter tongue:
The shepherds found his carcass in July,
bare to the bones, high on the mountainside.
In Burrishoole I pray beside the grave,
each night in hail or rain or squalling storm,
from the same prayer book that I read
at night to lull his baby eyes to sleep.
Last night I felt his shadow by the door.
I sensed him chiding with his saintly smile:
‘Absolve our sins as we ourselves absolve
those souls who make their trespass against us.”