Pete Mullineaux, Still Waters

Swan, Heron, Ducks

The surface on the canal tonight: black cellophane.
And music without volume – here in overlapping
rhythmic channels of water birds. On her island nest
a white goddess folds an angular neck, arranging
and tuning feathers; then like a great winged
accordion at the heart of this session, flamboyant
flapping brings wind and sound to the picture.

Across the weir, her partner raps with an old heron –
bird banter between tunes, before the grey one swoops
above the reeds towards a suitable platform for business;
no show, motionless now on spindly fiddle-bow legs –
content to sit this one out, waiting perhaps for a call
to sing an old heron song – and all this time, weaving
in their own patterns, the coming and going of ducks,
silver-grey in the moonlight, tracking their own
invisible melody, dipping and diving…

Powell’s Doorway

Sheltering from the rain
in this iconic arch, especially
now that Mulligans is gone
the best shop in Galway
to catch some trad –
a CD inside is playing:
Cathal Hayden’s fiddle
soft as water.

Then into Lord Franklin,
tragedy at sea, the search
for a north-east passage –
past Norway, over the top of Russia
to Vladivostock.

Here, anchored in my safe harbour
I offer thanks to nature
that the mighty waves
flowing down Shop Street
as yet are only lashing at my soles;
though later I’ll be saying
‘I was drowned.’


Where are they going with such intent – these troubadours?
Always towards a distant gig somewhere, skimming the waves
while gannets and gulls play high in the void and dive into the blue.

They are laying taut dark strings above the rippling ocean skin
for rain and hail to pluck, so the wind may hear its mournful air
in the resonating surface and there might be deep-water music too.


Come here to me,
into my song –
let us spread the cloak
of grief wide.

This hand can be an oar,
my forearm the
steady rolling bow
of a calmed boat

Let my voice
be the sandpiper
calling you in
to safe harbour

These words
like sea washed
pebbles, where
you can anchor

And when you are
again, ready for
oceans and horizons

I will be a broad sail,
casting a cool shadow
against the bright light
the naked truth

Dry River Blues

The water level has never been so low,
hitherto unseen rocks and weed now visible.
What once gushed beneath the bridge
has become a trickle, the junk overflow
from recent past provides new markers –
an old bike, a traffic cone, a trolley.
The ducks either walk or sleep.
Today we came upon two animated swans
with their fluffy young, taking the tarmac
away from the river
like refugees.

Pete Mullineaux lives in Galway and has published four collections, most recently How to Bake a Planet (Salmon Poetry 2016).

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