Familiar

A familiar voice called me

By my name. There’s darkness,

In my head and around me. I

Don’t know why, it seems distant.

Distance, I had ran, down the

Road, back up the hill, shouted

A warning, looked at the van.

Phoned down to the other place

But was interrupted, although

I heard and recall nothing.

Another familiar voice, on

The radio this time, from the other

Place I think, there’s an urgency.

The old man, the driver, had

Looked so bewildered, said

Something about his family taken,

And the van and 20 minutes.

There’s that familiar voice again

I sense light, catch a glimpse of

A flashlight and other voices now too-

“Christ he looks bad”

A pressing weight is lifted, and then I am.

Muted muffled pandemonium,

Everything has moved and is broken.

A hand takes mine, and presses it

To my head. Clarity and recall

Kick in, get searching and fuck the risk.

Three, two, then only one is missing.

Ah no, not him not Cyril.

He was laughing with me only,

Minutes ago I guess, getting ready

To go home for good in six weeks

To Carrick-Fergus, and the family business.

A familiar face, looms out at me

In my mind’s eye, but in finding him, I

Don’t see it, or a side of his scalp

His brain, feet or hands -just

Union jack boxers remain.

I lose his cheerful voice in the dark,

And say a prayer, not knowing

What else to do, and then call out;

In my own now unfamiliar voice

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Not A Fighter

Bill McKinstry and

that is his name was

for a time my friend,

and colleague.

Tall, blonde and blue eyed,

A little rotund, some

Called him Billy Bunter behind

His back, a few to his face.

I guess his ex-merchant seaman

Skin was thick enough…

Most of the time.

He used to say to me,

“always remember

I am a lover not a fighter”

One night we were called

To a fast food bar,

There was a riot,

Everyone fighting inside and out

Chairs, tables, bodies,

Flying, careering crashing.

He donned his forage cap

Took a deep breath

Casually dandered in,

Up to the counter

Behind which the manager

And staff cowered and said,

“Well, what appears

to be the trouble?” He was

in that moment my hero.

A few short years later,

His thick skin wearing thin,

He and a bottle of vodka,

Fell asleep on the sofa

At his mother’s house,

And he never woke up.

I am reminded of my friend’s words,

That…..

He was a lover not a fighter.

 

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Do you want cream with that?

A full carton of whole milk

Landed on the road as we arrived

With a dusting of window pane.

There was shouting, and then

A ramekin of jam followed.

Our presence is declared

We climb the stairs.

The flat’s kitchen is in disarray.

Two men sit at the kitchen table.

A, ‘fuck yous anyway’ indicates

Another in the room above.

He is sitting on the bed naked,

A tea towel covering his,

Embarrassment. Rocket

(Because we are all known

By our nicknames) edges the cloth

Up to ‘check’ for injury.

There, slightly the worse for wear

A Pavlova sits perched or impaled,

Hard to say now, the crisp

Outer is cracked and broken

And the soft marshmallow centre exposed.

 

You want cream with that mate? my colleague

Asked, I turned, beating a hasty retreat.

 

 

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‘D’ Section Newry

“Today feels like a good day to die”

Wasn’t what I wanted to hear

As I began my second shift of the day.

Seated in the back of an armored Cortina

Unable to control my own destiny.

A wyrd personified fatalism

Clung to D section like a,

Scourge and a torment.

An inevitability informed their behavior.

To lose 9 of your own, seated eating,

Taking respite briefly in the evening

Changes you, it changed them. The loss

The frantic searching in the dark

The bodily mayhem and the baying crowds.

So they set themselves apart,

The rest of us often observers

Unable to intervene in their

Professional dementia, where

Lines were crossed. Irrationality pervaded

How they viewed the world

Outside the station gates.

There, at that time, the ‘Troubles’

Felt very much like a war, a bloody

Gruesome unforgiving unacknowledged

War right here at home.

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Hagar’s Daughter

I saw my first

Weeping stone angel

On a trolley, at the morgue.

Hair swept back, romanesque,

The face of a weathered noble

Wrapped in her white shroud

Translucent as alabaster, carved

With intransigence and loss,

Etched with pride and prejudice.

A presence that made

You stop and stare.

 

The last time I saw her

She lay open to the world,

Violated and dismembered.

Such gaping sacrilege

Provoked within me

Outrage and melancholy.

Still I recall best, I choose

To remember, I see

Almost every day

Stone angels about me

And weep a little at their fate.

 

 

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