Near Drowning

Inspired by Beth Taylor and Faye Benedict to engage in Memoir writing, not to mention some sunny days in the past week and good swimming, I found myself remembering a very different beach. When I was nine years old, my sisters and I were caught by the outgoing tide at Castlerock, in the North of Ireland. Sadly, there are often drownings on this coast, but we were fortunate, all rescued, and forever after have respect for the water.

Near Drowning

I am swimming
There is only me and my body
And water. No-one else.

Each breath is breathed in fear
Salt wet wild water
Does not care where it goes
Following wind and tide it throws
Cold slaps on my eyes and into my nose
My mouth is shut tight against it

I need my arms and hands to swim
I cannot wipe my eyes
I remember to close my fingers
So my palms and hands are wide
to make better paddles.
To push the water.

I count, one, thrust hands arrow forward
Two, turn the palms
Three, pull the water.
All the time kick, then breathe.
My arms are tired.
One, two, three.

Breathe, push, pull, kick
Arms ache. Push, Pull.
So long. So much water to pull
Water in eyes doesn’t matter.
Eyes see a short way to shore. Push
No change, ever the same distance. Pull

Want to see sand. Push
Just water. Pull.
I cannot feel my arms. Push.
I cannot feel. Pull.
There is a man with black hair.
In the water in his clothes. Push.

It is a tweed jacket, tough wool.
Pull. He holds my body
The cloth scrunches rough against my face.
Thank you arms.
Rest now trembling, trembling.
Thank you, man.

I wish I remembered you.
I remember the rough weave of your coat.

It should be added, all I actually remember is all about ME. What I have been told is that my older sister, Veronica who was ten, and could swim a bit, held on to our youngest sister Irene, and so saved her. They were both swept quite far out, before our mother was able to reach them, and bring them both in to safety. I don’t know how to write about Veronica. Today she would be getting one of those children of valour medals.


Helpless Discontent

Alongside the glitter of the sand
where tiny quartzes sparkle
Discontent rides strong
No hiding, it flaunts openly under the sun
As much on display as bikini clad bottoms.

As if this day which should be enough
is wasting, watching and waiting for comeuppance.
Today I cannot stop the tide of shoulds
with their follow-on words be full, gratitude
As if beauty could do a job beyond just being.

Come on rippling water invade the sand,
drop weed, slip tide higher on the beach
take this warm skin, see the air between sea and sky
between colors, green and black and gold.
You don’t tell me of joy and life’s becoming.

Not happening here.
Today I can’t forget the where
There where children have been caged
There where the ill despair and then enraged
Find themselves jailed by bars or poverty.

Sometimes I think I wait with glee
for sea to rise and take this hedonistic summer joy,
drown it with my deep despairing helplessness.
So in  some future now unthought
Creatures will talk of the mythic beings.

The Beachers who lie in dark sand hollows
Watered graves unmarked by quartz or spark of life
Once walked as if they owned the rights.
They chose forgetting, entitlement
Forgot to rise for shame of blames I am remembering.


We talk over the long long miles
Splintered by time zones and crap internet
I begin my evening
He, dear one, past the end of day, should sleep.

Through buffers and disconnects
Our talk is typing talk
Each phrase comes in bright blue
Apple’s choice for i-message.

I, I read between the lines
text telling me of you
Long long messages spell longing
Slow fingers make odd matchings

Conversations where reply to the earlier
text where we listened readerly
is sometimes not yet winging in time
with next thoughts being fingered.

We R not text talkers
with abbreviations, twittering,
We are two with lives that ebb and flow
Now together, known,
Now apart, as they should be.
My son, dear one, not gone but grown.

Past Present Future

A prompt from Jackie Kay’s Fiere, “and child in that back garden waving at this steam train” – hence this poem arrives writing itself

Past Present Future

Railway lines were always built
as straight as the engineers could make them.

Regardless of the local communities passed by
even when now and again they had to bend
or wind around the base of a hill.
After all, that’s what the train is for:
to take those in it, or the quantity of goods
or cattle carried
As far as wanted.
In a much shorter time than the horse
ambling along the canal bank
or clopping the lane that then was
more or less all grass
and certainly grass up the middle.

So the attention of the magnate
and the engineer, and the platelayers
and eventually the drivers
is always ahead, along, arrowing
to a future, and so they miss it,
the future, the one waiting to be.

There is a child there in that back garden
Waving, waving as the train moves steadily
steaming unsteadily puff puff
Going there, going there, going there
as the hand of the child flies
Left Right, Left Right, See me, see me

At last the fireman rests his shovel
Glad of the chance to take his cap
And wave while the sweat dries.



Emergence, a wreck?


Photo from one of Armagh’s cathedral sites. There are also some of John Hewitt’s words there, a more hopeful and generous perspective.

When I saw the title with South County
My mind reversed the words.
From a childhood place
I see Armagh, the county south
of my own county,
A place of orchards and apples.

Small hills topped by two cathedrals
Both called St. Patrick
Looking at each other across the town
Glaring rather. Or ignoring.
More, I am the high point here,
So long as I pretend you are not there.

Emergent intolerance and ignorance.
Trouble. I wish I saw a change.
I think I see the brittle ribs of hate
Slipped a little while under the sand.
The cathedrals on the hills still stand.
Waiting. Watching. Ignoring their arrogance.


When I write poetry I think I am often simply exercising “free association”. Is this is why prompts enable me to get around to it? The prompt on this occasion, here in USA, was in a “South County news report” with a headline “shipwreck buried under sand emerges on Charleston Beach”



Ubiquitous Bic

Ubiquitous Bic biclighter

(prompted at writer’s group by an old lighter)


It’s a bic lighter
Not alight even though
I have seen it used for the gas
I suspect somewhere there is a roll-up
Flimsy paper, sticky flakes
a stash, hash.

Lighten up people
What do you know about
some of this?
Names you talk about
without experience?
Lighten the load.

Anyway I go my road
Flame flickers yellow
Coward, frightened, burnt,
back-lit shadowland.
Never see the sun rise
No shining eyes.

Let it go to landfill.
Emptied now
Like life
Where went the light?
While I flew to the flame?


The king was in the Counting House

for a more ordered view on the subject of this poem look at what Ivo Mosley’s writes

The king was in the Counting House…

Banking is business
That’s what we do.
We produce money
and sell it to you.
We make it from nothing
[it’s not really real]
Everyone trusts us
There’s no need to steal.

You didn’t know this
Well that’s no surprise
It’s not that it’s secret
just hidden from eyes
behind lots of numbers
and labels and jargon
You need lots of patience
to get a translation.

In fact when we say
“We promise to pay”
it’s really quite funny
it’s never your money.
We’re owing you money
that we have just made.
We say that on the paper
And you are misled.

It’s a sort of in-joke
more a pig-in-a-poke
what you think is your money
is always a debt.
Whether yours or some others’
does not much matter
somebody owes us
and interest gets fatter.

you look for your earnings
the products of work
so does the businessman
he’s not a jerk.
You both use up energy
make things of worth
that’s goods and services
needed from birth.

These things of worth
start from gifts that are free.
The sun and the rain
fall on our earth
bring harvests of bounty.
Yes they ask for your effort
your skill and your sweat
Sharing them round is not happening yet.

If we make the money
then sell debt to you
Your work pays us back
Always more than was due.
For banking is business
and that’s what it does
But who ever decided
We wanted to lose?

Money is thinking
Just an idea
To help us move something
From somewhere to here
To privilege banking
above all our gifts
is saying capital isn’t for us,
just the risks!

Bosses and workers
Are both the bank clients
Their money is debt
It’s not rocket science.
The bank’s interest is interest
So everyone’s stressed
by the law that allows banks
to say debt is best.

Why is the money
issued this way?
if it’s just an idea
to help plan our days?
Just as the sun and the rain are for free
We can decide if we want to be!
We could decide
how we’d make the money!

Let the banks do the managing
They do that well.
Take from them the privilege
that acts like a spell.
As if we were unable
ever to choose
how the need for the money
could be planned for our use.

Freedom to choose
brings trusting and risk
that’s why we duck it
and give up our task.
That’s why we labour
give power to the banks
give up our lives
and forget to give thanks

For the freedom to live
For the free gift of life
For the capital in us
For sharing not strife.
For the money we could
if we wanted agree
Belongs to us all for our needs
Make it free.

Remember to look at Positive Money, and all the resources available there, if you want to learn more about what money really is in today’s global world.