Michael Farry, a native of CountySligo has lived in Trim since 1970. He has had poems published in poetry magazines in Ireland and the UK and was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions 2011. In 2009 he was awarded third prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition and was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Competition (UK) and longlisted for the Plough Poetry Prize (UK). His first poetry collection, Asking for Directions, was published by Doghouse Books in 2012. He is also a historian and his book Sligo, The Irish Revolution 1912-1923 has just been published by Four Courts Press.
Three poems by Michael Farry
Six things I miss about teaching
Fresh September chalk
to write the wrongs of all their worlds,
one by one by one.
My desk’s relentless bulk,
cluttered with fantasies of first term,
facts of final months.
Rushed coffee at eleven,
reassurance of reality, as solid
as the clink of teaspoons.
Each new story start,
the glee of shared enjoyment, relish
of a stored memory.
High classroom windows
through which I stared out every day
at what passed for life.
Knots of eager heads
animated over vital tasks, weaving
intricacies in words.
And among tedious sheets
of biro-scrawled, third-hand mimicry,
one Grecian novelty.
The chocolate cake was a let-down,
sinless, synthetic, but I ate it all
having learned long ago that food
is sustenance first and only after,
something else. My coffee was good.
Here scattered in our secure seats,
we read our random textbooks,
mine modern obsolete poetry,
a memory from the Latin times,
the author dead fifty-seven years.
I couldn’t see my neighbour’s cover,
guessed from the weight, colour
and her total concentration
that the tale was a thrilling lesson
in the uselessness of learning.
And just beyond her, I could tell
by the casual way the single man
skimmed his weighty newspaper,
allowed its shocks go stale
while he negotiated his crisp,
salad-filled, brown bread slices,
that he, like me, learned sometime
in the last millennium’s uproar
that a sandwich is more real than
all the world’s small alarms.
Here we sit, at individual settings,
a choir, concentrating on our notes,
or cast of epic drama, delivering
learned lines, rehearsed asides,
moving to direction. Or maybe not.
In any case we do what’s necessary,
keep our heads down, take and eat
what’s vital, some scraps of food,
liquid, printed words and, a bonus
if available, fresh chocolate cake.
My mastery of geometry
was tested by the tangents of her ready smiles,
her angled eyes and straight-line conversation.
When she challenged the compass
of my calculations, the degrees
of my interest
I went back to basics,
and in one overheated night
got as far as the penultimate theorem
where I stumbled over the precision of facial signals,
intersecting planes of interest,
signs and co-signs of affection.
I am going to take up geography
explore the darker regions to the south.