Ciaran Ward was born in Co. Tyrone in 1973. He is the author of “In Complete Circles”, a comic memoir of growing up in Omagh during the 1980s and 90s, published in 2013. He now lives in London where he works as an information officer. He blogs at “The Dreaming Armadillo” – http://dreamingarm.wordpress.com.
Sunlight casts cobweb of shadows under ripples…
Yet an oily film on the surface of dark water
plays host to half-submerged tennis balls
bobbing up and down in the scum.
A far cry from centre court,
with upside down plastic bottles, crisp packets, beer cans
All human waste is here.
Like an ironic modern art exhibition
In a gallery of contempt.
Once the arteries of this land
Rundown post-industrial wasteland
Now a testament to progress
In a rejuvenated urban landscape
Gentrified by yuppie flats.
And the hulks of rusting barges
Are moored on mossy concrete banks
with Bob Marley blaring from speakers,
Dreadlocked captain strokes dog
Rearranges flowerpots and lights up.
Mew of white-beaked coot
With long toes splayed out on bank
Jumps in the water and swims towards
Nest of twigs floats on island of twigs
Cormorant floats on surface, dives under and re-emerges
From the algae-infested depths.
Statuesque heron stands perfectly still
Like a petrified dinosaur
Waiting for fish to emerge from the shadows
Towpath cyclists ring bells
In the shade of the underpass
Tyres crunch on gravel
Jogger nearly collides with rider
Argument ensues, eyeball to eyeball
“Watch where you going mate!”
“It was your fault you bloody idiot!”
The gravel flies
Pent-up aggression rises to the surface
Just like the cormorant re-surfacing
From under the murky green waters
Group of walkers in gore-tex™ boots
Pass by with bemusement
And the lock empties once more.
The Not So Worldwide Web
Acrobatic arachnid dangles from a thread
Slowly rising towards the ceiling
This insectivorous creature of habit
Common or garden
Spins a web of domestic intrigue.
It lives in a house
Yet cares little for mortgages, property bubbles, negative equity, estate agents’ fees, panelled kitchens, oak block effect laminated worktops, home insurance, bathroom tiles, laminate floorboards, double glazed sash windows, patios, decking, barbecue pits, solar panels
But simply exists to survive and multiply
And entrap the odd fly
Swimming in mid-table mediocrity
Against the tide of commercial pressure
Heads struggling to rise above
The surface of public opinion
Mangerial failures and player tantrums
Touchline row sparks off debate
And Ignites the fuse of infamy
Manager in trouble
Words fly around like midges on a summer evening
In the pubs, offices, schools, barbers shops
In the stands
“Back to the bad old days”
“No silverware this year”
“No chance of getting into Europe”
“He’s a disaster! He’s got to go!”
Like an armchair lynch mob
Wielding verbal pitchforks and
flaming beer glass torches of vitriol
Drunken assault in night club
The poison chalice of false glory
But don’t dare say it’s only a game…
Walking along this deserted beach
brings back memories of childhood holidays
when I used to catch crabs in the rock pools
with a piece of ham tied to a length of string
which I lowered into water and waited
with baited breath and baited line.
As air bubbles rose to the surface
I pulled up the string with dangling crab
held it up and watched its pincers
flailing around frantically for something to grip
then released it, observing curious sideways gait
along slimy barnacle-infested rocks.
Back in the present I crunch dried seaweed underfoot,
a lone cormorant stands sentinel on a wooden post
wings outstretched in crucifixion pose
like an avian messiah dying for bird-kind’s sins.
Empty husks of dead creatures litter the beach
Crabs, razor shells, limpets, urchins – a marine graveyard
with driftwood washed ashore on bobbing waves.
A once red Coke can now bleached orange by the sun,
distorted plastic bottles wrapped in green algae
like an ironic gallery of postmodern art
Where gulls critically wheel and screech overhead.
Sun shimmers on striations of wet sand
and my footprints melt into the advancing tide.
“The geyser erupts every five minutes”
The tour guide said
As we got off the coach and walked
Up a concrete path by the side of the road
flanked by spindly birch and moss
I stood patiently on the barrier’s edge
Watching a hole in the Icelandic earth
where water frothed and bubbled like a jacuzzi
and the air smelt of rotten eggs
like the hot tap in my hotel bathroom
The bubbling stepped up a gear and then suddenly
a fifty foot high jet of hot water shot up
from the ground and steam was all around .
A volley of camera flashes and screams
In American, Australian and Japanese
Spelt out exhilaration and mild terror.
Letting off steam for 20 million years
For this geologist’s paradise
This chunk of young volcanic rock
In the north Atlantic must be
a surefire way of cleansing the soul