imagePatrick Deeley is a poet and author born in Loughrea, County Galway. His writing has been published widely in Ireland and abroad over many years, and of his six collections of poetry with Dedalus Press the most recent is ‘Groundswell: New and Selected Poems’. His literary awards include The Éilís Dillon Award and The Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize. He has just completed a memoir entitled ‘The Hurley-Maker’s Son’, extracts from which can be read at Numero Cinq online literary magazine and in the Spring 2015 edition of New Hibernia Review.

Farmer Failing

His tractor stands idle, his fences fall down. Briars loop
and root for want of a slash-hook. He scans
a multiplication of crows, their piercing eyes brazen as
a bad neighbour’s. The weakness deepens – this
and winter’s bleakness, the blankets itch with cold, night’s
a flither of mice, daybreak kindles memories
of bargains struck, of paint-glossed shop-fronts scuttered
by livestock, of jobbers’ purple-red complexions
the spit of his own. Now he is the sick beast he always
anticipated, gone to lie in a backward corner –
and here’s a sunset looks as if it will be the one to die for.

The Meaning of Stoat

Roethke one evening, Behan another, stand drinks
to the local men in John Joe Broderick’s
grocery hardware pub, the old pot-bellied stove
chimneying up the middle of the room
being slapped, clasped, remarked at, a fellowship
about it, the wellington boots and flitches
of bacon strung from ceiling hooks, the Batchelors
baked beans and Birds Eye custards shelved,
the sweets in jars grigging this young lad
who leans his back against the wall. “And won’t
the wall hold itself up?” an old toper jibes, so he hits
the road, thinking to cover his lurchy gait
by chewing on a grass stem. Then stoat, which
can dance a blackbird down or retract
the ghost of a sped rabbit, curls her long body
across him, provoking catmatic images
of blood lust, lifted too literally from a book, to take
throat-hold by the dwindling ditchlight
of primroses and buttercups. One stoat, but which
visit – Roethke’s or Behan’s? That white
sideways snarl and the glitter in those bulging eyes
will trick him into believing – together with
the thickening years – it happened both evenings.
Ah Theodore, soon to be incarcerated
at St. Brigid’s Hospital, and Brendan, nearly as soon
floored by fame and alcohol, though something
more relentless than stoat bollixes us all
in the end, I see you and you, two misters of the pen
livelying the world at Kilrickle, I still feel
the verve in your voices rebounding off that stove
to where I stand – and next there’s a child
in the receding distance making shapes to continue.


“Aren’t we lucky to have them?” She meant the walking places,
and she meant herself. No meals to cook, no groceries
to fetch, no cows to milk, no cattle to herd or sheep to flock.
Danger? There were only shallow drains, slack fences
to step, with a hitch of her skirt, across. Yes, ‘across’ –
depend on her to say that word. She’d go across to the Callows,
face Aughty’s distant blue hills forecasting fine weather,
or face near-at-hand Aughty’s glum readiness
to add to the splosh of rust-red ferric iron water in the field
called Old Tillage. No walls or trees for ‘a quare hawk’
to hide behind, the land flat, her eyes able to see far. She’d go
morning or evening to the nurture of not thinking,
her feet swinging through wild meadows whispering – go
across, away from child and beast and man, go beyond concern.