Jack Grady is a founding member of the Ox Mountain Poets, based in Ballina, County Mayo. A past winner of the Worcester County (USA) Poetry Contest, his poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, most recently in the online anthology 21 Poems, 21 Reasons for Choosing Jeremy Corbyn and in Voices for Peace, published by A New Ulster.
In her eyes, he sees an anger
harder than onyx.
In her breath, he hears a silence
more thundering than drums.
In her stance, he reads
the muzzled rage
of ten thousand women
raped in war.
Though he loves her,
he dares not touch her,
for fear he would find in his hands
the disinterred bones of Srebrenica
or she would turn to him
the cold carcass of her cheek
the mute contrition
of his lips.
The Madonna of Skid Row
In memory of Mary Healey
If you staggered passed alleys of shattered glass
into midnight’s temple of the lost,
you could find her reigning on a barstool
as the cynosure of men.
She crowned us all with her smile,
our low-life lust instantly tamed,
happily whipped and encaged
by something like love,
the old barman graced more than us
by her privately flirting benediction.
We purred more than laughed
at the joke in her wink when he turned
to draw another shot of vodka, whiskey, or gin.
She was a street-corner goddess of sin,
but to him beatific and virtuous,
the radiant madonna and queen
of us social debris and, on Christmas Eve,
as warm as the glow on Rudolf’s nose,
more generous than Santa,
more puckish than an elf.
She was the star over our manger,
our Christmas madonna throughout the long winter,
and we were the holy child
swaddled by love’s hope in her smile.
The Muse Declares Her True Geometry
I am not counted in steps or in feet,
or in meter (for that matter),
or even in beats. I am not even
the pause before an inhalation,
nor am I shaped into rectangles or squares.
My spirit cannot be bound by four-line stanzas,
each with four feet or three or four stresses,
or even into two dozen of the same.
Don’t force me to split
into tercets or couplets or box me
in a sonnet. I am neither
trapezoid, cylinder, nor quatrain.
I am the geometry of the soul and its sound.
I roll to the rhythms of ejaculation and death.
I am free in the ocean
with every gasping breach and breath,
and I resonate to the lobtail
of a hungry whale.
Our Self-Hypnosis of Happiness
Let us delight to be alive despite
suicidal states and warring states,
impoverished states and nanny states,
and every intrusion of misery and madness.
Let us indulge instead the hypnotic state
in a self-hypnosis of happiness.
Let us romp in a reel with the straw boys
to bodhrán, squeeze-box, and fiddles.
Let us dance at the crossroads
and wear leprechaun hats
for the amusement of Europe’s masters
while they deny us fiscal relief
and applaud us fools
for ‘we’re not Greece’.*
Let us nod at our wettest bog and reveal the secret
of a golden reef that lies beneath.
We will stop laughing when they find it
and we mine it for the leftover grams they grant us;
but, for now, let us declare to the world
we can still lay claim to what remains
of our sovereign domain:
our whingeing wind and rain.
*Quoting Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, 2011.