|Tim Cunningham is Limerick-born and has worked in education in Dublin, Delaware, London and Essex. His sixth poetry collection, The Lyrics to the Nightingale’s Song, was published by Revival Press in March 2016.|
DISTURBING THE SPARROWS
1916, and sparrows chirping in the hedge
Outside a sun-thatched cottage
Are not disturbed by the infant’s cry.
1916, and the Lewis, Vickers and eightpounders
Chase sparrows from Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green,
Boland’s bakery and the G.P.O.
1916, and barbed wire makes a bleak choir-stall
Where sparrows intone requiems for youth
Drowned in the mud of Passiondale and the Somme.
1944, and the 1916 baby marches
With rifle and kit-bag, disperses sparrows
Perched in Sicily and along the Italian front.
Today, another baby in another cottage
And, outside, the birds’ paean to the miracle of life.
I wonder when next the sparrows will be disturbed.
THE MIST ON THE CLARE HILLS
Housebound, Proust in a chair,
She sat by the front room window,
Her polished lens on the world.
Uncanny, her predictions on the weather,
But ‘Not until half past ten
When the mist rises from the hills’.
The Clare Hills, shrouded each night
By chivalrous heaven’s silver shawl –
Retrieved each morning by the sun.
LOVE POEM FOR A FAVOURITE AUNT
Home from a fortnight in ‘the country’
With its spring water, thorn bushes,
Cattle, streams, bitterns and thrushes,
I stood, table-high in the kitchen.
And I still hear, in the concave echo
Of three score years and counting,
The family laugh and giggle
As they coax me to repeat:
‘I’ll give you a kick up d’arse
But I won’t kick Auntie’s arse at all.’
Rough language! Only now I wonder if that,
Perhaps, was the purest love poem ever.
KEEP OFF THE GRASS!
(On not having a PPS number)
‘You are not on our computer.’
An abrupt antidote to romance
As plans and dreams fly out
The window, the closed window,
Shattering glass, splintering
Perhaps ‘Cead Mile Failte’
Was always hyperbolic.
For certain, its red carpet
(Aka our lush green fields)
Has folded to tape
Of the same colour,
The iconic welcome
Now gagged in storage,
Replaced by a wooden sign
Staked in the heart of the earth:
‘Keep Off the Grass!’
The green, green grass of home.