MIKE DOUSE lives in Ennis and chairs the Clare Poetry Collective. A former Head Teacher and Education Professor, he has worked in and advised on EU-supported education programmes, in over 60 developing countries, reflected upon in his recent book An Enjoyment of Education. Mike was among those who established the World School Students Debating Championships and regularly judges school debates across the west of Ireland. He has published two collections of poetry, Old Ground and Gone to Ground, along with numerous articles and reviews and is particularly involved in the EVERY CHILD A POET campaign for Clare primary schools, recently producing a teachers’ guide and a short film aimed at encouraging the enjoyment and creation of poetry by children.
You peppered me with painful clouts
When we were eight or thereabouts
And bent my thumbs and burnt my wrists
And trashed my stomach with your fists
And hid my shoes and blocked my paths
And stole my book of autographs
And taunted me and mocked my name…
…but now you need a Zimmer Frame.
Your frail hands tremble, you are weak,
The spittle flutters as you speak;
Through pebble spectacles you peer
And greet me with a timid stare,
Yet apprehend that danger lurks –
Too well you know how weakness works.
Ah, what a chance to settle scores
And swathe in dressings ancient sores,
For I have kindly dealt with time
(Compared to you I’m in my prime)
And could convulse you with one blow,
As you did me, so long ago.
Or would it be unfair to strike
This senile, doddery old shrike?
Instead, reach out a friendly hand
And let the past sink with the sand?
Agree we were but children then?
Relish shared memories again?
God no! Resentment does not age
Nor years diminish childhood’s rage,
For you still bear that ancient sin
And my life’s torment lives therein,
And, therefore, justice must be done
Because that’s right – because it’s fun.
So I shall cross your palms with glue
And coat your lenses Prussian Blue
And fix a poster to your back
Announcing ‘Go ahead and smack
This one-time persecutor who
Enjoys a hearty thump or two!”
And whisper: “He is still alive,
Who you called ‘Mouse!’ in Forty-Five”.
I find it best, these days, not to depend
On people all that much. They often
Die or rearrange their personalities,
Or move to Ballyvaughan. There lies,
I sense, comparative stability in stars
Whose light takes thirteen billion years
Or so to reach the far side of our street
Towards the Record Break Café. I like
The antique certainty of walnut furniture
(Apart from clocks), reflexive pronouns,
Benoni’s Opening and the Book of Kells,
The retrograde simplicity of sunsets in soft
October churchyards and the cunning way
A new ball shudders on a drying pitch
With both the openers dismissed. I’d rather
Trust the broken lines on ancient maps
Than trace them on the ground, nor shall
I seek directions from stray passers-by, their
Warm hearts notwithstanding. I place
Reliance on the ratios of aged rings
On fractured trees and on the same sublime
Proportions on my hand and wrist and arm,
Where I might calculate unceasingly until
All nights may end. But people, as I just
Now said, tend more to come and go.