Art Ó Súilleabháin lives in Corr na Móna, Co na Gaillimhe. He spends his time writing and fishing on Lough Corrib. Tá leabhair do pháistí foilsithe aige as Gaeilge agus bhuaigh sé North West Words as Gaeilge. He has published in English in Poetry Ireland Review, Collections by Dedalus Press (Writing Home & Local Wonders), Hold Open the Door from the Ireland Chair of Poetry, The Life of Trees from Cinnamon Press, Skylight 47, Vox Galvia and many other collections. He has broadcast pieces for Sunday Miscellany in English and as Gaeilge.

What really happened

I was afraid, I was always afraid
of dark that would implode within me
if I let go to let the light of passion burn
or raise its head above the preaching
pious people who thought they knew
better the working of a younger brain
waiting on a road outside the school
to see a joy at lunchtime
I bowed to that teaching
refused to acknowledge
the growing desire to meet another mind
to look deeply into another’s eyes and see
reality undressing itself in the half-light of
growing up.

I never understood, I never really understood
the distance in true companionship stretching
threads of touching beyond limits of patience
six roses waiting at a Galway university desk
faint heart failing to ask the waist-haired one
negating the warmth of a hotel in Petersburg
letting go of a blonde song-filled beach-walk
to hear a feebling snore
rest with a kindred soul
an exaggerated time-line
leading only to the inevitable conversations
that mine the introspections of a darkness
laced with the frills of newer touchings
growing old.

So I am alone, I am truly alone
wondering what another late morning might bring
coffee in an unrinsed cup or a radio sound blaring
to wash away the stench of growing old too soon
forgetting slowly bright memories
set on callous waves
regret coursing there
only to break over rocks
set just below the surface of a winter level
an untutored dark beckoning
exploding a future
the now
in its mimicking of the past.

Stranded in Washington DC

You have gone to Salthill again without me
dragged toes in the sand, left traces of you
marks the tide will wash away, patterns
sketched on a whim, likely to last
until sounds of canine mischief
in the waves or the rocks
draw you back into the reverie
of other troubles, or the salty smell
seaweed prompts, faint thoughts of places
where you should be now, or should be later.

I should be there with you, filtering the krill
togetherness, nourishment in those little
things that tangle us into slick knots
bladder wrack, tossed on shores
slippery as precious moments
gathered like diverse shells
to be stored in glass containers
with only you and I ever knowing
the truth and their real significance
in the sands of our created memories.

But I am thousands of miles away
waiting for cherry trees to blossom
announcing Spring. I should be listening
for the cuckoo wind, wild storms from the south
to lift those tuneful imposters to mountain nests
or smelling the heady scent of whitethorn
on islands, and watching for Mayflies
speckling the Corrib with trout rising
out of depths to molest the sky
lifting cold heads momentarily.

You have gone to the beach again without me
Soon, soon, I will be there, to go with you.

Keeping the prisoners out

I snapped the wire just beyond barbs
released strands from pins
that bound them
in rigid lines
into squelching marl
lacustrine sediment
that held them firm.

The once-taut top string
sprang menacingly
into the heather
and scutch
until I rolled it
tangled a perfect ‘o’
from thorny contours
and threw it carelessly
onto wilted bottle sedge.

Rusted fixers persuaded
from their beds of pith
freed the middle line.

Still pristine
it struggled
from branches
of twisted alder
until it too curled
into a thorny crown
discarded on tall grass.

The third strand was buried
in the flotsam of a winter
rusted into dried reeds
looped round the dead
and the living.

I tugged
to loosen the weave
freed that final strand
from its damp grave
oxidised and brittle
in the snarled air.

They were there to keep cattle out
defend the lake and island
from carless shit
no metaphor
for the rain
of their Belsen
where run-off might poison
rivulets from hills of heather
chasing over quartz and cowpats.

Twenty years of grazing beyond
Twenty years of growing there
Twenty years of rusting in hiding
Twenty years of walking there.

It kept a fortified place safe
preserved a Neolithic path
from the hooves of another

I might find years of solace on that hill
where the Corrib-water could rise again
to create a peaceful sanctuary
where children could never find me.

There I could bark at the oaks
snap at invasive rhododendrons
measure the holly by its thorns
feed on fiery red rowan berries
stay outside the grasp of trailing briar barbs
and live just beyond conventions that penned me in.