My Poems

Flaking the Rope

Mother

there is a frozen silence

both sides of our window.

Outside, a white sheet steals

the joy of herbs and plants,

decorates the half-worked

green climbing our un-finished fence.

Three electric poles are alive.

Daffodils are popping through

disliked moss greens,

calves entertain electric fences

and woken tractors are feeding fields.

Inside, a voice is echoing your

granddaughter’s telephoned message,

stilling thoughts, and delivering

the cold news that you have passed.

©Gene Barry

 

On the Homestead

 

I dream myself into an Irish pallbearer

Sniffing one pink Cypripedium,

Two Heliotropes,

A little bunch of violets.

Engraving before departure.

 

Out of that peripheral sky

Drifting across her kitchen table,

Mother will waltz with

Clicking needles while father

In his workshop builds concepts.

He will visa-clear her undiscovered continent,

Syntax her morning noon and nights,

Say nice-father sayings,

Perhaps hug and donate.

 

Mother, she will iron the dyings

Out of Emily’s sheets,

Defuse the Mother Wound,

Horse in a few mechanisms.

Later, she will exorcise hangings shootings stabbings,

A suffocation a crucifixion a drowning.

Steal the earth from premature burials

And blunt-make her guillotine.

 

So many heart deaths she’s had

And hidden in complex notions,

In outdated prayers and diatribes

And unvaluable family values.

She coughed up volumes of blackness,

Diluted to taste the unsociably awkward

Who lived beyond her home.

 

How kind of death

To call her back to safety.

To where flies buzz

And kings spoon in sleep.

She would have liked that.

How comforting to know

She died of Bright’s Disease.

 

©Gene Barry

 

Sanctity

for Charlie Vella

 

When I am older my love

and Zurrieq is sleeping

hoarsely, I will go to her

and ease her tiring larynx.

 

My stang of love

I will take and plant

each hank in a house

Barocci failed to influence.

 

A set of arms from each one

I will invite and let it hold me

and seduce a pair of loving

lips to steal a moment, or two.

 

I will waltz her medieval

streets with Ptolemy and at

the temple I will listen

to his Sunday Miscellany.

 

I will be a Vella for a day,

drink with Victoria and

sway my youthful arms at

A La Veneziana,

 

and when the pick is

whispering to be harvested

I will bend all day and sleep

in the safety of their Għorfa.

 

©Gene Barry

An Għorfa is a small room or shelter or, more accurately, a room on the roof of a house.

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Unfinished Business

Michael

After polio had visited

the boy it chose

was never the same.

It paralysed his mother.

 

Young men lit their laughter,

pubescent girls wondered

and dogs slowed near him;

the years after his father

could take no more.

 

He paddled upstream

to a school and a room

for special people and

at a bench he called his own

he cut leather, punched it,

put coins in between the strips

he managed to sow together

for the brothers who flogged him.

 

He tied four longer strips

around his neck before

he pushed the stool away.

©Gene Barry

 

 

Redundant

 

These nights his right hand rests

behind him pining for its spooning perch.

She no longer jadedly whispers

‘nite, love you too’,

concentrates on the tears

filling the pillow’s pool,

makes another note to change it

while he’s away at work

where he will cry a half dozen

times in the deaf toilet.

 

In her dreams she will be

younger than 13 again,

in her wedding dress,

hugging her adult children,

climbing the Sydney Bridge,

picking up rainbows of toys,

swimming with the mother’s group,

losing herself to the anaesthetic.

She is awkwardly lighter there now,

the new weight resting on her shoulders

toppling her into an unfamiliar world.

 

When the consultant spoke of rebuilding

she ran into bricks and mortar;

their shed flattened in that storm she’d forgotten about

without laughing her father’s unfinished coal bunker

without pride the pouring of their first foundation

without joy their villa in Sardinia.

Built a wall around her unexplainable pain.

 

©Gene Barry

 

A Kennedy Moment

for John Liddy

 

Mary, my lips hadn’t dressed

Your name in a multiple

Of decades, not until you

Perched between us tonight,

Landing yourself on a

Republican lap.

It was a Kennedy Moment.

Etching wasn’t deep enough

To hold you. The memories

Danced to polkas, reels

And jigs and were held

In volumes of uninterrupted

Slow airs.

When I looked again I

Noticed that the tide had

Ebbed and a feed-bag

Of torments had discharged

Itself. You wore that same smile

That introduced you to

Us in the Phoenix bar in

1977, when your lips seduced

The plastic tip and drove a

Decade of fingers to entertain us.

Jesus you were great!

My memory fumbled and

Fumbled in its recall, till

You excavated a hunk of

Deep-bored and unmarried

Memories and exorcised an

Unwelcome landscape that

Had found an inappropriate

Home. I left my hosts and

Danced my way through Limerick

Streets that once held your

Stride and winked at the

Variety of unwritten plaques

That hold you now.

Unwittingly ordering a confluence

Of memories to entertain

Themselves. Later today

I’ll drive to Cork and on

My way I’ll erect a cortège

Of finger posts, to you, and

Bless them with a lifetime

Of acceptance.

 

©Gene Barry

First published in The Stoney Thursday Anthology

 

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Stones in their Shoes

Closed Line

For separated fathers

 

I would walk to my gallows

once weekly and feed the rope

with single men. And witness

the gawking families

unilaterally waving the many

colours of unity’s insults.

 

They would do it without

moving or speaking. Without

even knowing the pain they

had infused. Marrow bound.

A line of useless drones out

of sink with family matters.

 

“Us” was parked in every garden

that wasn’t ours, dancing all

day in wind that ceased to live

in what seemed to be the only

lifeless garden. Rainbows of

stories sticking out their tongues.

 

“We” never did the feeding of

the nylon, nor the retrieving

of the cleansed. Eyes set down

from conversations at both

boundaries that were lent to

what we now knew as a family.

 

Everybody beyond our ditches

seemed to gel with the laughter

of coal bunkers and barbeques,

to continue the unfinished over

the flapping icons that waved

them inside their castles.

 

©Gene Barry

 

Líne Iata

do na fir scartha

 

Shiúlainn go dtí crann mo chrochta

uair sa tseachtain agus chothaínn an téad

le súgán fear singil. Agus romham amach

teaghlaigh ag gliúcaíocht le drochmheas,

ceirteacha a gcuid maslaí á gcroitheadh

acu orm le gach dath faoin spéir.

 

Gan ghíocs gan ghuth dheintí é,

gan chor, gan chaint.

i ngan fhios don arraing péine a

chuir siad tríom. Go smior na smúsach.

Gamail gan rath amuigh leo féin

gan beann ar chúram clainne.

 

“Sinne” ina staic i ngach gairdín

nár linn, ag rince go fiata

i rith an lae sa ghaoith sin a

múchadh ina lios gan síóg.

Bogha ceatha a gcuid scéalta

ar ghob geabach a dteanga.

 

Níor dheineamarna na héadaí

a bheathú, ná an glantachán a

theasargan ón bpoll. Súile a

d’fhoghlaim teorainneacha na

cainte ón dtuiscint chúng a bhí acu

don teach, don teaghlach, don mhuintir.

 

Dhlúthaigh gach aon duine eile le chéile

lena ngáirí barbíciú, lena gcabaireacht

theolaí cois tine. Lasmuigh dár gcuid

clathacha lean siad orthu ag sméideadh

lena gcuid meirgí gan chrích

laistigh d’fhallaí a ndúnphort féin.

 

©Eoghan de Barra

 

The Burial

In Memory of Clare O’Connor

 

Time’s dose of uninvited turmoil,

engulfed their pre-planned world,

a silent unforgiving hew

within each triggered beat

 

struck harder as they walked

with their box of future memories.

Cheated,

no beat within.

 

A broadcast of childish laughter

moored closely,

uncaptained.

No stolen spoon of jam.

 

Their anagram of wounds

quarried into their old-age and

brushing them helplessly adrift

through seas of detached empathy.

 

A cleft of unseen sorrow

kneading ceaselessly

and successfully.

Hurting.

 

No chiromantic map,

no dialect, no tell-tales,

the subterranean pedestal

dutifully beckoning.

 

As the feral child would

we stood and gawked

with unswallowing

lumped throats,

 

to see her walk

before she stood,

out of the world

she never entered

 

and like the familiar face

through introductions

I tell myself I know,

I know you Claire.

 

©Gene Barry

 

Tactile Memories

for my father Micheál

 

How do I know your

drive to run these teeth

over the inviting dead

what torque to chose

when indicating

 

and yet I rub the

chiromantic map with

unromantic oils and

smooth each surface

without life

 

dress the contrasting

donors with shavings

toiled and blindly

undressed in lonely

unhugged trances

 

why do I hold this

whistle in your

clasped hand

Spear’s index

at the ready

 

with the open snuff box

in distracted thought

see to your nails

massage your waiting

mound of Venus

 

ungloved you gave

to give me life

beyond our clasped

audience of DNA

I applaud you.

 

©Gene Barry

First published by the University of Chicago in Euphony

 

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Working Days

Apollinaireing

 

Nine years later you ask

Is this alright, honestly

as if I was your personal designer,

best female friend.

I want to wolf whistle, to

up my magician’s sleeve

and present you with a

bouquet of your favourites.

I’m pulled instantly to our

wedding day, to those cardiac

moments before I hear the

Oh and turn, eyes leaking,

larynx locked and accept

the fact that my world is

about to accept me.

 

©Gene Barry

 

 

No Gates, Just Bridges

‘Let us remain human’

Vittorio Arrigoni

 

There is a shadow now

beneath sun and moon;

no scars or handcuffs.

Echoes of a peaceful pulse.

No head for the punisher’s

fist and boot, but choruses of

“O Bella ciao, ciao….”

 

Suppression sups life from

your history Vik, tongues lilt

your pacifistic laments and

Sisyphus, he lives amongst the

unjust platoons of Münchausen

wounded who one day will

have to cease their torture.

 

©Gene Barry

 

Nessun Cancelli, Solo Ponte

‘Let us remain human’

Vittorio Arrigoni

 

Ora c’è un ombra

sotto il sole e la luna;

senza cicatrici o manette.

Pulsano echi di pace.

Per i punitori senza testa.

No pugnie calci, ma cori di

“O bella ciao, ciao…..”

 

Soppressa la storia della

tua vita Vik, cadenza

dei tuoi lamenti pacifisti e

Sisyphus, lui vive tra

plotoni ingiusti di Munchausen

feritiun giorno

cesserà la loro tortura.

 

©Gene Barry

 

Letter to Hashim

For Huda Ghaliya

 

I am Huda and I scream

to you in the skies above

me, please do not leave

me alone to mourn for I

 

have dipped my tiny limbs

beneath the hem of death’s

door and trawled for those

same arms that hugged me,

 

for the sets of lips that were

mine to kiss, for that parental

safety net woven by my future

and my arms are empty.

 

I am the only day of our

week that lives on this beach

of trading on the edge of

another bloody empire.

 

I would trade all spices here

today a world of olibanum

and ostrich feathers, I would

add my name to the menu

 

of slaves, I would tame a

thousand Buraqs and trek to

our future. But I cannot. For

Israel’s summer rain has lashed

 

death to my childish frame,

a burden your great grandson

will unleash, a memory I will

undress each day. But my

 

Boswellian roots I will anchor to

this blood-stained land that

Alexander failed to arid turn,

my tears I will trade for peace.

 

©Gene Barry

 

رسالة من هاشم
لهدى غالية
أنا هدى ، و إنني أصرخ
صرخاتي تتجه نحوك ، في السماوات العالية فوقي
أرجوك لا تتركني
لا تتركني وحيدة لأفجع
فأنا غمست اطرافي
تحت حافة باب الموت
محاولا ان أصطاد نفس الأذرع التي احتضنتني
و تلك الشفتين التين كانتا ملكي كي أقبلهما
لتلك الشبكة من الحنان الأبوي ، والتي حبكها مستقبلي
ذراعاي الآن فارغتان
أنا اليوم الوحيد المتبقي من أسبوعنا و الذي يعيش على هذا الشاطئ
شاطئ المقايضة على شفير امبراطورية دموية أخرى
كنت لأقايض كل الكائنات الحية هنا
هذا اليوم
مقابل عالم من اللبان و ريش النعام
كنت لأضيف اسمي على لائحة العبيد
كنت لأروض الف براق و رحلة مضنية في سبيل مستقبلنا
و لكنني لا استطيع
فمطرهم الصيفي قد ضرب الموت بغزارة على هيكلي الطفولي
عبئ ثقيل سيطلق حفيدك له العنان
ذكرى سأتعرى منها كل يوم
لكن تبقى جذوري البوسويلية التي سأرسخها في هذه الارض الملطخة بالدماء
و التي فشل الكسندر في تجفيفها
دموعي ، سوف أبادلها مقابل السلام
جيني باري
©Gene Barry

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