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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
Best of Irish Poetry 2010

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Songs of Earth and Light

Songs of Earth and Light
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Richesses: Francophone Songwriter Poets
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JOHN ENNIS

 

 

 

John Ennis

 

John Ennis is a contributor to the Harvard Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry (2010). His verse has also appeared recently in Poetry Ireland Review, Stinging Fly, Riddle Fence, Outburst, The Burning Bush, New Hibernia Review, The Clifden Anthology, Boyne Berries and Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot. Postponing Ásbyrgi (poems in response to Sigur Rós) was published by Three Spires Press in March (2013) and launched in Newfoundland at The March Hare Festival.

 


 

 

 

Songlines

 

                                                     after Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines

1.  Mother

 

Those nonsense phrases of adults right up to the rafters –

“Come single belle and beau”, – the one at St. Agnes

Tolling over cattle and calves and sheep in the fields

Achieved luminary proportions and, then, that Friesian

 

You wept for marched from the cowhouse to one more slaughter

At the end of the war (she’d filled the creamy crocks

   twice over).

 

Kevin Barry to tears over the Monday morning wash-tub

And the rain drainpiped from the galvanised into the tanks,

You waiting for a dry patch to hang the lot on the garden line

Sing him again.

 

“Wait till the clouds roll by, Jenny

  Wait till the clouds roll by . . . ”

Why did she have to have the same name as our goat?

 

As usual, for finale

“I know who I lo-ove

  But the dear knows who I’ll marry . . . ”

Bent low deep into my eyes as you lugged the bath-tub out past me in your práiscín

To empty it down the yard’s cobbled drain and I might have been someone else’s kid.

 

 

2.  Judy

 

Though, Judy, I think had the purer voice

Whose singing left me one day transfixed

On holiday in Wooddown in Great Downs

(We were out playing most of the days

 

Or going back and forth to Buckleys or to Mulligans

With errands for her or watching Mag up to high doh

Until Willie’s donkey and cart set off to Macetown,

If it pelted rain there was the hen-shared turf-shed),

 

But this wet morning Judy had us all seated on the forums

Either side of the fire with a warning not to stir off them

As she got down on her knees to scrub the kitchen floor,

 

Lifebuoy in one hand, the song she started had the line or the refrain in it

“The north wind came whistling down the line”. Her soprano voice

Raised the hair on my nape. Sheared off the curly top of my head.

 

 

       3.  The Nuns and Nanny Geraghty

 

The nuns, they’re hardly in the door at Peter’s, and the cup drank

And they must make a beeline for their old tutor Nanny Geraghty

And hardly is the cup down there, but they’ve got her each by the hand

And into the piano room for Nanny is still no slouch across the ivories

 

And Nanny’s music they ransack through, like teenagers do their glossies,

Until they find the songs Nanny taught them, then it’s one after the other

As whiskered, withered Nanny with so many moles is forced to belt them out

And all the words they thought they’d all but forgotten in Australia

 

Burst out of them all over the keys like molars, the piano in its eighties too

And their old butty teacher croaking high, yes, she can still hold a melody

While I grip the sides of the armchair by the window in this merry-go-round

Mouth open at their pre-Whoopiness, they’ve waited thirty years for this

 

And they’ll go on revving it up until they drop after the jet lag for hours

Till it’s time to straighten their white wimples, wipe away the tears.

 

 

 

©2013 John Ennis

 

 

Author Links

 

Two poems by John Ennis in Outburst (PDF, pages 5 & 6)

Poem by Ennis in the Burning Bush 2

Purchase 'Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot' at English Pen (E-Book)

Radio documentary about John Ennis at RTÉ Radio 1

 

 

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