Category: Poetic Licence

Modern Paradise

We were brought up

On dreams of oysters

Big house after big house

Set in from the road

With fenced in fields

Of luscious gardens

Flickering by

As we made our way

Towards adulthood

And a tennis tournament.


“I’ll have that one.”

No, I like that one more.”

“And a long-legged husband”.

To improve

On short-comings.


And then there came

The time of cottages

Perched on cliffs

Overlooking bays.

In that moment,

I rather fancied

The life of my imaginings:

Staring out at sea

And painting my inspiration.


I haven’t found

such paths of dreams.

Lacking for

The want of looking

Or at least realizing

That it’s there

For the taking.


All that and more

Is sweat and power tools

Bending over

To achieve a look

Of a certain perfectness

And just when

The last crumb

Has been wiped away

A strong wind blows

A withered leaf

Up on to the balcony.
Nowadays the world

Allows me peer

Into the laps

Of any one.

Like the wings

Of a pinned-up

Butterfly spread

Colourful and dead

Their lives displayed

I see that some are there

Or almost anyway

With the dream.

Others are far away

From struggling

As they haven’t even

Settled on any sort of way.


I ponder how and why

Some people seem

To be already floating

Towards their paradise.

And I glean

The team of minions

Busying to maintain

At least the image of

The dream…


A dream, I suspect

We all came with


Of cleaness, beauty

Effortless existence,

Eternal happiness,

You know

The rhetoric of joy.


And we know

By now

It is nowhere here

To be found.

Despite our fumbled

Efforts to reproduce

Some hazy inkling

Of a better life

We cling to.


Our last attempt

Is virtual:

Creating the universe

Of our minds.

Heads and hands

Sucked in by microchips.


We hand over

Our present lives

In exchange for

The on-line search

For the dream

Of somewhere else.

The Woman On The Balcony

There is a woman
Standing opposite
Hanging out the clothes.

On my balcony
I reflect her actions
But mirror not her face.

Which is old
I can see
By the drooping
Of her jowls
Forming lines
Deep but soft
Around her mouth.
She is wearing
Big pearl earrings
And her hair
Curled and grey
The long-sleeved blouse
Which is buttoned
Up to her neck.

She bears
A look of Jesus
One sees
From time to time
A quiet calm
And yet knowing
What life is all about.

As she continues
To hang up clothes
Neatly in a line
It is beautiful
In its orderliness
She has nothing
Else to do
Because there is
Nothing else
To do
In that instant
But hang out clothes
On a balcony.

I stretch
To peg up
The first piece
Of clothing
Not yet scarved
I recall
My baldness
And the breast
I’ve not yet fitted
For the day.
I hide my secret
A pair of shorts
With each new item
I strive
To crouch more
And then still more.
My excuse
Is the fear
Of shocking
That woman
Standing opposite
Hanging out the clothes.

No I do not
Reflect the face
Of the woman
On the balcony.

And yet her face
Of compassion
Has graced me
For a moment
To forget
My lost appearance.

And perhaps
In this moment
I will mirror
That look of Jesus
One sees on faces
From time to time
When walking streets
Or watching people
On their balconies
And seeing
In their eyes
The look of One
Who knows
What life
Is all about.

The Doll


A doll of porcelain
With some others
Sits high upon
A bedroom shelf.

You take her down
And curl her hair
On an eve
Of Saturday.
And so she shines
With bouncing locks
On Sundays
With the Angels.

She dons a
Bright white frock
For Communion
With the saints
And frolics up
The church aisle
In the sun.

In a woollen suit
Of awkwardness
She is Confirmed
In between
And leaving
On a Galway afternoon.

Cladding her
For Marriage
In a gown
With pearly buttons
Taken from
The miniature,
Now they fasten
A little coat
Knit to warm
The tiny heart of
Some other’s
baby doll.

Struck down
This doll has fallen
Against the ground
Her body cracks
Head rips apart
Your doll
Forever broken.

No longer yours
For the mending.
The doll is anointed
With healing oil.
Exposing openly
What lies beneath
The damaged porcelain
To all the world
Who wants to see.

Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer

I am an outline
Of myself
Left blank.
My eyes have sunken
Into exhaustion.
My hair is quickly
Shedding to the wind.
One breast gone
The left one
Limply hanging,
To be taken
With the other
To the grave.
The image
Of my youth
Siphoned off
Into last month
And distilled
Into memories of
Chasing after children
And eating apples
by the mountain streams.

In this world,
I know this pain
Is nothing
But it’s mine.

I offer it
To the shadows
Of the dawn chorus.
Take the depths
Of my swelling heart
And mold it
How You meant
To show my beauty.
Stay with me
For this day.
Hold up this
Fragile outline
To be colored in
With Your blessings
Over time.

Chemotherapy: The First Session

The four questions my friends, family and people around my neighborhood ask me these days are,
“How are you?”, “How are the children?”, “How’s Carlos bearing everything?” and “How’s your head?”

Thankfully I can respond positively most of the time and conversations often end by acknowledging the importance of a positive attitude.

I realise a positive attitude for me starts with an action, like deciding to exercise my arm and to be constant about it. When I don’t exercise it, I’m usually feeling down, so the positive action gets pushed aside. My Mum is my constant inspiration and driving force here as I recall how she single-handedly exercised her broken shoulder back to full capacity in record time.

Healthy eating which requires planning, shopping, cooking and eating are a multitude of positive deeds needing lots of positive energy. There are lots of hurdles here to fall down at and Angela, my sister-in-law, is my nutritional adviser and chef this week and keeping me on track.

As for positive thinking, I have never mastered any skill in honing my thoughts in on the plus side only. I’m not sure I believe in that. Sadness or fear or loneliness, even anger are valid emotions and perhaps when felt, named, acknowledged, and explored a little (with some therapeutic blog writing for example) maybe that’s displaying a positive attitude.

So what is chemotherapy?

Before starting I struggled to find anything positive or happy to say or think about chemotherapy.

It starts with a pill in the morning just before breakfast, to protect the stomach lining. A bowl of porridge and some acidophilus also helps with the stomach preparation. It then continues with a blood test and a two hour wait* for a consultation with your oncologist to get the results of the blood test. If you’re healthy enough, you can go ahead to get the neoplastic drugs pumped into your veins. If your immune system has been diminished so much by previous chemotherapeutic visits that you’re deemed too unwell to receive the hit, you go home until the white cells have recuperated.

So on my first visit yesterday, of course I was going to be healthy enough. I’ve been eating salads, vegetable soups and fruit cocktails. White meat, oily fish and legumes. Porridge, quinoa and multigrain bread, rice and pasta. Turmeric, cumin, cardamom, olive oil, lemon juice and seeds for flavoring. (Angela and the anti-cancer diet). My drink of election has been mostly tea, green, black, red, spicy, fruity. If it’s hot and wet, I’ve been drinking it. And lots and lots of water.

I’ve done my best to cut down on anything I think might be harsh on my liver. So no wine and just the odd sip of Carlos’ beer. Decaffeinated coffee for the last week and the vitamin supplements have been stored away for recuperation at a later date. I still enjoy ice-cream and chocolate and my biscuits for dunking since my weight is healthy, I’ve decided that looking after my endorphin levels is important too!

But there was still a part of me that was hoping the doctor would say,

“Ah you’re alright for another week.”

Anything to put the chemo off for another week. I’ve been dreading it for days but it’s not one of those therapies that can be postponed for very long as there is an accepted optimum window of time (4 to 6 weeks) after the surgery, in which to begin.

So what is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is waiting for your number to be called to enter into the oncological day hospital. A roomfull of numbered reclining chairs with drips beside each one and two chairs for companions to sit and wait through the procedure.

Chemotherapy is a reception with a nurse who greeted me with my name “Dairy”.

“My name is Deirdre.” I replied, “D.E.I.R.D.R.E.”

“Here it says DEIRERE.”

“That’s a mistake, I told them at reception last week…Oh never mind.”

“Chair 14.” the nurse indicated.

Chemotherapy is a quick glance around the room and spotting the old woman I had seen earlier, wheeled in, in a chair, either too sick or too tired or both to hold up her
head. And there she was sitting in a corner, with her aging husband and someone else, sister, friend or helper, receiving her intravenous therapy.

Chemotherapy is realizing that you’re not the youngest in the room. There beside the reception was a young beautiful tan-bodied twenty-something-year-old girl with her curly-locked wig tapping away on her phone and laughing with her sister or friend. (There are no children here and thank God for that because that would be too heart-breaking.  Sick children are cases apart that need an extra special kind of love and attention I can only imagine.)

Chemotherapy is walking past all the other mostly older recipients lying back and I reading the number on their chairs. Five, nine, thirteen. Ah number fourteen, the empty one for me.

Chemotherapy is arriving at your chair, throwing your bag down on one of the accompanying seats, climbing up and stretching out your arm for being pricked (my vein port won’t be healed for use until the next session in three weeks time).

I hadn’t prepared myself for this, no tears in advance were shed because really I didn’t know what to expect and I denied doing any research. All the feelings associated with cancer diagnosis welled up in my eyes, anger, fear, sadness, disbelief and shock and the tears fell. I couldn’t hide them but it didn’t really matter. Somehow I believed that everyone in this room, cancer patients and companions alike had all been through the same. Felt the same feelings and cried the same tears.

Chemotherapy is sitting for your prescribed time to receive your prescribed drugs, reading books, writing blog posts and watching others, some snoring, some eating lunch, some doing crosswords.

Chemotherapy is waiting for the beep of your drug administering machine and for the nurse to come round and say, “one last dose of saline solution and in five minutes you’re done.”

Chemotherapy is arriving home, and following the advice of Belcha who went through this seven years ago, of resting up and moving around very little, drinking lots of liquids because the more you do and the less you drink, the harder the hit of the secondary effects will be. Twenty four hours later I’m still waiting. I’m feeling nauseous but that’s all for now.

There will be more side effects to come, once the drugs have had time to be absorbed not only by any stray cancerous cells around my body but also by all the fast-growing ones like in the skin, hair-follicles, bone marrow, mouth and stomach lining and bind with the cells’ DNA to prevent replication.  So I’ll be busy over the next few weeks addressing my susceptibility to infection, the loss of my hair, the possible mouth sores and drying out of my skin and nails.

My first session is over, eleven more to go. Already my attitude is changing:

Chemotherapy is acceptance of and trust in modern medicine with all its wonders and flaws; persistence in the face of despair; hope in being cured for the future; faith in the hands of God or whatever one believes in and a love of life expressed by the will to continue.

Chemotherapy for me is having a positive attitude on a prolonged scale of time and a developing sense of special admiration of the very old and the very young, (and their parents who watch them receive it) for having the courage needed to accept this kind of bitter-sweet therapy.
*Waiting for Chemotherapy

I am empty
Like a water bottle
To the last drop.
No fountain gushing,
No overspill
Onto this bench,
Where still I sit
With the sun
Reaching its rays
Out to drench me
A gentle warmth.
I lap it up
I thank the Gods.
From Earth I came,
With whose bounty
I will replenish
The coffers of my
Being lost.

I am down but not defeated,
I am scared but not trodden.
Standing up and facing them
Consenting to this bitter care.
In this life, in this day
This way to Resurrection.