i’m a runaway carousel horse

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    i’m a runaway carousel horse,
    weary of being tied down by rope,
    i’m off to the nearest race course,
    loud speaker cheers and good hope.

    i’m tired of tinny music, so cheerful,
    constant circling, dizzy spinning,
    – you think i’m tame but be fearful:
    outside i’m static, inside i’m grinning.

    i placidly accepted many mounts,
    tally-ho toddlers and lovers laughing
    – but now my freedom’s paramount,
    i’m tired of all the cheery chaffing.

    i want to graze in open green fields
    and canter through crashing waves;
    behind pretty lights, secretly concealed,
    an anarchist frees all fairground slaves.


“….what injustice shall we next upend…”

What inspiring men, who believed in biblical justice, applied it to their own lives, and established righteous laws. William Wilberforce doggedly presented his bill to abolish slavery over 18 years, finally succeeding in 1807.


Brazen slavers cracked lead-tipped whips,

split black skin in tight-packed ships,

dark hopeless horizon, haunting eclipse.


Slave-chants sounded in cruel cotton-fields;

absent angels and avenging swords, no shields:

branded by bastards, rape made them yield.


That cruelty contested in distant Lords,

logic, legalities, passionate pleas outpoured:

heart and mind energised by God’s Word.


Loyal lobbyists pulled political puppet-strings:

caricatures mocked saviours, barbs and stings –

commoners signatures confounded the king.


Finally the freedom Bill passed with fanfare,

many hurrahs warmed abstract chamber air;

tears of praise fell for the answered prayer.


Frock-coated, top hatted, fellowship friends,

a snowball fight Members then contend

Wilberforce asked “what next to upend…?”


Wilberforce—dubbed “the prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropists”—was at one time active in support of 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents.

Mother Courage

  • The humiliation of motherhood is hypocritical. Where would we be without their nurturing? It comes often at high cost and sacrifice to themselves. Their hearts are hard-wired to give…and give….and give


    Wailing babies crave mother’s milk,
    maternal reflexes respond readily,
    nipples plug pouting lips, suck steadily;

    full breast offers soft pillowed silk.


    Discreet exposure in public places,
    fulsome food comes at a price:
    condemning looks, flushed faces;

    proxy aunts provide unasked advice.


    Mothers mocked for expressing,
    humiliated by such social scorn;
    those who withhold a blessing

    are silent about billboard porn…


    image:’Mother Courage’ by Ricky Mujica http://www.rickymujica.com

    Ricky aligns himself with the Post Contemporary Art Movement
    (PoCo) and its aesthetic of “Skill, Creativity, and Empathy”.

    “I’m concerned with the human condition. With joy and pain,
    with love and hate, with life and death. I want to care
    about what I’m painting and about the people I paint”.

fifth household member

Without known cause, Jack suddenly started “talking”, after an almost mute nine years living with us. What brought that on? Who knows? Jack’s unusual and eccentric characteristics are laws unto themselves. It’s almost like he wants to express his opinion, from underneath the dining table, on whatever subject is under discussion…what a funny dog!

photos by Dora Kazmierak https://www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/



Out of blue Jack started talking,

lazily growling pertinent views:

wishes expressed: about walking,

or – “quiet please, thank you”

Jack isn’t shy about remarking,

primal urges: seen and heard,

beseeching but never barking,

eloquent eyes, not just words.

good-natured grumble understated,

family members much impressed,

canine requests go un-debated,

nose nudge completes his quest.

fifth member of household,

faithfully following, to and fro –

patiently trots, does what’s told,

terrier smiles say good-to-go.


stray hairs end up everywhere

Dora’s captivating photos inspire poem after poem. i’m grateful…I’ve lost count of how many poems have evolved from her emotional evocations by this stage…

photos by Dora Kazmierak https://www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/


As dogs go Jack’s a darling dote

Luke kindly combs his wiry coat,

brushed hair hovers, haloes float:

slo-mo parachutes, falling motes.

stray hairs end up everywhere,

fluff sentries line all steps of stair,

hatch-marks added to all armchairs:

generously giving, plenty spare.

his friendly face so foxy hued,

rich ginger pointy ears protrude,

his body Reynard-hint imbued:

canine mammal though, not a pseud.

long after his presence has passed,

hair hints will linger, thick and fast,

filament fellowship merrily amassed:

found fluff-cotton into odd corners cast…

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under leaf-chiming trees

When I saw this painting on Twitter I just knew that I had to try and compliment it with a poem. How many of us would just love to walk into a picture and be part of such elegiac scenes. Early marriage al fresco eroticism remembered…

Frederick C. Frieseke

lazily you lie, so sensual, at ease,

naturally nude, under leaf-chiming trees:

shadow-kissed shapes, eyes that please.


dappled skin sings – rest royal fawn,

let me lay beside you, on blanketed lawn,

love-poem rhymes, deliberately drawn.


siesta slumber, tipsy humid heat,

hands hug warm hips, limbs lazily pleat:

longing kisses linger, soft and sweet.


later garden cools, temperature falls,

birds atop tall trees, evensong calls,

reluctantly we clothe, even so we stall…


painting: Nude in Dappled Sunlight, 1915 by Frederick C. Frieseke  American Impressionist  expatriate in France. An influential member of the Giverny art colony, his paintings often concentrated on various effects of dappled sunlight. He is especially known for painting female subjects, both indoors and out.

Restaurant-fare their Fate

The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, commonly referred to as Yulin Dog Meat Festival, is an annual celebration held in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice. Festival goers eat dog meat and lychees. The festival spans about ten days during which it is estimated that 10,000–15,000 dogs are consumed. There are similar “festivals” in Korea and other Asian countries…


Canines cramped in constricting crates,

market displayed, restaurant-fare their fate.


Mindlessly consumed on fun “festive” days,

humans make helpless, poor animals pay.


Confined without compassion or regret:

‘kind companions’ culled – thoughtless mindset.


See dogs deeply smile, such soulful eyes,

don’t harden your heart with culinary lies.


Fake medicinal properties, sex-superstitions!

Protests repressed, quashed pleading petitions.


O canine creator, show that you care:

divinely interfere with cruel Asian affairs!




A jazz pianist, poet or writer, in dreams

In his day-dreams, my father saw himself as a jazz pianist, poet or, possibly a writer. Life didn’t turn out quite like that… but I appreciate my many memories of his piano paying, and his quite extensive jazz LP collection.

This my dad playing Jazz on an electric piano.

This my dad playing Jazz on an electric piano.


After church my father played

jazzy and blues  melodies, piano-made;

audience-empty our suburban sitting room,

far from drink, dance and smoky fumes,

New Orleans, Beale Street honky-tonk bars,

absent growl of space-age, tail-finned cars.


Father rarely jammed with others,

he solo-jived, had no band of brothers;

tunes started off well, then stumbled:

over-complicated codas got a bit jumbled,

lacking drum discipline, tight snare beat,

absent also funky double-bass: incomplete.


A jazz pianist, poet or writer, in dreams:

boundaries were smashed to smithereens;

unwanted: his title of company director;

an alter-ego intellectual, emigre, a defector

from consensus and middle-class claims;

finally he fled our family, set bridges aflame.


Now aged ninety, we’re finally reconciled,

his sharp tongue recalled from when a child;

now this lip bitten, sometimes sardonically I grin

at foolish-fallible father – conflicted kith and kin;

upbeat Dixieland tunes I still fondly recall:

record stylus sometimes sticks, scratch stalled…


Piano blues track (with washboard percussion) recorded by my dad, circa 1944


I had the accidental priviledge of working in Carraig Books, Blackrock 1979 – 1981. Even though I came from a bookish, non-academic background, I never thought of working in bookshops.

Carraig Books have a printers at the rear of the shop. I had been struggling with printing competence. It was with relief, after a number of years, that I discovered that the bookshop employee wanted to work in the printers. We simply switched jobs, no interviews required.


Saturday’s light opera songs from upstairs cause questioning looks from browsers, rummaging through the cardboard boxes; eyes scanning the wooden shelves with tireless, jumble-sale, hopeful, “gem” find intensity. Nan Day is hitting the high notes to some old favourite chorus on the radio, working in her kitchen, above the bookshop.

“Sunny” the boxer-dog sits by the shop door looking up at the ceiling, questioning crinkles furrowing his forehead, listening to Nan’s singing, amazement in his bloodshot, world-weary eyes. Sunny had a slight incontinence problem. If he wasn’t let out promptlyin the morning he chose to sprinkle the rows of spine-up runs of books on the floor, just below the shelves. His urine had the ability to glue even hardbackbooks together in a tight unit. “ Text a little “damp stained” indeed…

I sat at a “golf-ball” electric typewriter, typing bibliographic details of books, onto oblong offcut pieces of card. My feet were showered in a confetti of price-tag triangles, cut from decades-old book covers. Every so often I pause my two-fingered typing to flick through a book and admire the old fashioned type-faces, or black & red title pages. Book titles in bold lettering, lovingly crafted by Batsford, Foulis, Macmillan, Talbot & Dolmen Press.

Strangely enough I didn’t buy many books there at the time. One book I did buy, though, was Stephen Graham’s ‘The Way of Martha & The Way of Mary’, a travel book published in the early 1920’s by Macmillan. It was about the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt & the monasteries in the deserts. I was drawn to it by the tipped in colour icon depicting both Biblical ladies. The author had a letter in it which added to the appeal.

Interesting characters came into Carraig Books. There was ‘Owney’, like an extra from Strumpet City, shoulders haunched, socks instead of gloves on his cold hands. He had come to make a stab at cleaning the shop windows for the price of a bottle of porter, “on the QT, ya know”. A cigarette butt slurring his Dub, working-class accent:

“Dickle-dee-boo, dickle-dee-boo. How are ya, young fella? Where are dem lhadders? I’ll get shut o’ ya fer hidin’ dem. haha”.

The unobtrusive browsers were startled by his unexpected conversation, engaging them about the price of drink, or the awful weather. They stood on step ladders or the circular “elephant’s foot”, arm extending to some dust covered, long-forgotten book, just beyond reach. They either ignore ‘Owney’ or smiled condescendingly at him. His chatter was ruining their concentration, they are seeking the “deeper things” in life. After “finishing” the window cleaning job & being paid the price of a drink, ‘Owney’ would wobble off  into the traffic, on his sit-and-beg black gents bicycle that had no brakes worth talking about.

Remembering now, years later, the risen dust caught in sunlight, when a book was pulled from a half-filled shelf, buttress removed. Remembering the slap-happy chaos: the clutter, the stacks of boxes or the Pisa-like piles of books on the floor. Remembering now the atticy-smell of dust, ink on paper or the full calf covers with their gold-blocking “tooled” inlay.

I came to love the bargain hunters & collectors, nearly all of them middle-aged men. Some browsers silent, others whistling old Irish tunes under their breath, on their haunches or climbing the creaky old-fashioned library wooden ladders. I even came to love sweeping the scabbed lino floor, from the long room  –

Literature, Poetry, Genealogy, Reference, Catholic theology,  Latin, Greek Classics and History books;

then past the cramped packing room where the giant weighing scales, an oversize cast-iron Victorian clamp, and large rolls of corrugated parcel cardboard stood;

then into the shop where all those price-tag triangles lay underneath my desk, surrounded by the Irish interest books; then through the arch to Art, Collectibles, Music, Folio Collectibles, Juvenelia, Topography, Travel, Antiquarian.

See those rows of books jutting in and out: octavo, quarto, small quarto,large quarto, landscape and folio; all of them show flagtips, white cards peeking out the top edges, with my badly typed bibliographic information on them.

Between the pages are forgotten letters, bookmarks, old stamps, rusty paper-clips, and lined note-paper marking pages or passages. Sometimes refutations, pencilled annotations, written in by would-be scholars on the page’s edge.

Those books held secret dialogue; clashing ideologies peacefully co-existing at last; breaking through hostile borders, where time has disarmed the guardians of prejudice and hatred.

And over twenty five years later, I still work there, so that owner can go for a round of golf.  There is little passing trade these days, so I can browse the shelves or even surf the internet at leisure. My wages for such a priveledge are a coffee / sandwich meal-deal.

The book-collector clientele of yore is dying off & the hard copy catalogues are becoming a thing of the past. This bookshop is 48 years old now. It just about manages to survive the vagaries of modern retail & the onslaught of the all pervasive internet of online bookselling and the compliments that don’t turn into cash.

If ever you are in the Dublin area , you should visit Carraig Books, in Blackrock. You will enter an old-fashioned world that has no piped music, or garish posters, nor three-for-the-price-of-two offers. Though, if you ask with a smile, you may get a token discount, due to the times that are in it.

You too might jump, whilst browsing, when you unexpectedly hear the front door still slam, just like it used to. Its almighty wooden clunk-click, causes even me to sometimes jump out of this bibliofile-blissful reverie….

originally published in The Blackrock Historical Society Journal, 2013

Don’t be coward

  • “We begin the day with bread; we end it with wine. We can bake bread in a few hours; wine takes years of cultivation, preparation, aging. Personal profit is good, but we don’t thrive if we eat and drink alone. Everything we make is a loaf, formed to be broken, distributed, shared….” – PETER LEITHART



    His broken body lit my faith’s fuse,

    a paper-thin faith he won’t refuse;

    he seeks repair, he hates to scold,

    our prayers punctuated, in type bold.


    Swallowed slow the broken bread –

    whispered low, priest’s blessing said;

    small the portion, still hard to swallow:

    eat, he said, suffering sure to follow.


    Silver chalice lifted, hesitant my lips,

    server slants it slightly for me to sip;

    holy his hands, brutally crux-nailed,

    wine-warmed sinner freed, not bailed.


    Biblical blood holds healing power,

    don’t be coward, no need to cower,

    our slate wiped clean, not slave to sin:

    welcome family feast – see saviour’s grin!

    What you must solemnly realise is that every time you eat this bread
    and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions
    the death of the Master – 1 Corinthians 11: 26


    Mahmoud Qoqyan