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September 15, 2017 / hbrowne4

The Phibsboro Canal by Katie Meegan

brendan-behan

Yellow, blue, grey on green.

There are six of them now. Tents pitched along the canal. In the shadows of the oaks trees. Jolly yet ominous.

It’s difficult not to stare while you’re strolling along the canal. So out of place, yet so at home, among the herons and the reeds.

Always walk on the right side of the water. There’s less trees to obstruct the light. Less trees for shelter and for darkness. Children on scooters, proud parents pushing prams, dog walkers and sweaty joggers. They all enjoy the tranquillity of the right side of the canal. We shoot furvert glances, across the muddy water, into the shadows of the oaks. Plastic bags of litter, broken bottles accompany the canvas Quasimodo, where they squat, malevolent and watching. Quicken your pace, hasten with your head turned away.

Brendan Behan, of the Borstal Boys, sits on the Dorset St side of the canal. Cast in iron and memory, his frozen pigeons stilled in cocky mid-flight.  Mr Behan sits with his great shoulders, half-staring to the rude traffic of Drumcondra. One eye always on the other canal.

And the ould triangle

Went jingle-jangle

All along the banks of the royal canal

Dare you walk on the other side of the canal? Water crashing between the loughs turn from scenic feature to obstacle, the wooden bridges more escape routes than charming gratuities Look away from the shadowy monsters in the closets, like children scared of the dark. Only, monsters aren’t real.

Look at us, we’re people too.

Listen.

That ould triangle, it’s still going jingle jangle, it hasn’t stopped ringing in 75 years. Mr Behan he sits still. As the lost souls of the Phibsboro canal still sit. The cast iron champion of the downtrodden, who now provides a cold place to sit and to watch.

What can he say? To the lost souls. That ould triangle did never stop with that jingle bloody jangle, all along the banks of the royal canal. History flowing in a closed loop while the water flows on. When Behan’s men and woman and children, huddled under their ould canvas triangles.

The lost and thirsty souls of the Phibsboro canal, drawn to the water, drawn to the trees, drawn to the weight of history that’s flowing on.

Don’t walk on the green side of the canal.

Come, sit with us a while.

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August 24, 2017 / hbrowne4

Gentle Reminder

Brídín Ní Áirtnéada will launch her first volume of poetry in The Irish Writers Centre on Parnell Square at 7 o’clock this evening.

All are welcomePoster Renditions

August 23, 2017 / hbrowne4

Sitting in the Shadow of John B Keane by Brendan Palmer

Saturday 19th August 2017, The Inkslingers on tour in Listowel.

To sit at the window and View the street
Where John B Keane wrote is a special treat
His typewriter’s there, his old hardbacked chair
Books of reference on the shelves, notes and clippings on the wall

Looking through the window onto Market street
Thinking of a murderer unrevealed
He saw the character we would meet
The Bull McCabe from his play “The Field”

A picture scene from his first play Sive
Hangs behind the counter in the downstairs bar
The colourful characters he created
Observe a young girl no longer alive

His plays are full of conversation
The pub’s patrons his inspiration
All human life is there
The stories he wrote allowing us all to share.

August 21, 2017 / hbrowne4

Priceless Work Of Art by Bernadette O’Reilly

She walked into the gallery it had
Been awhile
Visiting paintings she looked upon
As old friends
This time there were no feelings of comfort.
Moving through each room in the
Early morning
Silence was her companion.
Entering the last room her eyes fell
Upon the painting half way down the room
Justine could not move
He had done what he threatened.

August 8, 2017 / hbrowne4

Zero-Sum by Stephen Brady

I had given a speech on the street, to a small and miserable crowd. We are all created equal, I said. We all must share this tiny and exhausted world. And we all must care for our neighbours.
They came for me that night. Broke down the door, dragged me from bed, and put a bag over my head. I was hustled into a vehicle of some kind. A lot of pulling and shoving, in the dark. When we reached our destination the bag was removed.
I was in an office, under a merciless light. Men in uniforms milled around. I was processed, photographed, shouted at.
They did not believe my name.
They said I was a saboteur.
My mother, they said, had already been liquidated.
They took me to a cell. There I met two large men, who seemed very glad to see me. I was left with them, and they beat me like an animal.
Some time later, an officer entered the room. He was carrying two chairs.
“That’s enough,” he said. “Wait outside.”
The heavies lit cigarettes as they departed.
The officer helped me into one chair, and sat in the other. For a minute he just looked at me. Then he started:
Who wrote the speech I delivered that day?
Was I aware my country was at war?
How did I contact my foreign paymasters?
Did I know the penalty for treason?
“Let me guess,” I mumbled through newly-swollen lips. “Liquidation.”
“No,” the officer replied. “You are now in the hands of the Special National Police. Your punishment is entirely at our discretion.”
“Get on with it then,” I muttered.
“Sentence will be decided in due course. In the meantime, you might want to consider being more co-operative.”
“Why?” I asked. “You’re going to shoot me anyway.”
“Perhaps. But you can still affect your fate. Who knows? If you demonstrate the proper remorse for your treachery, you might even be released.”
I didn’t reply.
The officer left the room. The heavies returned, and I was beaten again. One held me down, while the other dropped the chair repeatedly on my legs. I was verging on the unconscious, when they finally took me out.
I was taken down a long, bare corridor. At the end was a cell with an open door. They dragged me to it, and flung me inside.
Things went dark for a while. I must have passed out. Some time elapsed… a day, a night, who knows?
When I awoke, I was lying on the floor.
My body was a citadel of pain. I wished they had shot me already. Slowly and with great effort, I turned over.
In the corner was an old man with a shaved head.
“You’re up.”
“I don’t like to sleep the day away,” I said. “So much to do.”
“Of course.”
I sat against the wall and tried to appraise him. In the crumpled prison greys, he was little more than a skeleton. But the eyes were shrewd.
“What do they call you around here?” I asked.
“Seventy seven.”
“To hell with that. What’s your real name?”
“That is my real name.”
Despite it all, I almost laughed. “What was your name before you came to this place?”
“Oh, that. I don’t remember.”
“And what did you do to get put in here?”
“I don’t remember that, either.”
I glanced around the cell. Apart from my new friend, there was a mattress and a bucket. That was all.
“How long have you been here?” I asked him.
“I was a young man when they brought me here. Younger than you, I think.”
“Did you never think of trying to escape?”
He pointed at the door of the cell. It was wide open.
I was flabbergasted.
“The door…” I said stupidly.
“Yes.”
“Of the cell.”
“Yes.”
“It’s open.”
“It is.”
“Why… why didn’t they close it?”
“It is never closed.”
“Never closed?
“No.”
“What, never?”
“It has not been closed in all the time I’ve been here.”
With some effort, I craned my neck around the door.
The corridor outside was deserted.
“Why don’t you just walk out?” I asked.
A little twitch in the seamed skin around the mouth. He may have been trying to smile. “You mean, leave the cell?”
“Yes!”
“Why would I do that?”
I gestured violently. “The door is open!”
“We’ve established that.”
“So why don’t you leave?”
“There is a guard outside.”
“There is?”
“Yes. If you leave the cell, he will shoot you.”
“I don’t see a guard.”
“He is stationed in an alcove, out of sight.”
“Have you ever seen him?”
“No.”
“Then how do you know he’s there?”
“They told me.”
“They told you?”
“Yes. The day I was brought here.”
I pondered this for a moment.
“So you’ve been sitting in this cell, since you were younger than me, with the door open.”
“Yes.”
“And you just… sit here.”
He raised his voice slightly, as though speaking to a child.
“There is a guard outside. If I try to leave, he will shoot me.”
“But that’s just what they told you. It could be a lie.”
“If I take the risk, I might be shot.”
“If you don’t take the risk, you’ll sit here until you die.”
He shrugged. “I am a traitor to the National People’s Community. I deserve my fate.”
I looked out at the corridor again.
“I can’t believe you never even tried,” I said.
“At least if I remain here, I am alive.”
I looked back at him. “You sleep on the floor. Crap in a bucket. I imagine they feed you once a day. You’d rather that than… take the chance?”
“A man falls off a cliff.”
I blinked. It felt like I’d been slapped again.
“What?”
“A man falls off a cliff,” he repeated. “He is falling, falling. Rocks and ledges fly past him. The wind roars in his ears. And all the time he is falling he says to himself, ‘so far so good. So far so good. So far so good.'”
I stared at him, nonplussed.
“What I am saying is, if you’re so certain, you try it.”
“Yes, I will.”
I crawled to the door, and looked out.
The corridor was empty. At the far end was a door, with a little window near the top. And through that window, I thought I could see daylight.
“No-one gives freedom to you,” I said. “You have to take the risk.”
“Go ahead,” said Seventy Seven. “I will be interested to see what happens.”
I stayed by the door for a while.
Then I withdrew, and returned to my spot.
“I’ll do it,” I said. “In a day or two. When I’m stronger.”
The old man turned away. “My friend,” he said, “I think you are going to be here for a long time.”

August 8, 2017 / hbrowne4

A Poetic Rendition of Thoughts and Notions

Brídín ní Airtneada is proud to announce the launch of her first volume of poetry in The Writers Centre on Parnell Square at 7 o’clock on Thursday 24th August.

All are welcome to an evening of poetry, chat and songPoster Renditions

July 28, 2017 / hbrowne4

Teresa’s West Clare, fifty years progressed By Teresa Fenton

In 1969, I had finished my life apprenticeship and graduated from the Kilrush nunnery. I hugged Co Clare farewell to clickety clack my way to University College Dublin to become a teacher. Because my dad was the wannabe teacher, not me, I opted for marriage and motherhood instead. This vocation caused the hands of the clock to fly around and the pages of the calendar to jump off the wall in a frenzied whirlwind of madness. During those special years, trips to Clare were few but I was in the fortunate position to take holidays at beautiful resorts across Europe, with maybe only a dozen trips to amazing places on our wonderful scenic little island. When the girls became women, and went to College I resolved to get to know my lovely county of origin, a lot better and to see it through new, clearer eyes, eyes not fogged up by the daily cares and demands of school, and chores at home and duties that come with life on a small farm.
I now had no agenda but to arrive in Clare a few times a year, alone, with the full freedom to prowl at will and delve into places, nooks and crannies that escaped my attention in those early years. I was hell bent on seeing my native county through the realistic and fresh vision of, maybe a tourist, maybe even the longing eyes of an immigrant returning from America. Starting in 2008 I looked with awe at the changes and enjoyed the success and the prosperity that I could see everywhere I
went. So much had changed, for the better, I felt so proud of us, a small island sitting quietly, in its understated way, in the Atlantic, between Great Britain and the bigger island of America. The trips were to be many but short as I was still seeing clients, in my private practice as a psychologist in Dublin. But now that I work part time, longer trips and treats were in store.
My first, and delightful eye opener was the sense of safety I felt on the roads. I felt, with a sigh of relief that a lot fewer lives will be lost because of dangerous bends and twists on the Ennis and Cooraclare roads being made straight and safe for Clare’s people. Thank you, Clare County Council, for that wisdom, foresight and hard work to achieve funding for, what is the most costly of enterprises- construction of any type. These great changes have not had any negative effect on the beauty of the landscape that they are part of.
Neither do the amazing new houses that have sprung up everywhere especially around the Kilrush Cooraclare area. I slow down to a snail’s pace (probably annoying other drivers) to admire the sheer elegance. Two storey mansions, that were, in olden times, only the properties of the ” well to do” of the area- the priest, doctor or teacher, are to be seen sitting proudly in their own expansive grounds. These, I am told, belong to locals but many were built by new blood, new ideas and new professions choosing to reside in county Clare. My Granny’s old house (the shop in bygone days) has been elevated to palatial status, with chic new decor, by Geraldine Joy Mac Mahon. A trip to Killimer, only a name to me as a child, is now a visit to busy hub where cars, vans and lorries queue up to board Clare’s wonderful Tarbert ferry the ” Shannon Breeze” Such progress. A trip that, in the olden days took a few hours to get to Kerry now takes twenty minutes, brings with it the gift of time saving, petrol fossil fuel economy and of course offering a spectacular trip on the beautiful Shannon river. Well done genius ferry company for your proactive attitude.
Proactive and progressive are definitely great words for Trump Towers of County Clare! When I heard of this new arrival I must admit that, on my next visit, I feared having to behold a horrible vista. With some dread, I drove past the big sign at the entrance and along the sandhill flanked boreen. I hoped that Shakespeare was right, that “present fears are less than horrible imaginings” He was! Instead of massive slices of glass, neon and steel, my delighted eyes beheld a most tasteful mix of local stone, wood and lush verdure. A general sense of softness was palpable, and American golfers, Clarefolk and sheep lived in harmony, even including Mexicans, without a wall or a solar panel in sight!
Posh, I was beginning to think, posh Tullabrack now has an equestrian centre! Such progress, I am immediately reminded of my own “equestrian” childhood, where the pony brought the turf from the bog and the kind O’Grady family gave me a lift to Mass in their horse and trap, saving me almost a three-mile trek. Posh Anita’ the lovely lady from South Africa is offering art classes and most beautiful works of art for sale – and all at what once was little ol’ Tullabrack school cross! Talking of the pony and the turf, another shock was in store for me, another positive one, Im glad to say. The bad old days of backbreaking, vertebra crunching work on the bog seem to be relegated to the yellowed pages of history. Mary Geraldine tells me, with great glee that nowadays a huge digger arrives, digs the precious stuff, puts it into a machine that cuts it and squeezes a lot of the water out. This leaves a product that needs only four or five weeks in the open windy bogscape for it to be bone dry and ready to supply many a long winters night with warmth, both physically and emotionally. What in the name of God, I ask, would our poor grannies and grandads think of this new-fangled miracle at all? Painless turf would simply be too much of a paradox for them to contemplate. “What? No more chapped hands, sunburned neck, cramping calves, aching back or painful sleepless nights?“ I hear them gasp in disbelief. Heaven, they would probably call it, and I agree wholeheartedly with them.
Lovely Cooraclare village, while retaining the fond memories I have of nights at the ” youth club” disco, Sunday Mass (another chance to spot the local gorgeous males) and the slow, dark river, has many new areas of progress too. Gone is the old hall behind Tom Macs shop but now on that site, it’s the turn of the children, who can play safely on swings and whirlies of all sorts. But for sure, our swing, a rope tied between two trees, or our fabulous see saw- a plank on a big fat log or mud cakes have their special place in my heart still too. The Considines of Gowerhass had a very elite version of these AND peas growing in their garden (that we were allowed eat from the stalks) and boasted a magic paddling stream which was all of one inch deep!
The old village hall idea has been replaced with a wonderful new community centre where you can enjoy everything from bingo to lavish parties. Best of all for me is the joy of sitting under the bridge beside ” the pigs elbow”(as our poet Frank O ‘Brien affectionately called it) of the river. I do not know who to thank for this little oasis of calm, the grassy space, the tree, the flowers and the seat where I can sit and have conversations with myself that I cannot have anywhere else. This little ritual has to be part of my county Clare retreat from now on as I wander down from Tubridy’s warm, welcoming and nurturing house of comfort, and just great grub.
As I sat over coffee with the lovely Mary Geraldine, gazing over the bashing, crashing waves of the Wild Atlantic and at the tasteful bronze of “Dickie” Harris playing racquetball, I notice that one aspect of “progress” that has not affected my beloved county, well not the West anyway! As I sit at the welcoming “Diamond Rocks” cafe in Kilkee I observe that “the screen disease“ has not hit this area, yet. Not one person, at any table, beside or behind us had their eyes fixed on a screen – I pad or I phone! Not even one! Hurray! They were having lunch in the way it WAS done fifty years ago, they were actually talking and laughing with each other. I am joining my hands and looking Heavenwards in gratitude for this lack of “progress” in the wild and gorgeous West. “The Wild Atlantic Way”
Of course, while chatting about my excitement at all of the wonderful developments I have spotted, with Mary Larner, Ann and Martin Tubridy, the Mac Mahons and many more, my list of positive changes began to grow and grow. Milk, that in bygone days was brought to the creamery by horse or tractor in small tanks is now collected direct from farmyards in tankers. Vanished have the grass cocks and trams of hay of my youth. Now machines drive into the meadows and when they have done their magic all that is left are many giant hay Swiss rolls!
Moneypoint power station opened in 1979 providing valuable employment, when later, Glynns flour mills closed with a loss of 200 jobs. Jobs, I hope are to be had in plenty now, with all of the new developments that I see all around me, including the new reclaiming and renovating of the wonderful Vandaleur walled gardens, just off Moore Street. Oh, the heady scent of success and progress!
But, dear reader, you could choose to ignore any or all of the above ramblings as the demented, nostalgic, rose tinted observations of a returned (Dublin) exile. Why? Because as I drove towards Ennis, on my return to Dublin, with the window open, a familiar rural scent jolted my olfactory neurons. The smell of sileage, – that pungent, earthy odour that, as children we all thought, utterly obnoxious, now seemed sweet, natural, familiar and lovely!
Maybe I only imagined all of the above long list of amazing progress? No, it is excitingly real, and thank goodness it looks set to continue.