They were homeward bound but fell on the way,
the summer wasps that are dying or dead
on the grass, the path, the window ledge.
They quickened their wayward dance
and their hunt for summer’s
last taste of sweetness.
Unperturbed by the sway of the branches
they have eaten the fruit of the tree in the yard,
gorged on the juice of the bad apple
that is like a withering heart.
Picnic in the Pines
In memory of Peter Keating
A summer Sunday and the mercury rises.
You, the carefree Dubliner
get behind the wheel and drive –
to take us to our picnic in the Pines.
But you take us further with your tales
of a seaman’s journey,
mentioning every port-of-call,
every ocean you crossed.
And after those voyages to see the world,
just as the space age was about to change
the tempo of our lives, you returned,
set up your stall, put on the grocer’s smile
and the grave expression
that customers wanted
along with their bags of sugar,
their tea and butter, and morning scone.
You the carefree Dubliner,
standing tall – at ease with pauper and politician
with whom you talked about the time
when streets were safe and the mountainside
provided fuel for the fires of Francis Street –
your own El Paso
where you took me to my first shoot-out,
a cowboy flick in the red house.
The War Films
Watching the war films I learned the names
of the boroughs of London.
Then coming out of the darkness
of the afternoon cinema I was light-headed
after scenes from the Blitz:
the mid-century apocalypse that was going on
while they danced at the Ritz,
strolled in Hyde Park,
lay asleep in the breezes
of the underground shelters.
To a bellowing soundtrack
blond pilots in their Leviathans gatecrashed
the skies, passing through the forest
of searchlights that lit up the blackout
as if it was carnival time.
While leaden wings haunted the wartime nights,
down in the tunnels Londoners
tightened their coats and joined in the chorus
of songs to keep their spirits up,
until skies cleared, lights came on again.