It's the best of times.
It's the worst of times.
Can anybody say for sure
If we're rich or lost or poor?
The good old days.
The bad old days.
Does anybody really know
If those days were bliss or woe?
People say they know alright.
They express their views and fight
With other people in the know.
They tell each other where to go.
Just like the good old days or bad old days,
Or mad old days when we had ways
To fight with sticks or stones or forks.
That's my field,
That's your rock.
That one's Mindy's, that one's Mork's.
And it's all ours.
We'll fight for it,
To get it back from foreign powers,
Defend this land and get fit.
With decomissioned sticks and stones,
We just have words and names to fight with.
It's the best.
No, it's the worst.
You're a Nazi.
You're a fascist.
I've always been a socialist.
I read Marx. I got the gist.
But all this fighting is so futile.
Words can never hurt me
If I choose what they mean,
And hear the boos as cheers,
And choose to live in bars and beers.
And only leave to see the news
Or read the news
Or be the news with my new nose
And the botox in my head,
The stuff I say
When I speak
In phrases pieced together
From things I heard on TV shows.
I learnt my lines from Hill Street Blues.
A monkey writes the autocues.
2 means 22 or 42 and who are you?
And who are Mork and Mindy too?
For years in school we learn to speak
Our native tongue, from when we're young.
Countless classes every week.
Lists are learnt and songs are sung.
Yet no one seems to know much more
Than words for 'please' or 'word' or 'floor'.
We can no longer fight the Brits
With sticks or stones or bits of things
We find on streets,
Or singing songs about the past,
Or speaking Irish in our lives.
The only way to beat them now
Is forgetting how to talk in English.
To speak their language, we won't know how.
The British Empire, Rule Britania,
Centuries of foreign rule,
Cromwell, Shakespeare, Kings and Queens,
The famine and Trevelyan's corn,
The Industrial Revolution,
Ye gave us these. Ye ruled the world.
A history of triumphant scenes.
And here at last is our victory:
We've no idea what it all means.
Jimmy imagines drinking champagne
With beautiful women who listen with care
To words and ideas that flow from his brain,
Out of his mouth and float through the air.
"You're such a blank," they say and they stare.
And the blank in that line doesn't mean 'blank'.
They fill it with words meaning 'something up here',
Meaning he's brainey and not just a plank.
In real life he never meets women like those.
They really mean 'blank' or 'blanker' or worse.
They criticise him in elegant prose,
Or just with a shake of the head and a curse.
That's what he gets for being so nice.
Well that's in the past -- his old self is dead.
From now the new Jimmy is colder than ice.
Contempt and disdain will exude from his head.
He goes to a party. Before the first song,
He gets to meet Petra. She's drinking a gin.
He says he'll forget her name before long.
"And I'm sure I'll forget your face before then."
"I dislike almost all people who talk.
"Saying one word is one more than they need.
"They open their mouths and forget how to walk.
"I'm stuck with them till they forget how to breathe.
"And this world that I know is so full of holes.
"And the people I know are mostly tools.
"The others are closely related to moles.
"They eat from the earth because they're all fools.
"I say what I like. I'll say you look fine.
"Or I'll say that I like someone that I know.
"I lie all the time. It's a hobby of mine.
"I lie 'round the clock everywhere that I go.
"I'll lie till I die many decades from now.
"I'll lie to Death when my time comes.
"I'll tell him my soul has moved in with a cow.
"And send him away to the tramps and the bums.
"And when I'm gone my friends will rejoice.
"They'll drink and dance long into the night.
"They'll say I was mad and not very nice,
"And often plain bad, and for once they'll be right."
She nods and takes a sip of her drink.
"Your fly's undone," she says in his ear.
Jimmy doesn't need much time to think.
His plan is to get the hell out of here.
He leaves and drives for many miles.
His new unkind self has just met its end.
Petra thinks of their meeting and smiles.
"He was quite nice," she says to her friend.
Our new next-door neighbours have asked us to call.
I'd rather not visit or meet them at all.
They are what's wrong with this country today.
They've painted the green, white and gold a light grey.
They're so into sighing. They're show into boating.
The appearance of others they're constantly noting.
They're buying a speedboat, and one day a yacht.
Intelligent, thoughtful and soulful they're not.
They're big into clothes and styles for their hair.
I doubt if there's much more than hair spary up there.
They're slaves to style. To fashion they fall.
And that's why they've both got no style at all.
We have the clothes and the hair styles and shoes.
Our look's up-to-date when we're going to do's.
But our minds hold more than just cash, birds and bees.
For us this is style. For them a disease.
When we own our necks and heads
We also own our hair.
You'll never fully own something
That's mostly made of air.
They live in a newly-built home they call place.
We have the hair and the eyes and the face.
We've always had eyes. We still have our soul.
Looking more youthful is their long-term goal.
They sold their souls to get where they are,
To buy the pool and the bright red sports car,
The holiday home and the new four-by-four,
The peasant-made carpets and rugs on the floor.
Our four-by-four is efficient in fuel.
It's more than a 'look at how rich I am' tool.
We buy potatoes, organic food too.
And yes, so do they, but only coz we do.
We are Eire, but they just don't care.
We paid ten grand for a harp just last year.
Old Ireland is dying in this new-found wealth,
In obsessions with money and fashion and health.
We know who we are, and where we are going.
Where they came from they've no way of knowing.
The old days are dying in our modern con.
But we've got it all coz we know what is gone.
He isn't often on the news,
Rarely granting interviews.
Today's the day he meets the press,
And here is Doctor Who's address:
I'm Doctor Who. How do you do.
Every day brings something new.
I lead a life of constant thrills,
Far away from work and bills.
Killing Daleks all day long.
I save the world and sing a song.
'Tip-toe Through the Dead Daleks',
Or 'Light My Fire', or one of Beck's.
I fly around and say hello,
And wave goodbye and then I go.
And when I'm gone the women sigh.
They look towards the stars up high.
"I love that man," the women say,
And some men too, and that's okay.
Women long to touch my hair.
I'm smarter than the average bear.
And smarter than the smartest man.
They can't do things that I can.
I make them all look dull and dim.
I'm also learning how to swim.
He talks for twenty minutes more,
Then takes this question from the floor:
"Let's say you fall and hit your head,
"In immediate need of a hospital bed.
"You might be old and close to death,
"So why is it that patients get
"A trolley for three days or more,
"Stationed in a corridor?"
"I'll answer that," says Doctor Who.
"I've looked at this, and yes it's true
"That people have to spend too long
"Outside the wards where they belong.
"It's something I've been looking at.
"And one more thing, look at that!"
He points as well. They turn around.
He runs away without a sound.
Deirdre's in the garden,
Walking down a garden path,
Near a red brick wall
Under ivy and the cat.
The morning sun casts shadows
Of trees across the lawn
All the birds and animals
Have been at work since dawn.
"Hello, little spider."
The spider looks at her.
The birds around her sing,
And the cat begins to purr.
And then her brother's metal band
Play the song they wrote
About the time they lit a fire
For a talking goat.
Graham does his stage dive,
Even though there is no stage.
And no one there to catch him.
No crowd to feel his rage.
He lands in a metal arch.
In the arch he stays.
He says his head is stuck
For the second time in days.
A man who lives a mile away,
Who cuts up trucks and cars,
Could really help her brother now
By cutting through the bars.
So Deirdre gets the phone book,
And looks for this man's number,
While at the arch a wasp
Keeps her brother out of slumber.
She searches through the book
For the number near his name.
She walks away, then looks again.
The phone book's still the same.
She just can't find the number.
She goes outside once more,
And walks along the limestone path
Leading from the door.
She looks down at the spider.
He looks back at her.
She begins to wonder what
The phone book's really for.
She goes back the phone book,
And flicks through every page.
She searches very slowly,
Even though it takes an age.
But still she draws a blank.
She goes outside instead,
Hoping that this summer day
Will clear her cloudy head.
"Do you know where the number is?"
She says to the spider,
Who's sitting on the dark green moss
Near a tree beside her.
The spider turns around,
And looks the other way.
Whatever it is he means by this,
That's all he has to say.
She needs to help her brother.
She doesn't quite know how.
The band have started kicking him.
Graham is saying 'ow'.
She sighs and goes inside again,
Returning to her search.
Two birds on a branch look down on her
From their shady perch.
"She's looking in the wrong book,"
One bird says to the other.
"Ye smell of hens. Ow!"
So says Deirdre's brother.
Marrying for a summer house
She said she has a summer house in Athlone.
I don't know if that's false or if that's true.
But there's one thing I do know,
I'll say 'I do' if it's so.
But she'll never hear a sincere 'I love you'.
I'll say it once or twice
In my 'I don't love you' voice.
I'll save my 'I love you' voice for the view.
To the Birds.
He sits on his own,
On his own, on his own.
He talks to the birds,
To the birds.
He waits for a call
From the bank about a loan.
He tells the birds about it
He walks across the floor,
To and fro, wall to wall,
In the dining hall
Of his hotel.
He waits for someone to call
And ring the bell in the hall.
But no one ever calls
And there's no bell.
He has a staff of three.
For them he has to care.
If he doesn't get some callers
He'll have none.
And just to avoid confusion
They're all called Clare.
And to cut down on expenses
They're all one.
He wonders what to do,
What to do, what to do,
About the empty rooms
In his hotel.
He knows he needs to do
Something new, something new.
He hasn't done anything new
Since buying the bell.
"I think I have an idea,"
Clare says to her boss,
"Why not put a sign
Outside the gate."
Clare wearing glasses and
A wig that looks like moss
Says, "I think Clare is right.
You need a bait."
He says, "What do ye think
About a sign over there?"
He's talking to the birds
That he just met.
Clare with a fake beard
Agrees with Clare and Clare.
But the birds haven't decided
As of yet.
Our member of parliament started to climb
The steps to the stage for his speech.
A little squirrel clung to his leg all the time,
And hung on like a very big leech.
"I've secured funding for so many things,
"For pedestrian lights and foot paths.
"I brought the road and the business it brings,
"It was me who got rid of the rats.
"I'm glad to announce a new tourist centre,
"To be built by twenty-fifteen.
"Where tourists can visit and after they enter,
"They'll wish every sight could be seen."
He listed out things he'd done in the past.
He told us he's not here to boast.
Each of us wondered how long he could last.
The squirrel hung on to its host.
And then a slight change as he told us all how
His critics are now staying quiet.
"They called me a fool, but where are they now?
"They're lost with a cow in the night."
Another half-hour of stories and names,
Of people who'd questioned his mind.
Most of his mishaps and falls he blames
On a file he can't seem to find.
The squirrel was starting to doze off to sleep.
The speech never slowed down at all.
The rest of us sat there and struggled to keep
Our eyes open wide in the hall.
Sleep finally came for the squirrel and he fell.
The speaker looked down with delight.
"Aha!" he said. It was almost a yell.
"And it only took half of the night.
"There's no tourist centre or holiday reps.
"I've just played my very last ace."
He ran from the stage but he tripped on the steps,
And the squirrel returned to its place.
He stood up again and went back to the stage.
His leg and the squirrel went too.
He started the speech that had taken an age,
About things he'd done and would do.
One little goldfish in his very little sea.
Let's call this little goldfish number two.
I don't know his name and neither does he.
He said to the other 'how d'ye do?'
The other, number one, raised his head and said,
"Have you ever seen The Scream by Edvard Munch?"
Number two said he had, then he turned his little head
To watch a piece of food as it sunk.
That wasn't really truthful; he decided to pretend
That he'd seen the painting once or twice before.
But he's never really seen it and neither has has friend.
On the subject of The Scream they said no more.
Two tried to think of something other than The Scream
To talk about before he goes to bed.
The best he could do was 'do you like ice cream?'
So he stared ahead in silence instead.
One little goldfish in his very little sea.
Let's call this goldfish number two.
I don't know his name and neither does he.
He said to the other 'who are you?'
By the Sea.
We'll go by bus and stay all day.
You and I down by the sea.
Or is it 'you and me' I should say?
For you and I it's 'you and me'.
The birds are flying way up high.
The sea is where the sea should be,
Sitting there beneath the sky,
Reflecting blue and bringing glee.
You and me on golden sand.
Two dots beneath the blue above.
Sitting either side of 'and',
On seaside sand immersed in love.
"Look at the horse," she says to me.
"No, my dear. That's a post box."
"It's a bleeping horse you blanking B."
I love her voice and golden locks,
But I'm afraid I must insist
That that's a box for posting things.
And not a horse, unless I missed
A bushy tail or pigs with wings.
For honesty I'll always thank her.
She says some bleeping blanking words.
"You bleeping blinking pretentious blanker.
"You're worse than blanking bleep from birds."
Excuse me for a while or two.
I was right about the post box.
In silence now beneath the blue.
On the bus by sea and rocks.
Now a Ghost.
He lived in pint glasses and media glares,
Or so his political critics would say.
Forty-four years of worries and cares.
The worries of people he dealt with each day.
He lays deceased, to say the least.
To say the most he's now a ghost.
Or a poltergeist, as good as a beast.
He haunts a house and taunts his host.
He breaks the cups and shakes the doors.
He fights with the dog and frightens the cat.
He fills the jugs and floods the floors.
You can see where he sleeps where the carpet is flat.
You'll never get peace in this house of his niece.
Her husband and daughter would like him to leave.
She called in a priest but still he won't cease.
They drank and told stories they'd like to believe.
He likes his drink. They hear ice cubes clink.
It's more out of habit. He never needs food.
A brandy or gin will be gone in a blink.
They leave out a glass for the good of his mood.
He rattles his chains and battles his banes.
He whistles his tunes and bustles his way
Into the rooms; they're caught beneath rains
Of things on the shelves that now tend to stray.
Most people would curse him but things could be worse.
He's not as bad now as when he was alive.
There's no pain in his hip since his trip in the hearse.
He doesn't complain when his nurse can't arrive.
And he still gets the tickets for all the big matches.
He promised the priest a good seat in the stand.
He tries to be careful; sometimes he catches
The things that he knocks from the shelves with his hand.
But if they had a choice they'd rather have mice.
Their ghost is never as quiet as a mouse.
Each night they can hear the same words, the same voice:
"It was me who got planning permission for this house."
Off to visit Uncle Peter,
Never less than entertaining.
Measures drinks out by the litre.
Adds in extra when it's raining.
Hello there, how are you?
Not too bad, come on in.
Love the carpet. Yes it's new.
The old one's sitting by the bin.
A plate of cakes and a cup of tea,
And a 'no sign yet' of drink.
Wondering where his glass could be.
An 'and you'll miss it' blink.
"Why the lack of alcohol?"
I said eventually.
"Why no drop of drink at all.
"Just little cakes and tea."
He sighed and told his story,
Some details I have missed.
Never one to bore me,
But this is just the gist:
Sitting by the fireplace,
Fire fire fire.
No one there to share it with,
Foreign maid hire.
Tell her where the bath is,
Show her how to use it.
Wrap around a towel,
Damn I always lose it.
Now she's more than just a maid,
Though she helps him make his bed,
For which she's still well paid,
And she occupies his head.
But she's into health and fitness,
Always on the go.
She'll never find a witness;
No one now will know
If he had a little whiskey,
Something very small.
But he said it's just too risky.
Anyone could call.
There's a daily quota now
For drink but not for bread.
He drank as much as she'll allow
To help him out of bed.
I said, "But surely not the wine.
"That's barely alcoholic.
"Wine in kids of eight or nine
"Will make them run and frolic.
"And gin is just a woman's drink,
"Forgotten in a minute.
"And vodka too," I stopped to wink,
"If you put an umbrella in it."
He soon was back to his old high.
He poured more than enough.
He said, "It's down to you, my boy,
"To house the stronger stuff."
A tear of joy rolled down my face.
For him a look of craving.
He opened up a wooden case
Of whiskey he'd been saving.
When she came home she saw him with
A glass like an upturned bell.
With a small umbrella perched in it
And a long red rose as well.
She asked about the drink he had.
"What this, a drink?" he said to her.
He laughed as if that sounded mad
And the rest is just a happy blur.