'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Thursday, December 31, 2009
Hilda's Fourth Husband
I listened to Hilda till late in the night.
Her florid accounts of adventures took flight.
She struggled for words to describe how she pined.
She loved her third husband who lived in her mind.
She spoke in great detail of his sad demise,
Recalling his fall and the look in his eyes,
The moment he knew that the end was impending.
He looked for a stairway he'd soon be ascending.
He'd spent his nine lives on near-misses with death,
His triple heart by-pass performed by a vet,
Or trying to flee from a murderous archer.
I'd no need to know of his sombre departure.
I've heard that her fourth husband lived without fear,
And met a spectacular death late last year.
I wanted to know more about the event.
I mentioned the end of this much-admired gent.
But she only spoke of her third husband's life,
And striving to thrive in the role of his wife,
When he was a diplomat, known for his charm,
Proud to have Hilda adorning his arm,
The star of arrivals at opulent balls,
Entering heavenly embassy halls.
On dance floors she fluidly flowed with the sound,
A glide that made others seem glued to the ground.
She'd play the piano with flawless finesse,
Caressing the keys often pounded in stress,
Instructing small hammers to strike tightened strings.
Unlike the destruction a bomber's raid brings,
These minor collisions occasion blue notes,
An ocean of music for souls in their boats,
Where soaring emotions can revel in storms,
And dance with the devil in musical forms,
Or shine in the shimmering water of bays,
Fantasy visions on halcyon days.
The only explosions are fireworks in ports,
Or pirates escaping from improvised courts.
In between pieces she treasured the pause,
The rapturous praise and euphoric applause.
She always felt pleased with her effort's effect.
Famous musicians expressed their respect.
They'd join her to trigger ecstatic ovations
And bring a strong sense of historic occasions.
Poor Number Three would seem lost and forlorn.
The wind-battered sails of his soul would be torn.
He hated the men playing melodies with her.
Malevolent jealousy made him as bitter
As any Herculean tropical lemon.
It's typical of my relations with women.
They won't want to talk about things on my mind.
These matters are always abandoned, I find,
Dismissed from discussions with merciless haste,
Blocked by the wall of their personal taste.
Her fourth husband's shining in history's cast,
But mystery covers his trip to the past,
A prison where no living visitor calls,
And only the risen escape from its walls.
I've heard many rumours of schemers and scammers
And tales told by dreamers of gods wielding hammers
And fabled sea creatures who'd capture your crew
And eat your ship's engines with trees in a stew.
I've been made aware of more credible tales,
Of devious killers concealed in fake whales,
Grey submarines where great troubles are brewed,
Plans for providing the fish with fresh food,
Ample main courses of people on yachts,
Victims who fish from inside cooking pots.
I've heard of a gang who prepared a great feast,
And that is why Hilda's fourth husband's deceased.
To satisfy my growing need to know more,
I'll ask simple questions about Number Four,
And his stunning exit from being alive.
It's crucial if I'm to become Number Five.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The Sun has Set on Christmas Eve
The sun has set on Christmas Eve
And zealous shoppers drift away.
Alan feels relieved to leave
An irritating working day.
The spirit of the season starts
His scrutiny of martial arts.
Jane, his aunt, has said he must
Attend her party after eight.
He'd really rather gather dust
Than meet a beastly festive fate.
Her parties always start to wane
When homemade wine locates the brain.
And headaches need a medic's hand
When un-melodic hunting songs
Are sung like cries that crossed the land
In feudal times where Jane belongs.
Stifled threats are nearly made
And pleading words are softly prayed.
He'd have to hear his uncle's tale
Of toil and turmoil soaked in fear
To keep his pain from going stale
And filter sounds in his good ear.
If he could alter future days
He'd paint blue skies with gloomy greys.
Alan's cousin Bob will boast
Of wealth he built with stunning tricks
And cunning stealth to flood the coast
With houses made of mud-like bricks.
Rumours of his looming fall
Will crumble like his strongest wall.
Alan wears a lifeless gaze
When Valerie begins to speak.
Her summaries of holidays
Make summertime seem dull and bleak.
Her odyssey through drudgery
Must be recounted publicly.
When faced with festive feasts he hides
At home alone in feeble light.
An old electric fire provides
The only warmth he needs tonight.
His hall is decked with insect trails
And pesticide from Christmas sales.
He knows if he became au fait
With high life where the rich go free,
And met Miss World in Saint-Tropez,
He'd keep his mild misanthropy.
Tantrums thrown by trophy wives
Are deadly when they come with knives.
He's not opposed to company
Or ill-disposed to idle chat
With those who'll only grudgingly
Concede the world's no longer flat.
A policy of fallacy
He talks to friends who share his views,
Who strive to win immense defeats,
Who don't believe the evening news.
They see through lies and sly deceits.
The farces we adore last
Till the fact-based weather forecast.
He loves the woman in the shop
Who hates the feats achieved in sports.
She'd like to see the stars of pop
Be tried for music crimes in courts.
Few will ever understand
Her reasons for despising sand.
She tries to rock the boat and rile
When keenly seeking basic truths
With bitter letters leaking bile.
Her style evokes dyslexic youths.
Irrational dislikes ignite
An inner flame that's burning bright.
He's spending Christmas Day at home.
His family return to base.
The restless ones who love to roam
Reveal a smiling, sunburnt face.
These widely-travelled rovers crave
The gifts they'll get if they behave.
He'll gladly join the merry horde
To hear his father's long tirades
Against the glasses he'd afford
If he could sell his hearing aids.
He's angered by designer frames.
He'll pay for gnomes but not for names.
He loves to rant about events
That happened in the distant past,
Deaths of those who lacked the sense
To know that bullets travel fast.
He rails against the photo shoots
In futile wars and land disputes.
Alan's always glad to see
He's so alike his father now.
It's good to know they'll never flee
From any chance to start a row.
His father's anti-pigeon views
Have lit up more than one short fuse.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
A Christmas Story
Gwen's Christmas List
Gwen would like less of the strain and the stress,
But things will turn out calm and bright.
As Christmas draws nearer you'll frequently hear her
Reciting a list late at night.
Her list comes in handy. It's better than brandy
For clearing her mind of the fog.
Without it she'd buy an enormous mince pie,
And antlers with lights for the dog.
She'd smile at her pet. The rest she'd forget,
The hundreds of jobs to complete,
The cleaning, the mopping, the hazardous shopping
In merciless blizzards and sleet,
The arduous baking resulting in aching,
Repetitive strain injuries.
The lights need great labours. Competitive neighbours
Have polar terrain in their trees.
Their land of fake snow has a glimmering glow.
It's visible for many miles.
The luminous igloo is home to a big crew
Of elves wearing up-to-date styles.
The huge plastic Santa would struggle to grant a
Request for a doll or a train.
There's sadness in seeing this globe-trotting being
With trend-setting elves in the rain,
Stuck in a tree to display manic glee.
The tree house contains Mrs. Claus.
Some say she's raving, mechanically waving,
But no one knows why she has paws.
Gwen buys the lights that surprise winter nights.
Her husband arranges their show.
He faces the grim breeze on luminous chimneys
That imitate dawn's warming glow.
There's much to be doing while Gavin is screwing
The thousands of light bulbs in place.
No item is missed when exhausting the list,
Competing with time in a race.
Words must be written on cards with a kitten
Who's dressed up as Santa to fuel
The soul's central heating. A seasonal greeting
Can make someone stop being cruel.
Friends and relations infuse these occasions
With laughter and warm festive cheer.
Dwindling supplies can extinguish their joys.
The mood runs on mulled wine and beer.
The one way to master her fear of disaster
Is buying enough drink for dozens.
This guideline applies to the biscuits she buys.
They'll satisfy ravenous cousins.
Last year their lighting was fresh and exciting.
The roof was acclaimed as outstanding.
A luminous Rudolf looked like he approved of
The snow army's sly rooftop landing.
Tiny snow soldiers had straps on their shoulders
For parachutes so they could drop,
Softly, like snowflakes, unlike rain with no brakes.
They looked like a cloud's bumper crop.
They lit up at night to exhibit their might.
Gavin felt well-founded pride.
The kids helped as well. When one soldier fell,
They lifted the patient inside.
Amy wrapped tinsel around her red pencil.
Ben thought fake snow helped the mood.
They noticed their mother looked bothered. She'd shudder
When she was considering food.
She thought of their oven and how she would shove in
A turkey who's grossly obese.
These birds are unheeding of her eager pleading.
They're obstinate when they're deceased.
She thought of the fruit-cakes, the sweet things and toothaches,
The biscuits extending their greeting.
Hoodwinked by puddings, all manner of good things
That trick us into over-eating.
She'd need strength and patience when hungry relations
Arrive early on Christmas Day.
They'd eat all before them to battle with boredom
While children contentedly play.
She knew she'd be stressed and deprived of her rest.
Cooking for twelve would be trying.
They might truly hate what they find on the plate,
But thankfully they're good at lying.
Ben's Letter to Santa
The lights on the tree and the snow soldiers' glow
Delighted the kids with their bright festive show.
Amy kept smiling and Ben would start singing
When thinking of what Mr. Claus would be bringing.
One thing for certain, the words 'reindeer sweater'
Would not be appearing in his Santa letter.
He'd plenty of sweaters, twenty too many,
Given by aunties or knitted by granny.
Ben made a list of the things he would like.
The first was a football. The last was a bike,
And in between these were ten pages of toys,
Like big Lego tigers with green Day-Glo eyes.
He set about cutting out things he'd abandon.
The first was a top hat a fat dog could stand on.
But it wasn't easy to choose the right train.
He thought he'd go crazy with toys on his brain.
One day in school he consulted a friend.
He told Jack about the short list he must send.
Jack started laughing and shaking his head.
He did this for several minutes and said,
"I thought you'd have figured the truth out by now,
That doubt would have triggered a straightforward 'how?'.
How does he travel so fast and so far?
Does he have a licence for even a car?
"They say he can go round the world in one night,
His sleigh pulled by reindeer who've taken up flight,
Despite a complete lack of wings or propellers,
There to be shot down by angry toy-sellers.
"And he enters houses by going down chimneys,
Even when owners would gladly lend him keys.
He's famously fat. This can't help his cause.
My granddad Seamus looks like Santa Claus,
"And he needs a stair-lift to get up the stairs.
Sometimes he struggles to stand up from chairs.
Chimneys don't come with convenient lifts,
Or ladders for people delivering gifts.
"With so many chimneys and rooftop ice-skating,
Grim news on his knees would surely be waiting
When he sees his doctor to treat aching limbs.
He'd be sent for gym work to make sure he slims.
"They tell us he uses his magical powers
To visit all houses, from shacks to stone towers,
But this is a lie. I've seen through their ruse.
I know why the truth isn't shown on the news.
"When Santa's deciding who's naughty or nice,
He won't ask the elves to provide their advice.
He tries to make certain that no one is missed.
All of our names are on his 'naughty' list,
"Apart from the names of a handful of children
Whose parents are given a landfill to build in,
Kids whose great deeds include saving a whale,
Saints who fight greed when not feeding the frail.
"Parents would like us to keep on believing
So we'll be convinced we've a chance of receiving
A present from Santa Claus on Christmas morning.
Parents know this is why we'll heed their warning
"To be well-behaved while the sleigh bells are ringing,
While log-fires are lighting and choirs are singing
The old Christmas carols we're learning in class,
While people have fake plastic snow on their grass.
"The truth is we'll always have too many flaws.
We'll never be good enough for Santa Claus.
He's not the great generous, jolly toy-giver.
He only has eight or nine gifts to deliver."
Ben spent some time contemplating this claim,
Looking for ways he could clear Santa's name,
But not even one minor flaw could be found.
He had to concede that this theory was sound.
Amy was stunned when he told her the reason
Why Santa gets all his work done in one season.
She said she was bothered and taken aback.
She knew there was truth in this theory from Jack.
It seemed as if Santa and his team of reindeer
Would not meet the soldiers or plastic elves chained here.
Amy and Ben had thought he understood
That they really cared and they tried to be good,
Even though they have been known for behaviour
That made their aunt Tabitha pray to her saviour.
When she's looking after her nephew and niece,
They laugh when she threatens to call the police.
They'd often imagined when Santa examined
The time Amy claimed that a man made of jam went
Around the front rooms with a mischievous plan.
She blamed curtain stains on this blackcurrant man.
They used to believe that he'd laugh at this lie,
And smile at their tale about half of a pie,
The bit that was stolen by robbers or robots
Who steal pies and donuts. If threatened they throw pots.
They now saw that Santa's considered reaction
Would certainly be one of dissatisfaction.
A permanent place on the list for law-breakers
Was laying in wait for the lying pie-takers.
But they couldn't give up their dream of acquiring
A present the magic reindeer in the sky bring.
They made it their mission to take drastic measures
And enter the league of elite little treasures.
They started by stopping insulting each other.
They worked hard at helping their father and mother,
Doing the dishes as well as they could,
Glad to be trusted with spoons made of wood.
They visited elderly neighbours and listened
To stories of mornings when icicles glistened
On noses and toes as they journeyed to school,
Walking four miles in the frost like a fool.
Amy and Ben never wavered from doing
The things they detested. With good deeds accruing
They felt they were nearing their glorious goal,
A place on the list with the kids who mine coal.
On Christmas Eve, as darkness fell,
The carol singers called around
To demonstrate their insulating,
Decorated wall of sound.
They sang and then departed
To distribute more festivity,
And tender heartfelt sentiments
A singer stores and gives for free,
Specifically in places
Where a poverty of charity
Inhibits all exuberance
And makes some people guarantee
That in their hospitality
They'll emphasise the 'hospital',
Where Christmas puddings shrivel
In a tiny bowl a wasp would fill.
Ben and Amy watched their mother
Anxiously peruse her list,
Terrified her thankless task
Would come to grief because she'd missed
A critical ingredient,
And dinner guests would be aghast.
She knew she would be stressed until
Saint Stephen's Day arrived at last.
Gavin spent some time replacing
Lights that lost their inner glow
And fixing decorations that
Were in a war with sleet and snow.
He revelled in the heat he felt
When on the 'Welcome' mat inside.
He sat down by the fireplace
And felt completely satisfied.
After some disparaging
Remarks about the soldiers' skills.
He told the kids his father's tales
Of seeing blizzard shows on hills,
Of carolling at caravans
In hurricanes that foster woes
And lights that ran on paraffin
Illuminating Rudolf's nose.
He said this festive season
Was a marathon and not a sprint.
The Christmas tree was dressed in lights.
The angel's eye began to glint.
Ben believed that this must be
Her way to say they'd made the list.
This would be ignored by any
They left some beer and biscuits out
For Santa Claus that Christmas night,
But not enough to make him pause
Before the fire and miss his flight.
They went to bed and tried to keep
The glow of dreams from lighting rooms
In sleepy heads while Santa's sled
Was generating sonic booms.
They couldn't stay awake for long,
Despite a very strong defence
Against the slow advance of sleep
That keeps them from the best events.
They both woke up at six o' clock
When they could hear their mother's words
As she implored the turkey to
Cooperate like other birds.
They ran downstairs and found the tree
Protecting gifts from thieving hands.
They'd made the list, like saintly kids
Promoting peace in distant lands.
Ben was overjoyed to find
He got his train and plenty tracks.
He thought he'd heard its whistle blow
Last night when Santa emptied sacks.
He'd gladly spend all Christmas Day
Just playing with the signal box
And eating chocolate polar bears
That Santa left in big red socks.
Amy was delighted with
The doll who said 'My name is Kath'.
Kath would wet her clothing and
Was glad to take the blame for that.
They went to mass that morning
And they tried to look self-satisfied
To tell their friends their appetites
For toys had all been gratified.
They smiled like cats who've just acquired
The finest cream a feline knows.
It comes from cows who graze in fields
Where summer winds will ease their woes.
But Ben and Amy were surprised
To see their friends with sunny smiles,
Despite displaying sweaters
Made in fluffy Easter bunny styles.
Jack said he heard Santa trip
And rant about the boat he sold.
Underneath the tree he left
A fork-lift truck, remote controlled.
Barry got a bike despite
The decent deeds that he'll evade.
Animals are scared of him
And they are right to be afraid.
Ben kept thinking of his friends
And how they'd made the grade despite
A need to treat encounters with
Glasshouses as displays of might.
He wished he hadn't wasted time
With neighbours who complain all day.
A minute's vacuum cleaning
Seemed to make an evening drain away.
But then a notion dawned on him:
He'd benefit from worthy deeds.
He'd built up plenty credit
Being sensitive to other's needs.
And he could use his credit now,
A gift from which he'd never run,
A licence for the greatest feat
Of misbehaviour ever done.
People will be terrified
Of water bombs and prams with cats.
Clothes will stink of something that
Will trigger thoughts of vampire bats.
After they came home from mass
The kids became engrossed again
In toys until the relatives
Arrived with tales of ghostly men.
Granddad said he saw these men
Fix Santa's sleigh, like pit-stop crews.
Cousins showed off presents brought
With chocolate bars in socks and shoes.
Dinner was a great success.
Gwen began to feel at ease.
Ben considered scaring crowds
And hoarding unappealing cheese.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Men in Black
I used to be the singer
In a mediocre country band.
We felt the lack of glamour
When our drummer played with one free hand
To block the stray projectiles
And the bottles that were thrown at me.
We claimed it was intentional
When we performed atonally.
The audience were totally
Opposed to so-called tunes we played
And lyrics based on poetry
That glorified a moonlit glade.
Our lead guitarist left us
To pursue a solo folk career.
His songs evoke a longing
To prevail in life and soak in beer.
Even brainless people with
A pea inside a paper skull
Could see that we were scuppered
And a split was inescapable.
After we agreed that we
Should terminate our enterprise,
All I saw were sombre crows
And grey, depressing winter skies.
I had to find a medium
To vent my inner voice in song
And moderate the tedium
That made each day seem twice as long.
I joined a choir and there I felt
Like athletes getting running shoes,
As satisfied as astronauts
On lunar hills with stunning views,
Or maths professors shunning stress,
Their time consumed by numerals.
We dressed in cheerless black attire
That's suitable for funerals.
A memory reigns over me.
I feel a need to let it out:
A funeral I never will
Be able to forget about.
An ancient man called Hanrahan
Had left for his last resting place.
He'd shown repentance at the end,
Persistently requesting grace.
He'd much to be remorseful for.
His skills had amplified his flaws.
It seems he'd been resourceful
In concealing deeds outside our laws.
His family inherited
His fortune and his properties,
Countless china teapots and
A tendency to shop for these.
Emotions at his funeral
Were heightened by the sound we made.
We sang our hymns astounded at
The diamonds that we found displayed.
We looked down from the gallery
On mourners in the pews below.
I fell into a reverie
On where my missing shoes might go.
I pictured them on riversides
Where they decide to stay for good,
Never to go back and be
Disgruntled with the way I stood.
The priest was in full flow as I
Imagined shoes command a raft.
When I heard him talk of ships
And setting foot on land I laughed.
The mourners all looked up to see
Who'd added to their sad distress.
They couldn't spot the culprit
But a few may well have had a guess.
The people who seemed most composed
Still looked as if they were annoyed.
I feared the growing fury of
This family who I'd avoid.
They'd claim to own the Eiffel Tower
And sell a tree new leaf attire.
It seemed they were imagining
A meeting with the gleeful choir
When they'd be unimpeded by
The scruples they were known to lack,
Attacking to annihilate
Despicable sick clones in black.
The few remaining hymns we sang
Took on apocalyptic tones.
I'd have to flee before too long
And find a place a critic owns,
Invisible to enemies.
I'd wait until the coast was clear.
A cabin covered by the trees
To hide a head that's hosting fear.
When the final note was sung
We realised we shared a plan,
Deciding to descend the stairs.
Some of us got scared and ran.
I'm advocating cowardice.
I won't have people knocking it.
We headed for the side-door
But some men in black were blocking it.
They asked which one of us had been
So happy in their time of woe.
Eyes, it seemed, were trained on me.
I feared that local crime would grow.
By using friends as human shields
I managed to evade the men.
I went outside and ran away
But soon I needed aid again.
The men in black pursued me through
The alleyways and narrow streets.
They saw me as the sort of prey
A bullet or an arrow meets.
My fear was that before too long
They'd get a chance to shoot at me.
It's true to say I'd be afraid
If somebody said 'boo' to me.
The flames of hope had dwindled
But I still had embers of the fire.
When I turned a corner
I encountered members of the choir.
They wore their Christmas sweaters
And their woolly hats in festive red.
I took a break from my escape.
I chose to stop and rest instead.
They had a hat and scarf for me,
A sweater with a fat reindeer.
A crowd soon gathered round us
To create a Christmas atmosphere.
The men in black ran down the street,
To my participation and
Applause the crowd were giving us.
People are complaining that
They're seeing Santa's face too soon.
Christmas starts so early now
But we looked out of place in June.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Marjorie cooks with exceptional skill.
Treating her friends to her food is a thrill.
She feels satisfied when completing a meal.
Friends are content with their end of the deal.
They're fond of her food and its magical smells.
Her wooden-spoon wand wouldn't work without spells,
Recipes sweetly recited like verses,
The inverse of recipes dressed up as curses
From communal ovens of covens in caves,
Where gravy is bubbling in pet rabbit graves.
Her pastries entice. They're flawlessly dressed.
They taste twice as nice as their look would suggest.
Her friends have mixed feelings when thinking their teeth will
Knock walls in her cake that's shaped like a cathedral.
Marzipan people look up to admire
The low-in-fat steeple restored after fire.
She rarely got plaudits when learning her craft.
It took years of painful hand-burning, hard graft,
And training from Henry, a chef whose creations
Have triggered spontaneous standing ovations.
He'd preach fervent views on all features of food,
How creatures with pincers complete your good mood,
The careful addition of relish to dentures,
The best way to finish a salmon's adventures,
Or how to embellish the texture of liver.
She worked in his restaurant next to a river,
A place that is famous for its food and wine,
Where some of the great and the good come to dine.
She burnt all before her when learning her trade,
But Henry was certain that she'd make the grade.
He said trial and error and fire were her friends,
Constant companions on working weekends.
Henry would spend his spare time catching fish,
Dreaming of finding a star for a dish.
Most of the salmon who came to audition
Wore strong lemon perfume that roused his derision.
Some fish were plastered in garlic sauce make-up
That Henry found horrid. He told them to wake up
And see that they never would find fame and slaughter.
He'd throw them back into the crystal-clear water.
During a riverside breakfast at nine,
A beautiful salmon swam right past his line,
Completely ignoring alluring new bait,
While he contemplated its plate-starring fate.
Henry persisted in his special quest.
The salmon steadfastly resisted arrest.
He promised a strong cast for his shopping list,
The costliest parsley sauce known to exist,
Salad ingredients dressed to the nines,
The best new courgettes and the finest of wines.
But this salmon's shyness would keep it afar.
It showed little need to be his latest star.
His chase of the fish soon resembled a craze.
His mission to catch it consumed nights and days.
He'd try to persuade it that he'd make its name,
Describing the trappings and trimmings of fame.
His kitchen was suffering from his neglect.
Marjorie feared her career would be wrecked.
She needed his guidance, the facts he imparted,
His skill at extinguishing fires she had started.
An obstinate fire was refusing to fade,
Despite the repeated entreaties she made.
She needed her boss for these flames to be fired.
A diver provided the help she required.
He said there was one thing that no one could doubt:
His talent for stunning a salmon or trout,
Simply by looking extremely surprised.
This was how they should proceed, he advised.
He went underwater and lay there in wait.
The fish soon arrived for its battle with bait.
He switched on the headlights of his widened eyes.
The salmon succumbed to his dazzling surprise.
Henry was able to wade through the river
Without instigating the most meagre quiver
In either the diver or his frozen prey,
The paralysed fish who could not swim away.
He used his bare hands to ensnare his new star.
He thought of the tales he'd inspire at the bar.
Henry's elation engendered a song,
But his jubilation did not last too long.
Marjorie heard as her soaking boss sighed,
And said that the salmon seemed slightly cross-eyed.
He let the fish go to play bait-teasing games,
And went to his kitchen to put out the flames.