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Monday, September 19, 2011


on the counter in my kitchen
sits a salt cellar
with a large open mouth
yawning out its side
crafted perfectly
to keep the salt from caking
in damp climates

it was thrown by a potter
now gone from this world
an englishman
who’d retired to the french countryside
in the dordogne
with his partner
who kept the house
and cooked their meals

their house was a simple place
but with special touches of artistry
in unexpected places
in harmony with
the provincial feel of the carpentry
which the house had been built

the rear of the house
overlooked a green river valley
and had a large wooden porch
under branchwood cover
where ewart turned his wheel
shaped his clay
and glazed his work

down the grassy path
not fifty steps
from the house
past a bicycle
a rusted green wheelbarrow
and a pen full of geese
perched on a small promontory
sat an old shack
whose wood had worn grey

a step inside the one darkened room
the flick of a switch
and the gallery came to life
from the spotlighted ceiling
a treasure-filled art house
with collections and samples of stoneware
in subdued greys, blues and stark white
scattered out on fine tables and sideboards
of walnut and cherry

on the walls above them
hung colorful landscapes
of french vistas painted
by ewart’s lover
who was a mystery to me
for he kept himself busy
and popped his head out only
to say hello
and goodbye

of all the fine art
held captive in that room
the piece that spoke to me
was the muted grey salt cellar
speckled with blue and darker grey
for it was the time
when i was in culinary school
in saussignac

the last time i saw him
we sat on that perfect porch
ate perfect cherries
and sipped perfect armagnac
from rejected clay cups without handles
and talked of anything that came to our minds

we watched as a thunderstorm came
lofting across the valley
and enveloped us
no one spoke a word
until the rain stopped
ewart said it was a fine wet rain
and poured us more drink

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finnegan, begin again...

So this week I resumed writing my novel "A Life On Fire". I stopped writing on July 13. I know this because that is the last upload to my Google Docs backup. I was feeling in a real funk about the book and writing in general. I agonized over it for only a few days, then my little buddha told me to accept it, let it cool, take a break. So I did. I decided to take a summer hiatus.

After labor Day, I was beginning to agonize over it once again, knowing that I didn't have summertime as an excuse any longer. So on Monday, I sat at my computer and wondered where to start. I began to wander a bit, so I decided to look in here on my blog, which I also hadn't attended to all summer. There on the page were my three muses, Sylvia Beach, Natalie Goldberg and Wilma McDaniel. I could hear Nat imploring me: "Get pen and paper, go with first thoughts and WRITE!" The other two just smiled at me with the smirks of two knowing friends, as if to indicate "there's nothing more to say"!

So I did. Just like that. Just like I'd known that's what I needed to do all along.

I wrote first about why I was having negative feelings about my writings. Through that process, though I started with a foggy angst, the answers came spilling out on the page. When I'd finished this free-writing exercise, I had a clear idea of what I needed to do. Write character sketches, completely. Write in my own words what the story is about. And now it is coming to me once again. I feel refreshed, powerful and with renewed fervor for this book and where it needs to go.

I reckon I'll just keep doing that.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

three muses

what a fortunate man
to have three muses
of the highest order
to inspire me
and chide me
and drive me
when i am lost

who instructs me
in literary fidelity
"pour your heart into your work
day in and day out
and believe"

natalie goldberg
provides water for my thirst
"give yourself permission
to write the worst junk in the world
and do not worry
for what is important
is to write"

and wilma mcdaniel
who tells me
"write what you are
and apologize to no one
including yourself"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


the last time i’d seen him
he was whipping away
at the new summer grass
tall and heavy
where it always came
on the north side of our property
mrs. gould’s cows
standing at the fence
waiting for him
to toss over
the next bunch
of new mown hay
he was talking to them
like he was standing on the stump
pitching his spiel
for the upcoming election

croghan always came
at the end of spring
looking for work
me mam would employ him
and feed him
i never knew if it was his first name or his last
it was always just

i could never remember
a birthday without him
he would always pretend
he had nothing for me
after a fine meal of boxty and cod
and mother’s fine treacle cake
he’d search his
long woolen coat
and out would come
a hand-whittled penny whistle
or perfect wooden canon
i could hold in my hand

the best thing about him
was not that he could
chop or paint
or carve the finest of toys
it was his true vocation
official appointment
as the seanchaĆ­
of ballybunion
and every town
east and west

he sat at our table
on long rainy nights
recounted the stories
of all that i was related to
and some that i wasn’t
of mayors and fishers
swimmers and thiefs
had us laughing and crying
and singing old songs
and i never knew
he was not
a member of our family

he’d leave in the fall
when the barn was painted
the hay was mown
drain pipes repaired
and fences mended
i never quite knew
where he went
my mam would just say
he’s gone, sonny
he’ll be back in the spring

last year
april had come
then may and june
i nearly got me hand slapped
for asking so often
when he’d come
then came the day
i saw me da
whipping the hay
and not talking to the cows
nor feeding them
it scared me so
i asked no more

my birthday came on a thursday
the mood was not high
even though
uncle alan and aunt sheelagh
had come all the way up
from allihies
and gave me
the sleek new sailboat
with the radio control
mrs. gould’d brought
the fine setter puppy
i’d been wanting for months
the house felt empty
amid all the craigh

after we’d eaten the treacle
ma gathered us
‘round the crackling bright fire
at the hearth
da brought
two drams of jamesons
one for himself
set the other one down
at the table
in front of the empty chair
where he’d sit and tell stories
of the world

raising his glass
my father choked out the words
through the only tears
i’d ever seen in his eyes
“god bless croghan”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

world in a pram

one of the things
i don’t remember
is having been
pushed in a pram
by my mother
or father

was i ever
talked to
with such
while someone
pointed out
the scenery
as it passed by

did i fall
fast asleep
from the length
of the day
the rattle of the wheels
rumbling beneath me
like a passenger
on the train
from paris to brest

i wonder
if someone
would push me in one

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


i tried to talk to him today
at the spot
where i see him
on so many days
where he lies on the sidewalk
i asked if he was ok
he didn’t want to answer
instead he said he liked my shirt
from avalon tattoo shop

thanks i said

are you a tattoo man?

i have a few
are you taking care of yourself?
again no answer
just a gaze down the street
in the opposite direction
and i’m thinking how stupid
my question is
he is lying on his side
in obvious discomfort
and filth

i reach in my pocket
and hand him some change

thank you he says
with soft youthful eyes
that deceive his aging face
and his long dirty beard

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This poem was inspired by my deep admiration for the poetry of the 18th century Japanese hermit Ryokan. In my opinion, he is the greatest poet to ever live. I recommend "One Robe, One Bowl", an excellent English translation of his work.

visions of ryokan

on this winter’s night
i think of my life
and how soft I am!

if the temperature of the day
is a smidgen too warm
if my room at night
holds the slightest of chill
I become agitated!

if the mail refuses
to come on time
or a raindrop
lands itself
upon my porch
i curse the postman
and cancel my walk

blanket on my lap
a sweater on my back
scented candle on the table
a little heater on the floor
i read a few lines
of ryokan
and the shame comes

one robe
one bowl
were his only possessions
yet there is lyrical joy
in the wisdom of his writings

unable to enjoy
a moment’s sleep
through the long lonely night
from the snow outside his hut
which chilled his feet to the bone
he would write about the beauty
of the moon
and the song of the nightbird

with pangs in his belly
from days on end
of no rice for his bowl
he wrote lines of love
and adoration
for all who refused him food

his dreams were not
of riches
or warmth
or food
or where he might go
when this world ends

they were visions
of the laughter of children
he’d play with
in the village
where he begged for food

his bowl was empty
his heart was warm
so on this night
of opulence
i have dreams of ryokan
in my heart
and my head

Sunday, January 16, 2011

the trolley

one needs to come
on a mild and clear morning
and sit
at the trolley platform
and observe

take in as much as you can
feel the warmth
of midmorning california
and the light sensual breeze
against your cheeks
feel it lightly tickle your arms

close your eyes
and hear the sounds
the sploosh of the bus driver
setting her air brakes
the deep powerful rumble
of the passenger jet
shooting skyward

hear the joy in the voice
of the old man
as he greets his friend
in spanish
and shakes his hand
something about menudo
then points toward
the delicious aroma
of old town

hear the hum of the trolley
as it sits at the station
like a vacuum cleaner
rolling over the carpet
at home
a honk of its buzzer
alerting passengers
it is leaving soon

there is a change of moods
each time one arrives
and each time it goes
such an air of excitement
especially when there is one
on each track
then quickly it's peaceful and lonely
when they leave

you can see it in the people
who wait on the benches
alert and alive one moment
then sullen and quiet
when they've gone
over and over and over

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

next tuesday

good material
she says
when i dropped off the new shirts
and three pairs of pants
well-made, good weave
almost a shame to cut it
she says

an asian face
about my age
soft, wrinkleless
but work-worn
serious, she studies the work
of the factory worker
where perhaps
she worked before

every move she makes
as she pulls a sleeve down
rolls a cuff up
or runs the cloth tape
down my arm
and up my leg
is the graceful hand
of a true artisan
bent on making
a perfect fit

will be done next tuesday
she says
pay me when you pick them up
handing me the ticket
the first smile
spreads across her face

but i think of her now
as she clips my sleeves
straightens the material
lines it all up perfectly
then feeds it through

as she pumps the
worn and dirty black rubber
on the old metal treadle
with her foot
that makes the needle bob
as slow and steady as she likes

i’ll write the check
without a thought
of whether or not
the price is reasonable
it will fit just right
when i’m back in her shop
next tuesday