Is it here?

Oh dear.  9th of January 2018 and I’m only now sitting down to write the first post of the new year… This year has started somewhat inauspiciously for me, I spent the first week in bed, with the mother of all flus, – fever, headache, aches and pains all over. Let’s just say that’s my allotted sickness for the year done and over with and now I can move on to other stuff.

A general post-festive blues is where I’m at. Anxiety, pacified for a bit by the fairy lights and Christmas displays, has been rearing its ugly head. I’m reading quite a bit, hoping to bring it to heel, leave it behind in some imaginary worlds. I’m not feeling all that colourful or brilliant, more like I’ve been leeched of all tint, left invisible and gray. Slight heartache and the cold in the soul.

I found this poem, clearly written on some other January day. The question is one that I continue to pose to myself today.

is it there

somewhere in the


in the morning

in the mist

city moist with

layers of

Dublin sounds

like a drunk acoustic guitar

at this time

of half-hearted january birds

curiosity bites


is it here

potent tiny part


for a long winter



Verbal archaeology

verbal archaeology


however temporary

of lives once lived

and migratory people

by the means

of old past-due-date


smiles covered with

spiderwebs and ash

frozen mid-breakfast

in your own Pompei


I fall into

the between space

where life is not properly lived

but rather

flickers like the old

movie tapes

all jerky movements

and unearthly glow

faces all look like

they’re wearing too much

makeup not real enough

sounds much too loud

blaring their insignificance

I walk

through moments

like through separate frames


what post-production

will turn these

incoherent days

into a story

with a beginning

or an end

or a moral

or a cautionary tale

I don’t flow

I blip in and out of

view throughout

the sets

verbal archaeology

I reserve the right to withhold mercy

I reserve the right to withhold mercy

I do not relinquish anger

you do not have my forgiveness


you took away

the comfort of my skin

the safety of familiar streets

the peace in the night

the ease of touch

the friendliness of the world

the ready smile

the butterflies of thought


your shadows walk with me

the jagged edges of sudden movements

the sharp angles of unexpected sounds

the frost in the blood

when someone walks behind unseen

the neck so tense it’s about to break

the mind collapsing like a broken umbrella


I claw my way back

into the sunshine

each day

the anger propels me

you robbed me of so much

you’ll get nothing more

you, all of you, don’t get to win


as to the rest of you

don’t you dare

it’s not your place to absolve have mercy or forgive

in my name

you don’t get the right to speak

for the damaged beaten abused hurt

for yourself do what you have to do

whatever brings you peace


but I

withhold mercy

I don’t relinquish anger

and I do not forgive


Dancing in my dreams.

I like dancing. Doesn’t mean I’m good at it, never mistake enthusiasm for competence. But in this case, I don’t think it matters all that much.  Don’t get me wrong, I admire good dancers. My nephew dances and he’s excellent, it’s been a passion of his for many years. I love watching him and his partner glide through a ballroom in a twirling waltz, or perform an amazing tango, or Paso Doble, or anything really. They’re stunning. Needless to say, I can’t dance like that. I know the very basic steps to a Viennese waltz, slow waltz, tango and a few other dances but that’s about it. No, my style is a bit more… spontaneous, let’s call it that. What I mean by it, is that I like to move various random body parts vaguely in rhythm with the music.

I used to love going to clubs and giving myself to the music, drawing on the energy of the bodies around me all moving to the same beat, feeling, if only for a few hours at peace with the world, lost in the movement, the lights, the tempo rising and falling, picking up again, carrying all of us into a kind of physical epiphany. I have a complex relationship with my body, we don’t always get along, I’m a bit uneasy about physical contact, especially with strangers, I used to be very scared of crowds. Dancing helped me with all of it. When you dance, the world melts away, there’s just your body, and you feel it, your arms, legs, hips, neck, head, all of it. At first, you’re awkward, you can’t quite put it all together, you feel silly, extra self-conscious, but wait, just keep chasing the music, feel it flowing through you, stop thinking, I think that’s the most important part, empty your mind, just focus on the next beat, on the next move, suddenly it all slots into place, your body is no longer a collection of autonomous and rebellious parts, you become the extension of the rhythm. As is everyone else, you’re all connected, you can hear all the hearts around you thumping the same beat, sailing on the same river, you’re beaming the same energy, feel it, take it in, revel in this strangely primeval communion. It’s an exhilarating feeling…

I dance when I’m on my own. “Dance like no one is watching” – oh you bet I do. And I really do hope no one is watching, because, damn, I get silly. I need to try to do it more. Especially when I’m depressed and not feeling like it. Dancing when you’re happy is all well and good, it’s easy, it’s natural. But dancing when life gets dark, that’s properly therapeutic. Not only is it a physical activity, and any exercise when you’re depressed is invaluable, but if you let it, it can take you far away from your head. Every time I force myself to do it, I get an instant boost of energy.

I dance in my dreams, the best ones anyway. I have recurring dreams, and mostly they’re not so great, lots of running down dark corridors and being trapped on the edge of the abyss. But there’s one, not so much a full dream, but a recurring theme that I love. I’m somewhere up above the world, on a mountain, on top of an enormous tree, I’m not afraid, I just jump, trusting the wind to carry me, and in the air I spin, and move, and dance to an unearthly sweet music, swathed in scarlet silk, veils and ribbons trailing my every movement, weightless and serene…

There’s a poem I wrote some time ago, not so much about dancing, but it captures some of that dream.


in the midst of the howling

create a door

step inside

into a forest

sunk in the sunshine

some shadows trembling

when suppressed butterflies


from underneath the fingernails

translucent wings

catching light


rainbow circles on the surface of water

lay in the clearing

inhaling herbs grass leaves heavens above

silence seeps through the eyelids

peace to be found

make up a shimmer

whirl from the topmost branches

in reds and purples

silky sweet


there are dragons beyond

the pale cheeks

eyes opened

for stars flowing into

a half-full cup

the spheres are playing

piano music


and then the wailing guitar


in the midst of the howling

arms won’t catch you

no one is coming


through the door

Incidentally, ‘music of spheres’ keeps popping up in my poems. I remember long time ago in school reading about ‘musica universalis’ and being very taken with my imagining of it. To this day, every so often I look up at the stars and try to hear what sort of music they’ve got on their playlist.


Myself, appropriately whirling.