Thursday 28 April 2016

Dinner Talk

I was born on the wrong side of the track.
Now, contrary to what you might think, manners, and table manners in particular, were instilled into us.
So at the age of 12, invited to the banker's daughter's birthday party, I was shocked to find that table etiquette was less rigidly adhered to than I'd been taught to expect...
I soon abandoned my early training....


My father used to say
"You can't eat and talk!"
He wasn't giving us a choice.

My mother said
"Tuck your napkin under your chin."
I tucked mine tight

and watched in silence
napkins splayed on laps
mouths savouring syllables.

It was years before I learnt the art
of dinner table conversation.
I talked too much- overcompensation.

The delight of wielding words with tongue -
I never listened
to anyone.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Into the Heart

I'm sure, like me, you have heard yourself come out with stuff that you don't believe the half of...
Likewise you've been on the receiving end of it...
We can't always say what we feel.
Sometimes we may not even know.
But we can suspect....

Into the Heart

I feel your heart beating beneath the surface of what you say
Accessible only by swallow hole
In a place where all is shadow and feeling and heartspeak

Where there is no need to hold on to the furrowed clint surface
that erodes day by day anyway
The sooner the rain comes and washes you down some grike the better

I watch your face
fashioned by the shapes you make
as you tell yourself stories that give you something to hold on to

When really there is nothing but this fall into this place
where you become column,pillar,icicles of shape
Substance that is left over after the fall and descent
into the heart.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 27 April 2016


Shooting woodcock and deer- 
As a townie my attitude to hunting is probably sentimental. 
A casual chat in The Hill pub sheds light on country culture in East Galway. 
I know deer can be a pest to farmers but ...


East where the sun rises
and where the woodcock falls.
I trawl the Coill listening.

"They shoot deer," you say.
But deer eat lichen.
"They eat grass too." 

City-heeled boots clicking.
Woodcock at dusk and deer at dawn.
Coill takes on another meaning.

In bracken woods I meet him stalking.
Conifers climb to a white sun setting.
"Good evening, " I say and move on.

I hasten back to the Hill pub and you
pulling pints and casually knocking
sentiment out of city-slick.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Master of Ceremonies

As a child I was petrified by the ubiquitous town comedian who compered every show in town.
Years later I came across him again..
They are the subversives, the satirists,the truth sayers..Shakespeare's fools...
Good reason to be fearful....

Comedians still terrify me....


He frightened me.
The little stand-up comedian
with the dead-pan face.

I never knew if he meant what he said.
And he might just burst out laughing
at my expense
at any moment.

And so I dreamt I killed him
Chopped him up
and buried him in my back garden

Only my parents knew
And they wouldn't tell.

Then I woke up
Telling myself over and over
That Birdie had come a long way since then
That Birdie was playing Beckett at the Gate.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 25 April 2016

You were not to know

I don't know about you. 
But I was a romantic idealist
and made myself very miserable with unrealistic expectations and wistful longing.
Perhaps these are features of youth?

You were not to know

You were not to know
that I was in an invisible shell.

Dwarfs lacking, you couldn’t see
The glass box, open tomb, flower strewn
Where I lay waiting for Count Almasy,
Heathcliff or even Cliff Richard
To bestow the kiss that would crack the spell.

You didn’t know that I would misconstrue
Your stray sonnets and deep sighs
And expect you to hack your way through decades of thick brooding.

Being of a more prosaic mind,
You said goodbye.

So I had my tomb reinforced, double glazed, lead fortified
and wallowed, for a decade or two longer.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Count Almasy.?..See The English Patient

Sunday 24 April 2016

The Quare Fellow

Here is another poem written after the recent loss of a much loved friend.
We grew up next door to each other and travelled those early years on the same path.
Such friends become part of us.
And when they pass the memories bring us closer to ourselves.

The Quare fellow
for Ethna

Your fingers splayed to a full octave
you swing your accordion through a half-
figure of bellow, opening and closing,
gather it in close to your chest;
its huge bulk snug in your hands.

Our play Donal Cam,balloon hunchbacked Donal.
Your role to stick a pin in it,
and he’d walk tall again.
You stuck pins in everything;
egos, balloons, ceremony and pomp.

Pranks were your special subject.
A donation for colour TVs for the blind, Missus?
That cracked you up.
“Expelled for what?
Wasn’t it the altar boys that chased me?”

Crouched low behind moving haystack
sprung like a whippet out of the blocks on the last bend
scattering hay sheaf and disbelief in your wake
beating her by a length in the cross-country final.
Result pending enquiry.

And when the chalk fell in my lap
and we both spent the rest of the class on our knees
wasn’t it the quare craic.
And didn’t I stop

being a square, for one whole day.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2015

Friday 22 April 2016

For the Reader

Patrick Modiano, the recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature 2014 said that once the book/poem leaves the writer it no longer needs him/her.
From now on it will discover itself through its readers. I like this idea.
Here is one for you.


You turn language upside down
as only a poet or one born to a different language can.

A bat's wing flutters in the dark.
Something trickles that is not fear.

In the water I cock my ear to the surface
that will break with my next stroke

Something gives way that is neither of us...

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

And less opaque...

The Nest

I live in a nest of woolly jumpers
Yours. So that when I roll about
from time to time
there is no fear of me cracking.
The problem is -I need to hatch.
I need something hard to brace myself against.
I might crack anyway
And mess up your woolly jumper.
Or it might be better if you just let me fall.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 21 April 2016

First Poem

I found my first poem in a heap of sheaves allocated to dust. 
I was brought up, like many of you, with no official play areas, so we improvised.
The street was our play-park and incursions into neighbours' back yards our thrill. 
It was also Northern Ireland in the early sixties 
so all that was about to spill onto the same streets 
was beginning to emerge.


Tumbling over the bars
Knickers in the air
Nobody watching

Tennis on the footpath
No nets -no lines
Few rules-just balls
Always landing 
in Mrs Quinn's garden

The delight of foraging 
through Toner's backyard
Rumours extending
like a ripple from the rear
of adults alerted

And rumours of The Boys
Braving the Tricolour
Shouts of freedom
Heading for Coalisland
Followed by silence.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 20 April 2016

To a Photographer

For me it always helps to write a poem when I suffer the loss of a loved one
So here is one of these poems.

To a Photographer

Wuthering heights etched in black charcoal.
You wanted to paint it
to your own kaleidoscope of colour
dispelling all the gloom of love betrayed
and vengeance raging.

You carefully placed your frame
with your back to the window.
And so we have it -
You reflected in the painting
Your shadow, like an angel, stretched
in the taking of it.

Almost a year now since your passing
leaving us "with our arms the one length,"
as you would say.
Paint peeling on window frames and doors.
Hooks fallen from their appointed places.
Our lives frayed edges we can't mend.
Zips that don't meet, buttons unstrung.

And you no longer there to fasten them.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2001

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Long- Distance

Long -distance

He sent letters with foreign stamps,
and Chinese symbols and haiku poetry
scribbled on the outside of them.

She’d smell spices and seeds
she’d never tasted, Garam marsala,
Cumin and Pomegranate.

Then she’d read breathless between the lines
for the words that evaded her.
She’d begin to doubt herself.

And hunger assailing
she’d brew from his narrative
a story that fed hers.

She never really knew him.

She simply invented.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 18 April 2016

Saturday Matinee

Against my usual grain, I headed for the city on Saturday and ambled towards the Irish film Institute. The choice was between a Japanese film, Hirokazu Koreeda's adaptation of Akimi Yoshida's Umimachi Diary, Our Little Sister, or yet another Divine Comedy which, according to Tara Brady of the Irish Times, "Ought to be too daft and random for its own good."

I decided that it probably was
And opted for the "idyllic cricket serenaded beach town" of Kamakura, on the outskirts of Tokyo where I was enchanted by the rituals, scenery and culture of the Kouda sisters who welcomed their recently orphaned half sister to their delightful secluded home, replete with plum trees and a stock of plum wine.

Here a drama unfolds. But the beauty in the film for me was its understatement.
Emotions are deep and the undercurrent of feeling is powerful but the public airing of angst, to which we are accustomed, was refreshingly absent.

As a culture we tend to value all out expression, soul baring at any cost and ad nauseam...
I am personally culpable ...
So this mode of behaviour,, restraint, respect, but not repression, was thought provoking.

I enjoyed too the meal-time rituals, the festival, the one carriage locomotive, the white bait on toast and, of course, the plum wine.

Catch it if you can.


Friday 15 April 2016

Part 3

Continued from yesterday......

I’ll get to the fruit soon….yer Honour.
Now my real Picaresque journey begins.
Wellington. Nice city. Train trip from Auckland through Hobbit territory highlight of NZ sojourn. 

But then there were the zero hours…..
Don’t need you tonight, Mate. 2 hours on Friday. 1 on Sunday. Maybe.
Kiwis go home for Christmas.
Where’s home?
The Shire, for Baggot’s sake! Duh!
At Christmas Wellington morphs into post nuclear ghost town.

Ma, do you suppose I could have the Xmas money early?
Oh, did I?
What about my birthday?
So I did!
Take the what?
Yes, I have a round trip ticket. (Inspired choice of yours, Ma.)

Ma’s probably right. 3 months of zero hours. Xmas and Birthday stocks and goodwill depleted. Maybe it’s time not to be one of the undocumented illegal immigrants Down Under.

One hitch.
Had been cautioned by Kiwi security on entry that my passport was in tat order.
Fair enough! As you know the Y generation never soirees out without their passport. Either it or false ID, signed by the parents. A prerequisite for nights out in Coppers or the Black Door. 
So it was dog-eared, water marked, missing a few corners. Had been eco washed, tumbledried and …you get the picture.

Ma said they’d have to let me home. That they wouldn’t want to keep me. 
Fair point. 
But the Kiwi had been insistent. A big guy. Should have been in the second row instead of a pain in the ‘port. 
Ma said it wasn’t past its sell-by date and it would be illegal to detain me. Not that she could afford to appeal their decision.

Anyway the Wanna-be All- Black did detain me for bloody hours. 
Either he remembered me, and I’m not that memorable- a lanky Darren-lookalike from Love-Hate- the one that got shot finally after at least two resurrections. 
Or else it was Action week for targeting Tat Order passports. 
Or, of course, it could have been my bloody height again. 

Either way I had to sweat it out till the final call for flight 007 to Karachi.

I forgot to mention food…and given the title and all, yer Honour, that may be a serious omission.

Ma thinks I’m too thin. 
At 6’ 7’ it’s hard work to bulk up even if you do keep chowin’ on croissants. 
And so she sent all those food parcels to Wellington as if I really was in a refugee camp.

Typical Content of Ma Murphy's parcels:

McCambridge, Irish Stone-Ground Wholewheat.
A block of Dubliner’s vintage white
Barry’s Tea (of course)
Naan bread (Don’t they have that in NZ, son?)
Not the same taste, Ma.
Tayto (naturally)
And The Wire (Can’t you stream that?)
If I had wifi, Ma.
The Dunne’s store Rudolf Christmas tie special that chimes, ‘nough said!
Imitation snow from Dealz
A crib- I ask you????
Da’s used betting slip!!!

And all of the above described in the custom’s declaration label as “Gifts and sundries.”
 (Ma says sundries covers a multitude).

She should have just sent me the money.
And what I really craved were berries. Any berry: Rasp, straw, blue, goose,,…
Ma said they were no good for me.
Not much food value
No calories
Too much fructose
And they’d never fatten me up

So I get back from my travels and I won’t qualify for another Bridge Scheme for 6 months and I’m barred from Paddy Powers and Boyles and Ladbrokes and I’m craving berries and Ma won’t buy them.

So I do the only thing I can. I pull my beanie over my forehead, a scarf over my nose and I raid the local Supervalu.

“That’s the Longfella!” screams yer wan at the check- out as I make off with a tray of blueberries.

So yer honour, though I am a picaro and self-confessed fruit thief, do me a favour and don’t lock me up, though I’ve run out of ideas and I hear the food in Portlaoise is calorific. 
There’s no sleeping on trolleys, no multi-tasking, no bills to pay. Plenty of leisure and it’s all upskilling and upgrading. And you can even have a pen-pal or do your leaving cert. 
Except on E block, yer Honour, where you’re lucky to see a doctor even if you’re at death’s door. And never mind the Provos suing the State.
If you send me there the Ma will be suing you, what with the sewage and the pigeons and the asbestos and all.

Maybe I could take to the boards or the soaps or the net. What with Darren and King Nidge gone (maybe).
Or yer man might actually kill his Mammy and there would be a unique niche market opportunity for Me and the Ma to go viral and I could become respectable and famous and give up my picaro ways.

My salvation, yer Honour, is in your hands.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Part 2


Continued from yesterday.....

The Bug, so called because his Da, an avid punter, won £20 on a double at Ascot in 1953( the year he was born); with Stephen Paul (7/2) in the King Stand Stakes and The Bug (10/1) in the Workingham Stakes. 
The Da assumed that calling his son after such illustrious horses ensured that the Bug would bestride the world of business and gambling. That assumption was sadly mistaken.

However the Bug, because of his pedigree, had form. My duties in his employment necessitated long picaresque perambulations around the city centre and suburbs frequenting licensed bookmakers, sometimes three simultaneously, and involving heroic dashes against the off. 

For example I had to learn the exact distance between Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Boyle Sports in Stillorgan and calculate how long it would take me to leg it to Paddy Power in Goatstown, feats requiring Olympic athleticism and logistic expertise. Such were the requirements of a lay off punter. Whatever I was being paid it wasn’t enough.

These late home runs to the finish line teller following a wink, nudge, elbow, text from my employer became my modus operandi. The purchase of a second hand bike from Belfield bike shop facilitated the smooth and efficient performance of my duties and involved no parking fees or fines, the infringement of various traffic regulations, disregard for traffic lights, double yellows, continuous whites and one-ways.

There were only two impediments to my otherwise perfectly vertical career trajectory, and the first was my legs.

 I forgot to mention that my nickname was the “Longfella.” No relation to well known Irish patriot. The name referred to my physical longevity (clearly…duh). I stood 6 ft 7” tall, an unwieldy spool to thread about the frame of a commoner garden Vilano Shadow and resulting in various mishaps and endless sojourns in A & E, hospital trolley sleepovers and the acquisition of a sheaf of unpaid medical bills. 

But my daily gambol, though chequered with false starts and unjumped hurdles was nonetheless completed; bike-less, trailing the field, lacking form but showing grit and the will to perform better given softer ground. 

The second glass ceiling obstacle to my career progression proved however to be somewhat fatal, for I began to notice over time that when my tall frame darkened the door of these licensed premises the Paddy Power tellers would slip sideways out of their kiosks.

 “The Longfella’s back,” echoed and bounced from wall to ceiling, sibilant whispers snaked their way down sinuous corridors. In the overhead office a click and bleep of mobile phone, the ominous pause and return scuttle of aforesaid teller. And then the inevitable.

“I’m afraid sir, you can’t bet here any longer.”

(What do you mean, can’t?)

“I mean, you’re barred.”

(That can’t be legal!)

“We only serve losers.”

Silence as my co-pundits suspend their cups of coffee and crustless sandwiches for a second of potential epiphany.

“Get out!”

Paddy bloody Power, how are ye! Bar the winners and tea-total the losers. But it wasn’t just Paddy. It turned out to be the modus operandi of Ladbrokes, Stanley, Byrne, Boyle’s Sports et al.

And overnight I became a non runner with form.

And that is how I came to join the X and Y generation, the hipster-bobos, in their mass exodus from our expiring Celtic Tiger shores.

To be episode tomorrow...

Part 1

Memoirs, especially if they are invented, can be fun.
Here's one which I will publish on the Blog over the next couple of days.
Short listed in The Fish Memoir Competition this year.


Yer Honour, I quit the National Internship Scheme, aka Job Bridge, after 3 months. I told my host organisation managing (HOM) boss director to “sod off.” I’d had enough of flogging glass at-
“Hours per day- unspecified/ days per week –to be advised.”
The People before Profit/Anti Austerity lads, Paul and Richard, got one thing right-
 I was the victim of rampant exploitation.

Personalised gifts, depersonalised gifts, achievement awards, lack of achievement awards? 
Yes, Missus, we do just about anything.

All plaques come in 3 sizes in a range of puke shades- from Azure grey to Onyx grey.

Complete with presentation box (which you should keep in pristine condition in case you want to return the aforesaid…em… item.)

Have your favourite family photo fossilised, I mean immortalised, as in forever, inside our high quality crystal. Add text or logo. No limit to what we can add.
(Within reason- nothing rude now!)

“Murphy!( that’s me) did you contact every badminton club, tennis club, golf club, fishing club, karate club, fencing club… blah blah in Ireland this morning like I asked you?”

(I did …not)!

“And, since St Patrick’s Day is coming up, email all the government ministers and offer them a unique piece of Ireland to take with them on their cultural-trade junkets,

(At the tax payer’s expense)

“To offer to foreign dignitaries in far flung paces- like…em… Shangri-la.
Not decanters Murphy, use your common sense. Book markers, pen holders, pocket size stuff. Consider baggage allowance and all that…”

(But St Patrick’s Day’s tomorrow, host organisation manager! And does Shangri-la actually exist?)

“Don’t be so negative Murphy. Just do it.”

(I think, HOM, that the flight of ministers has already taken place. We have, as you might say, missed the boat.)

“They fly, Murphy, you eejit, on government sponsored jets.”

(Also paid for by the tax payer… It was a metaphor, sir. Not very original, I admit but.)
(PS. Since they don’t fly Ryan Air maybe we could be more generous with the decanters?)

“You’re fired Murphy.”

(We have a contract; I’m on a bridge, not a metaphor.)

“You’re out. Unsuitable. Non-negotiable. You’re a bloody smart-arse!”

 I quit. Sod off! I’ve had enough non- training and down- skilling for a lifetime.

 “This scheme is a scandal, converting paid work into free labour, distorting unemployment figures.” –

Right on Richard Boyd Barrett!!

And anyway I had options- there was my mate, Stephen Paul, Aka The Bug, and professional gambler. And he needed me, yer Honour.

To be continued....

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Tuesday 12 April 2016


Dreams are a useful, if bizarre source of inspiration....if you can remember them....


 I dream that my two twenty-somethings have at last moved out.

They’re living in an elongated building- prefab-type- hut, the type used for school classrooms when there’s no money to build a school. He lives in blissful chaos at one end of it and she in fear of fire at the other.

 I explain to her that fire alarms usually work if you check the battery from time to time and to catch herself on and to start living her life. Then I go to tell him to mind her.

 His hair is shoulder length and he looks hung-over and all of his friends appear to have moved in with him. Asking him to mind her! How  ****  up have things become?

And I return home to find that our house has rooms we never knew we had.
And what else do I find but an infant growing faster than you can say Jack Robin
or Rabbit or whatever it is. It can even pull its sleeves right –side- out
and it’s talking to Stevie in no time at all, saying, “Gimme a break Da!”

And suddenly there’s another infant; I’m dropping them like hotcakes. And baby one catches baby two when I actually do drop it; our twenty-somethings
were never that fast or that smart.

But don’t babies in dreams always mean something else? And in my case creative endeavours wasting away in an attic or basement or outhouse, me not knowing they even existed?

At least these two are fast growers and fast talkers.

I waken up and my twenty-somethings are still here- he in the attic conversion and she in the garage one.

And to tell you the truth
it’s a bit of a relief…..

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 11 April 2016

Pink Gingham

Pink Gingham

She was a daughter of Eve
Sacred vessel
Arbiter of men’s fate.
She was to keep her hemline low and her lips pursed tight.

Girls were expelled for attending dance halls-
The Spanish inquisition could have learnt a thing or two
From the Mercy nuns-

And then the Sex Education-
How far should you let him go? Was a kiss sex? Or a hug?
A button undone? A bodice too low?-

On Radio Caroline the Bee Gees, The Stones and The Beatles
Women were burning bras all over America -
And she as forbidden to dance.

The arrival of the summer uniform
Pink gingham that lasted one term
Then back to the pinafore box pleats -
Pink gingham deemed an enticement to sin

And there were Homes for girls like that….

Copyright with Cathy leonard 2016

Sunday 10 April 2016

A Prayer

Let me be wind in your ear

loosening voice out of clipped tongue
Or rain sprouting within you
image where there was none
Or swans-down to which you fall
into songs that are sung.

Let me shed blessings on your Spring
And like the moon to the wave
Let me draw you in
And let you be my sun.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Saturday 9 April 2016

On Becoming Picasso



“And a can of hair spray,” I tell the girl with the earphones dangling from her earlobes. 
“It’s for my art class," I add.
 The queue in the shop is building up behind me, but I explain anyway. “To keep the pastels from running into one another.”

 The minute I get home I soak my morning’s effort in a blast of hair spray and stick it on the fridge door. I have already spent a fortune on my Thursday art class and the feedback so far has been a series of warm condolences.
“It’s not bad,” my youngest son reassures me.
“You have to start somewhere,” declares my eldest as she turns my masterpiece upside down in an attempt to decipher it.
 “It is a beginner’s class, love,” says my husband. “You can’t expect to be a Picasso just yet!”
But that’s just the problem. 
It isn’t a beginner’s class. 
The beginner’s class was full.
“Of course, as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as white,” announces Vivienne Lensky on our first morning. “White does not exist. If you look with a painterly eye you’ll see that white is actually informed by some other colour, like blue or yellow.”
The other six painterly ladies nod knowingly. 
This isn’t their first outing in art class.
They’ve been juggling it with golf, bridge and church coffee mornings for well near a decade. Janet has already progressed to watercolours and spends most of the morning blow drying her elaborately detailed landscape. Josephine has taken up her vibrantly colourful market scene again, after abandoning it over the summer months. Perfectly curved and textured melons and peppers stare up at me from her market stall backdrop.
They are all discussing framing, art exhibitions, reasonable price tags to place on their term’s work etc etc while I am set to the task of choosing my favourite pictures from a pile of gallery brochures. “Just to determine your style,” says Vivienne.

“Pastels,” she announces after a cursory glance at my choice and I am assigned a box of chalks. 

Tears are beginning to smart. I had expected a palette and an array of exotic sounding colours to choose from. I had bought a bag of silver tubes and a selection of brush sizes from 2 to 16. They peep out now from my large canvas bag, also purchased for its width, depth and capacity to hold the thinners, the turpentine, the vast stock of supplementary objects that a real painter would require. 

But chalk? I have always hated the smell of it.

Within ten minutes I have smudges of chalk everywhere. The desk, my pale blue shirt, my nose. Vivienne offers a rubber which I use generously to rearrange my sleeping cat figure. But it is all a frantic explosion of dust and smudge. Red has ended up where it was not intended and my tortoiseshell is more ginger than tortoise. 

Meanwhile the other painterly ladies dabble elegantly and stroll from pale canvas to pale canvas admiring the view and talking of texture and perspective until the tears threaten to wash away my morning’s effort.

“I like his pose,” announces Janet looking over my shoulder.
“It’s a cat is it?” says Josephine.
“What else,” I mutter through gritted teeth.
“I think he’s splendid,” declares Vivienne and I want him for the Christmas card set.”
“The what?” I ask.
“The Christmas card designs. Every year we do a set of twelve for the Swahili Tiger Widows. Do you think you could try a snowman next week?”

 I have at last found my level. Three reindeers, four robins, two Santas, three snowmen and one tortoiseshell later and the Thursday morning Redford Painters have put together a set of Charity cards. The Tiger Widows declare a bumper year for revenue from Christmas card sales and I can’t wait until Spring. It seems I am about to embark on another mission that will require a detailed study of tulips, spring chickens, lambs and Easter bunnies. 

And everybody else is too busy creating masterpieces.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 8 April 2016

Spider Web

Still on the subject...


I am the cleaner.
I undo your knit and purl,dismantle
your filigree patterns stretched
taut across my window frames and ceiling
Almost invisible to the eye, even to mine
schooled to the purpose.

Having wiped you out yesterday
Today I return to your midnight carnage
Your  tell tale white droppings
What remains of your victims
Disembowelled outer shells
Prostrate beneath your shimmering spiral.
Intricate,delicate, pulsating, beautiful, deadly.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 7 April 2016

A kitchen visitor

Today a spider poem!


Like Tom Cruise suspended in Mission Impossible
a spider on a trail of smoke
hangs from my kitchen light bulb.

On his back, his limbs like needles
he knits and purls and slips and loops,
then throws out skein.
Suddenly he reins in and pulls
and draws  and gathers into himself
a ball of filigree silver.Then scampers
up vertical slope.

Rock climber, sky diver, silk spinner, weave maker.
I think you must have seen me watching...

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Woks and stuff



 Destiny.Mid calls.
 I love my new ring tone and let it play.
 Caller not in my address book.
 Finally. Reluctantly. I answer.
   “Hi, Jane. It’s Mark. You know, Sarah’s friend?”
   (I don’t, but I think he’s the dork who shadows Sarah’s every move.)
 “Oh, hi, yeh, course, Mark. How are you?”
   “Great, thanks. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m calling?”
(Put me out of my misery, Mark. Fingers crossed this isn’t about a date. Will kill Sarah.)
   “It’s just that Sarah told me you just got one of those Japanese yokes, and I was  thinking of buying one too. But they’re a bit expensive, so I thought I’d do some research.”
(Research? It only cost about a tenner. Was right about him. Dork!)
 “Oh I get it! A review.Yeh. It’s great.Worth every cent.”
  “ Easily assembled?”
   (!!!!!) “It usually comes assembled, Mark.”
  “ Cool! User friendly?”
   (Is he ticking boxes?)
 “Very. Simple. No snags at all. And adaptable.”
   “Adaptable? Really?”
   ( No box for adaptable.)
“Well, versatile. You can put anything in it.”
 (Like vegetables, chicken, stir fry, fish….food, Mark, food.)
   “You use it for storage???”
   “Storage? Well, actually, now that you mention it. I could. Never thought of that though.”
 (Who the hell stores anything in a wok?)
   “I heard that they’re hard?”
   (Well deuh!!)
 “Very hard.”
   “Isn’t that a problem?”
   “I wouldn’t fancy if it buckled under pressure.”
(You know from heat,Mark, heat!) “Would you?”
   “Oh, I get you!”
 “Go for it, Mark!” (Be reckless.)
  “Doesn’t it take up a lot of space?”
   (He’s got to be kidding!)
 “ Space, no! You can fit it in anywhere.”
    “Sounds cool. I suppose you’ve taken up eating Japanese?”
   “Goes with the territory.”
   “Cool! How much did it cost, Jane, if you don’t mind me asking?”
   “Can’t remember. But Lidl sometimes do them. Or try Tescos.”
   “You bought it in Lidl???”
   “ Actually Aldi.You can buy up market if you like, Mark. But twenty euro max is enough to pay.”
   “Twenty euro for a futon?”
   " Who’s talking about futons? I thought you meant a wok!"
   "A wok? But they're Chinese Jane! Deuh!"
Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016


Monday 4 April 2016


Another piece of flash fiction. This one was published in the Fish Anthology 2013.
For details of the Fish Competitions, courses etc see link


I  never knew for sure what woke me. The sound of car tyres screeching towards Coalisland or the pick pock of pebbles thrown at a window? A hand gripped my chest. My own. And coexistent with the hand and the pebbles and the screech, a silence as of snow; a blanket of it thrown over the street. And through the silence and the sound of receding, spluttering exhaust pipe I sensed the presence of aftermath.

I threw back the woollen blanket and slipped my bare feet onto the vinyl floor. Foot soles arched. Pit pat towards the bedroom window, elbows cupping hunched shoulders. My finger on the venetian blind that clicked as it dipped and shaped itself into an eye.

Outside on the street someone lay slumped over the steering wheel of an Austin Cambridge; his head was bowed as if in prayer. The car horn wasn’t blaring; it should have been. Below me our next- door neighbour Wee Johnny, was stepping over his gate; not taking time to open it.

Pebbles. Tyres screeching. A figure slumped over a steering wheel. A car askew. And silence; but not the silence of snow.

I didn’t see Wee Johnny open the car door and release the body of Andrew Kirk from his bowed embrace.

When I opened the front door I saw him standing in the ragged gap in the hedge that separated our row of houses from the street, where others like me were hovering on door sills. Silence engulfed everything as we watched his arms, raised and flapping, telling us to back off.

Then someone turned up the volume and the waving arms told their story. The pebbles thrown had been gun shots. Andrew Kirk lay riddled in them. And the Troubles weren’t about to end anytime soon.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016


I like writing flash fiction because it's quick, maybe like sketching. 
And there's a word count  boundary. 
And my concentration span is short and getting shorter.
 So here goes. 
A piece of fiction under 500 words.

Setting- Amateur Production of Betrayal by Harold Pinter
  At the Interval

It could be an overplayed joke between us for months. 
The only blonde broad at Pinter’s Betrayal, and he manages to pick her up.
 She turns away from him, not even aware that I am on route to claim the bespectacled fifty- something that stands somewhat bemused in the middle of a throng of tea drinkers.
   “A penny for them?” I ask, handing him a cuppa.
   “She recognised me from school.”
   “You went to an all-boys”
   “Primary school.”
   “You’re kidding!”
   “She said you hadn’t changed a bit?”
   “Something like that.”
   “I believe it!”
I decide to return the tea cups. 
I notice, on my periphery, the blonde making in the opposite direction towards him. She can’t be serious. She is. 
I take my time coming back. Don’t want to be seen to be the harpy wife who won’t let him out of her sight for two minutes.  Amble along the scenic route, reading the framed paraphernalia, detailing local history and lore that I have read about a hundred times already.
Eventually I see her extracting herself from his riveted attention. She sails straight past me without as much as a ship’s horn passing in the night acknowledgement. He doesn’t ask what took me so long.

  I don’t hear any of the second half of the play. I’m preparing my own moves. I’m waiting for the exit shuffle. Will they make contact, by gesture, by glance? My head is lowered but I am watching, reptile like, with all my antennae extended. I notice nothing untoward. Their performance is impeccable. I don’t even joke about the leggy blonde in the car on the way back. He’s the one who brings up the subject.

 “She lives locally now.”
 “Oh yes?” I say, not even asking who “she” is.
 ”Grove Avenue. Near the sea front.”
 “She told you that?” I can’t help but query. He doesn’t answer. “Can’t let you out of my sight for a minute.”
 “She’s just an old school mate,” he snaps. 
He normally joins in this type of banter and refers to his boyish charm.

   A week later he’s late. Very late. I’ve sent three texts and he hasn’t answered my calls. Finally at midnight my phone bleeps.
   “Broken down.”
   “For six hours?” I text back.
   The phone rings.
   “Of course not. Was working late. Went out to start the car. Had left the lights on. Battery’s dead. Called the AA.” His voice sounds like text speak. Like he’s rehearsed it. A hundred times.
 I’m in the car three minutes later. I don’t know how I got there. My heart is racing. My hand is on the ignition. I know where I’m going. I look in the mirror.  What am I going to do when I get there? Knock on doors? Start a scene? Smash a windscreen?
My phone bleeps.
“Fed up waiting. Can you pick me up?” 
 “From where?” My fingers fumble.
 “Where the hell do you think?”

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016   

Sunday 3 April 2016

The Way We Are

Still on the subject of bogs have a look at Niall Wright's paintings. 
See link  below

The Way We Are

This we take almost for granted:
The summer leaden Irish sky, green drumlin hills,
heathered, mossed and dry stone walled,
rivers forded by rock clumps and clumped reeds.

And somewhere in an album marked Early Years
I see you standing, lollipop in hand,
teetering on a rock mid-stream
your red hair blowing mid-current
your freckled skin awakening to the sun.

And I give thanks now that you have returned
from foreign climes and black-dyed tresses
and slick fake tan,to yourself -
Irish cailĂ­n, bog style and proud of it.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Inspired by Niall Wright’s Oils on card

Saturday 2 April 2016

Raised Bog

We love the smell of turf and associate it with cultural tradition
But whether and  where to cut peat remains a much debated subject.
For the facts behind Raised and Blanket Bogs see link below.

Raised Bog

My centre is not bottomless as you supposed.
And soon I will no longer surprise you
with my treasure trove, my black butter,
my bog men, my great Irish elk-
Your history and mine.

You will make walkways across what is left of me
as your Iron Age ancestors did
and teens tuned to i-pods will lark along my edges
once ten millennia deep, thick in iron rich ochre,
fished, reed choked, tree planted and engulfed.

I once rose high above my blanket bog neighbour
I was a bog- mossed dome then.
Now your mechanical diggers cleave 
and slice into hardpan and waterlog
to reach bedrock- that is mine.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 1 April 2016

Baby Bootees

Shopping for a Christening present I came across a pair of bootees priced 18 euro and thought ...
I could do that myself.
This is the result.
Very cute.
Just hope they fit the baby!
Wool cost a euro, but to be fair it took me a couple of hours to turn these little heels.
There are mittens and hat to match but haven't stretched myself that far yet.

James Brett. JB008