Wednesday 30 August 2017

A traditional Tale


  When Johnny died they all spent days pouring over photographs of him. Johnny as a round faced lad wearing a cap the time he was apprenticed to his father in the bricklaying. Johnny wearing a grey pinstriped suit, leaning on his bicycle, one trouser leg caught in the hoop of a bike clip. Where was he going, they asked, dressed like that? Johnny in full swing foxtrot ushering his stiletto heeled partner through a series of intricate steps. This was the Johnny that his grown up children never knew. The one who had stolen her heart.
   They’d met in the queue of the Aster cinema in 1944. She worked in the factory with his two sisters and knew him as “a bit of a ladies man.” She hadn’t until then been on the receiving end of his honeyed brogue. But that evening as she stared wistfully at a pair of paten shoes, shiny black with a satin bow at the side, a seductive voice had broken in on her musings.
   “Would you like me to buy them for you?”
   She’d treated that remark with the distain it deserved. But from that day on she’d caught his eye more than once across the street as she walked the mile to and from work, and her ear strained daily to hear stories of his latest dance floor antics and conquests.
    Then one day his sister Madge delivered the missive. Would she meet him at the Gasworks for a stroll? And the rest was history, as they say. Her two left feet put an end to his dancing expos and the day they walked up the aisle there was more than one broken heart on the factory floor.
   Their three grown up children preferred the photos of Johnny as a young father bouncing a couple of infants on his knees or wading in the sea with them at Warrenpoint. They enjoyed too the snapshots of him playing pitch and putt with the grandsons, fishing in stocked rivers and lakes with them too. He did, of course, do some real fishing with his pals, Jimmy Loughran and Pat McCrea, and often on his own for hours out at the Lough until the day he took a stroke.
   Even though it was designated as a minor one, she had wanted him to give up the fishing. Afraid that something would happen to him out there miles from anyone. Afraid that she wouldn’t be there, that nobody would be there. And so he had given it up to keep her happy. Just like the dancing, he teased her. She was his ball and chain for sure!
   She was there when he died peacefully and unexpectedly in his sleep. Right next to her and she hadn’t known a thing about it. A “saint’s death” they all called it as they sat around at the wake, recalling his dapper days. He had died with his hand tucked under his chin, a calm expression on his face. He had suffered no pain, they told her.
    But she didn’t get to say goodbye. That was the problem. He had stolen off in the night without telling her. For weeks she was mad as hell at him. And every time she picked up one of the many photos of him that had been unearthed from forgotten corner cupboards and framed in an array of silver plate and oak, she told him so.
    It was on one of these occasions that Mary, her eldest daughter, came in the backdoor, unnoticed by Agnes. A family council meeting was held and it was deemed essential that they keep a closer eye on her. Teresa, the youngest, who lived nearest to her, suggested a pet for company.
   “A dog? A puppy? You can’t be serious!” Agnes exclaimed.” Hadn’t I had enough bother rearing the whole of you without starting again with a puppy?”
   “You exaggerate, mum. It’s not a baby! It’s only a dog. A cute wee Yorkshire or something like that. And it will be great company for you. We can’t be here all the time.”
   “And I don’t ask you be here. I’m quite alright by myself. In fact I like my own company.”
   “Mum, Mary says you’re talking to yourself.”
   “Sure doesn’t everybody do that? You probably do it yourself only you don’t even know. Besides, I wasn’t talking to myself. I was talking to your dad. And God help us can I not even do that? Would you leave me in peace now.”
   Agnes stalwartly refused any notion that a furry friend would make her life meaningful again. Instead she sat out in the porch watching the stars, as they had done so many times in the past together. She read every piece of correspondence she could find written in his bold round script and wore his green woollen cardigan when the others weren’t around; the one they had bought together for him in Avoca Handweavers two Christmases before he died.
   She was having a chat with him about the latest council plans to dig up the lane yet again for water pipes when she heard the scratching at the door. At first she thought it might be a straggling branch of the still flowering Fuchsia being battered about by the strong gusty wind. Agnes chose to ignore the tap tapping for a while. But as she thought about the distance from the hedge to the window of her half door the thought occurred to her that it might be that intrepid ginger cat that had taken to visiting her, uninvited, whenever she left any aperture in the cottage ajar.  
   It was then that she heard a definite whining sound. Opening the top window of the half door she peered over to see a brown and white pointer, looking wistfully back at her.
   “Now where did you come from?” she declared. This couldn’t have been a ploy. None of her children would have picked this bony half starved creature as a would-be companion for her. But here he was, in need of a meal at least. Agnes softened some bread in a bowl of milk, opened the door wide and offered the bowl to the intruder. The pointer gulped the lot down in split seconds.
   The gale swept a batch of leaves on to her door mat and Agnes decided there and then that the pointer would have to go. She whooshed the reluctant dog out the door and closed it firmly against him. Then she listened. But the only sounds were the clock ticking and the wind howling.
   Agnes put on the kettle and settled down for her late night cuppa and two digestive biscuits. As she was about to pick up the last quarter of biscuit she thought of her visitor.
   “You’ll never get rid of it if you start feeding it biscuits!” she imagined Johnny teasing her. But she slowly walked towards the door anyway, to have a look at the stars, she told herself, even though the clouds were sure to be obstructing her view of Orion the hunter and his prey tonight. Agnes opened the window.
   After a quick perusal of a starless sky she looked down. Sure enough the shivering pointer lay in a heap at her door.
   “Well just for tonight, Mister! In the morning you’re off!” The pointer seemed to get the picture, for he sidled quickly past her as soon as she nudged open the door and dropped down, with what sounded to Agnes like a sigh, on the first rug he came to.
Agnes was still holding the biscuit when there was a knock at the door.
   “Just checking in on you!” It was her youngest daughter. “What’s that?” Teresa pointed to the dog.
   “What does it look like?”
   “It’s a mangy looking thing, Mum. Where did you get it? You said you didn’t want one. We were looking for a nice wee pedigree Westie for you.”
   “Those Westies are very bad natured. Sure didn’t we have one years ago. Left the track of its teeth on everybody.”
   “A cocker Spaniel or King Charles would be nice. Vaccinated and clean.” She looked at the thin pointer that now licked the biscuit out of Agnes’s fingers. “You wouldn’t know what you’d pick up off that yoke, Ma. You can’t be serious!”
   “I can and I will!” declared Agnes who hadn’t until that moment had the slightest intention of keeping the pointer. “If it doesn’t have an owner, that is.”
   “We’ll put up notices tomorrow and please God…” muttered Teresa.
   “A couple of good feeds and a visit to the vet is all it needs,” said Agnes. “Didn’t you all want me to have company and now I do! Sure maybe Johnny had a hand in it.”
   “Or maybe he fell out of the sky!” remonstrated Teresa.
   “A companion of Orion, of course!” exclaimed Agnes. “His pointer! Every hunter must have a pointer? Right?”
   Stringer was there to stay. They said he was a “string of misery” and so they named him. Secretly Agnes called him Orion. Nobody ever did reply to Teresa’s bold printed urgent notices posted in every cornershop, library and surgery within a ten mile radius. Agnes talked just as much to herself as before the arrival of her visitor, but the subject of her verbal meanderings was now usually connected to the stars.
    “She’s always talking about heavenly configurations!” declared Teresa. “Asking Stringer this and that about the heavens!”
   “With a bit of luck that creature will disappear as mysteriously as he arrived,” said Mary.
  But Orion was there to stay. And every clear evening Agnes and the pointer sat under the night sky and journeyed through the stars.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Change of Season

At the seaside I notice a last desperate flurry of activity before the demise of summer.
 I also notice our elders beginning to don gloves and socks, specifically designed to deal with colder climes.
While the rest of us scurry for comfort, they'll stick it out all winter long...or for as long as they can. This poem is for them.


The park has been shorn of its summer mane
And wears a razed pate, smelling of meadow- sweet
And nettle and yarrow- strewn across its salon floor

 And in the garden I practice euthanasia
Root out jaded lobelia, cut back and secateur all
That is stooping and failing

And at the shoreline Mothers stand lifeguard
While their young take a final plunge
Before the tyranny of school timetable begins

And though the temperature is dropping
And lifeguards pack away their red and yellow paraphernalia
Our elders wade in, ready to embrace and endure 

This change that has begun to shift 

Thursday 24 August 2017


The last in a series inspired by contemporary art.


Efflorescence, not fungus or
rash or contagion, but a full flowering-forth protuberance -
confluence of heat and cold

Its splint-like shards prick like
needles -fall like dust - then rise like Persephone –

inspired by Biomorphic form 1 by Jane Jermyn
See link-Jane Jermyn


Hunkered on splayed hands
his stripped bone-white foetal curve
earth-bound, heaven-bent

Then he winds himself
into a knot of bone and
shadow and prayer

Haikus  inspired by Box Men 1 &2 by Heidi Wickham
see link  images Heidi Wickham

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Gutting a fish

Inspired by a piece of ceramics by Claire Finlay

And Fish Might Fly

Did you use a sharpening stone?

You must have laid the fish flat -
but instead of puncture wound at anus, cutting
through paired pelvic fins, slicing
the thin abdominal wall, incising
the ventral surface along the horizontal until
you reached jaw, spilling

guts and blood and slime -
You hacked clean through the centre
No delicate flick of knife at dorsal fin
but vertical cleavage through back-bone.
Nor did you turn the spine of your knife
against the grain of the scales, and flay until
you shed silver.

So you have it now -
without entrails, with head
and tail and scales intact-
A hybrid thing
with a beak like a bird
and a butterfly tail-

Fish that can fly

Inspired by Fish - Claire Finlay
see images for Claire Finlay ceramics
Claire Finlay Ceramics

Monday 21 August 2017

Marriage of Opposites

I posted this poem before but here is the sculpture that inspired it. Fidelma Massey's Marriage of the Sun and Moon.

Bring it on

They say it won’t last.
Him with his webbed feet and shaggy mane.
The heat alone of him will melt me, they say,
erase my quarter, half and full phases,
my gibbous, crescent, waxing and waning moods.

Hang the consequences, I say, holding the apple between us,
me, like Eve, tempting him-
A kiss about to weld us into a near perfect O.
Expulsion from Eden, tree of knowledge, forbidden fruit,
Bring it on, I say, bring it on.

 Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2017
Based on The Marriage between the Sun and Moon By Fidelma Massey

Sunday 20 August 2017

Tour of Beara

Photograph courtesy of Marie Helen Brohan Delhaye

Tour of Beara
for Marie-Hélène and Claire

It was a whistle-stop tour of Artscape
Talk of brushes, mediums and textures
Odourless turpentine, shades and perspectives
And then the literal tour
And snaps of every mountain, gap and valley
Glade, slope, dip and bend in the road
Galleries themselves and gallery friends
And artists and artists’ friends
And waking to easel- chat and Plein- Air- settings
Impromptu sketches and portrait sittings
Sketch pads and notebooks and rainbow splatterings
And from this flurry, this gorgeous art-smoothie
I glean this one poem:

Not about landscape or artscape or cloud- hugged mountains

But about you: Soulscape, soulmates,friends.

Friday 18 August 2017

No turning Back

Here's a poem inspired by a painting The White Road by Roxanne Fitzmaurice.

The Oh So White Road

I’ve never seen a road so white.

But Hansel’s pebbles must have gleamed just so
under the moonlight.
And the forest trees as tar-thick-dense
as the ditches that line this road.
And beyond these, the silkscarf fields
as tempting as any gingerbread house.
And the future, over the brow of the hill,
beyond the icy treacherous descent
of wicked stepmothers and oven-crazed hags,
as quest deserving.
And once they scaled the pole-staked invisible fence
between do and don’t
Hansel and Gretel knew
as we all do

That there’s no going back.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2017

Saturday 12 August 2017

The Last Word

I thought I posted this before, but the post has the dying languages!

The Last word

In Boro the verb to love flows wide upon the tongue;
Onguboy –to love from the heart
Onsay – to pretend to love
Onsra – to love for the last time

and like the thirty one words for seaweed in Irish
that whiten without dissent upon the foreshore, *
the tongue in Boro begins to stiffen

and so we lose that which holds memory as a landscape might
and a Korean child’s tongue is surgically lengthened
that he may, one day, say “right.”

Boro- a  language in North-Eastern India

*Death of Irish” by Aidan Mathews: ‘The tide gone out for good,/Thirty-one words for seaweed/Whiten on the foreshore.’ (In Penguin Contemporary Irish Poets, ed. Derek Mahon, 1990.)

Friday 11 August 2017

Plague Door

Again a poem prompted by a photograph of an old door in Italy boarded up and covered with Grafitti. I thought about the crosses that were once drawn on the doors of plague victims and the poem evolved from there. The plague was initialled believed to be a sign of god's wrath. Lisa Tivey has a studio, The Open Window Gallery, in Rathmines, Co Dublin and another, Holly Tree Studio, Bantry, West Cork.

Plague Door

The plague is not fussy, just hungry.
And this door never did recover from its daubed
red cross, its pile of bodies, black ulcerated, buboes
the size of an apple. Punishment meted out
by heavenly bodies, atonement for our
inequities, the wrath of God against which
no appeal prevailed.

Centuries later it comes back.
No paint to daub on paint peeled door.
Just nails and planks of wood and
ghosts quarantined now, as they were
then, when no-one would trade or breathe
contaminated air or share their
misfortune. And then for bedevilment
some flippant boy, some modern day town watchman,
a pot of errant paint in hand, daubs willy-nilly,
stigma, that proclaims you dead.

Inspired by Lisa Tivey’s Calabrian Steps

Thursday 10 August 2017


This was written for a Poets Meet Painters Competition. 
It was inspired by a painting by contemporary Irish  artist Nicola Slattery titled Sleeping Woman. 
Unfortunately I have no image of the painting, but you can check out her website or google Nicola Slattery.
Nicola Slattery images


Wrapped in a patchwork
the woman dreams of a farm divided
from son to son
and crafts it whole again.

Its boundaries and banks neatly stitched,
she works the soil into holdings of forest and fallow
and russeted crop and verdant green pasture
and, in places, bright crimson petals boldly sewn.

And in this way she claims back
 a daughter’s inheritance denied.
The only sheep she can tend, the ones she counts,
as she falls asleep at night.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2017

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Am going through a fallow period-
 I did knit a super chunky jumper. Made a lot of mistakes but my daughter is lying on the couch  looking very snug in it. Am about to start a scarf. Something quick and easy.
life's like that. ...not always as fluid and inspirational as you would like.
flat as a pancake, a calm sea.... here's hoping for a few waves soon.
Meanwhile some colour meditation chakra poems.

yellow-solar plexus chakra. to do with will.

deserts long
dunes high
back drop to sun-gods
and sun worshippers
it goes straight to the head.

Away with The Fairies.

When I read this article I thought of Robert Frost's Mending Wall, to which my response is deeply indebted.

It's been getting great coverage in the news.

Mending Road

Something there is that loves a dip in the road
That sends the ground swell under it
And makes a hollow even two cars cannot pass abreast.
No-on has seen it made or heard it made.
But in the morning it is there.
And on a day agreed the Council came
With diggers, more than one, to repair it.
At a cost to the tax-payer of forty thousand euro.
But when they turned their backs it was there again.
"There's something in these places you shouldn't touch."
"Sacred," he would say. "Is it the work of fairies?"
They say in their defence,
" It's a deeper underlying subsoil geo-technical problem."
But they'd rather he would say it for himself.
They see him there, like an old stone-savage armed.
"I'd rather starve than knock a fairy fort!"
He will not go behind his father's back
And likes having thought of it so well he says it again.
Something there is that loves a dip in the road.
"Is it the work of fairies?"

Saturday 5 August 2017

Manchester by the Sea

“Where is this going ?” is my usual wail five minutes into any movie. I’m a pain to sit with. 
But half an hour into the movie Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan 2016, and I was still asking.

Casey Affleck was dragging his famous drawl through the script. His lack lustre body language, except when sprung into violent action, was in keeping with the drawl. He plays the part of a Boston janitor , a jack of all trades, who performs tasks as various as plumbing, electrics and shovelling snow. Of course there is going to be a disgruntled, rude tenant. And Casey/Lee is not renowned for keeping his cool.

So we have a character, dull of expression, dull of tone- until you press his buttons, and then wham!
It’s not that original. The sulky angry young man? Brando did it. James Dean did it. Ryan Gosling had a fair whack at it. John Osborn in 1956 staged it. 
SO, did I want to sit up to midnight to unravel the angsts of another angry young man?

And then there were the flashbacks, fairly persistent and disruptive. In truth, I’m not much into flash back. Give me a tale told straight. Linear - my preferred direction. I know it makes the viewer work harder, makes them have to scramble about…and, indeed, the story was so dull it was at least ... a diversion …

Well, to make a sad story short, I headed off to listen to my Pema Chodron tapes instead. A review of them to come on another day.

It's fair to say that I’m a prejudiced biased observer. I don’t need car chases, or swash buckling heroes, though I am partial to both. And, in spite of all the fishing scenes in the early screen shots, I failed to be hooked.

For a positive review read the link below. It did receive Oscars I think?
And I didn't, after all ,watch it to the bitter end.

Thursday 3 August 2017

The Sea Eagle

During the Open Sea Swim Season, as in now, a couple of amateur photographers, to the delight and sometimes dismay of race participants, snap pics and post them on the Leinster Open Sea facebook page. Here's a flavour of what happens....


He scans the ocean waves
His clear eye discerning the perfect frame
The most jaded, the most compromised
Dragging themselves to shore
Where his telescopic vision
Pinions them to his reel.

Sometimes he captures all of us
Waves slowing us down
Bending us
To the centre of his gaze.

Or scouring among spectators, he snaps 
Incipient lovers, indifferent infants,
Shysters who cannot evade his scrutiny.
Scoops to add to his lair;
His facebook eyrie.

And afterwards we are glad.
Glad of this calibrating and combining of elements
That snatch these moments in time
And preserve for us these memories.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2017

Wednesday 2 August 2017

The 10 Worst Habits of Irish Hotel Guests


The 10 Worst Habits of Irish Hotel Guests

1-Chicking Fingers?

How does that go?
"Ansin buachaill!"
Haven't tried that....

2-The Silent Charge?

For soiled sheets?
Torn linen?
General mayhem?
Never went on a Hen...
Sad life...

3-Taking Food from the Breakfast Buffet?

Guilty your honour as charged
Stocking up for elevenses, lunch 
and an unforeseeable future famine....

4-The Very- Hard- to -Please- Guest?

Can't see the sea from here!
Want a room with a view!
And Daniel Day Lewis too!

5-Hanging out in Corridors?

Sex in fire escapes?
Haven't lived yet- clearly.

6-Smoking in Bed?

Nicotine or marijuana?
Compromised airways
Can't even inhale air

7-Scamming for a Freebie?

There's a used condom, injection pen,
Alien (not used) in my room!!!
Never thought of it.....
Does it work?????

9-Professional Complainer?

Firing off on social media?
Or Trip Advisor?
Or blogging?
Enough said...

10-Leaving Embarrassing Items Behind?

Sex toys?
Never alcohol.....

But What About the Prosthetic Leg?

No one saw him leave
And he never returned for it!

A No- Brainer......

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Jimmy's Hall

I'd never heard of Jimmy Gralton. But PIC of the week Times Present in The Irish Times caught my attention. And Ken Loach has made a film about the only Irish man to be deported from his own country- for building a Dance Hall.

The Abbey Players
are taking to the boards
in the fields of Leitrim

To revive the fellow
who told us
not to listen to the Angelus.

In the year of the Eucharistic Congress
Ireland, Nineteen Thirty -Two,
he was hailed as an undesirable alien

Hunted like a deer
Caught and trapped. Deported
on a steamer bound for New York State.

They burnt down his hall.
The left no records.
They wanted no paper trails.