Tuesday 30 October 2018

The Haul

A Surprise Catch

He thought it was the devil himself.

The drag on their nets caught their breaths
Seconds of sand sifting in their heads
Possibilities surfacing, ebbing, drowning.

They exchanged explanations, mumblings-

Each doubtful of the other’s and their own.
A piece of dead tree they concurred
And turned their shoulders to the task.

But the drag widened and lightened

And the tree theory baulked
And like bat wings extended four metres wide
Black tipped volcanoes puncturing the calm.

He staggered back thinking of devil’s horns,

But his mate, recalling jaw bones recovered
four years earlier, moved closer...
It took the strength of both of them

To lift the giant elk antlers from the lough floor.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018


Thursday 25 October 2018

Getting Unstuck


Going through a fallow period so here is a website that might prompt me to write!

A Traditional Christmas Tale


   Christmas started earlier every year and this year was no exception. Even before the Halloween ghouls and vampires had vacated every shop window and pub on the Main Street the rotund, familiar figure of Saint Nicolas had already made an appearance in various corner counters, nooks and crannies in all of the bigger department stores. There he sat patiently waiting for the last fireworks display to hiss and splutter and finally burn out. Maura’s heart sank at the sight of him.
   It hadn’t always been like this. Santa in her childhood had been an elusive figure. Stories about him circulated for weeks before the big day arrived. The town was not humming, as it was now- the second weekend in November, with the prospect of his imminent arrival at the Square. Next week other Santas would no doubt set up camp in the centre of every shopping mall for miles. Where was the mystery in that?
   Maura had been saving a bit from her pension for months now. She looked at the savings jar and thought that the time had come to start counting. She made a list of all her expected purchases, allowed for some unexpected items, and still the figures in the two columns didn’t quite match. There were ten grandchildren to accommodate. And. while they didn’t expect a big present, she always made sure that each and every one of them would not be disappointed.
   She had been researching the subject of Christmas presents for weeks now. At every visit from her grandchildren she solicited information from them. “What’s Santa bringing you this year? What’s Santa not bringing you? Where would you buy that now?”
   Online was often the answer, but Maura had not yet mastered the art of the internet.
   In her childhood the experience of writing a list to Santa involved an actual trip, not an imaginary or virtual one. She would set off early with her two brothers and sisters each with the task of selecting the one item that they would really like from Santa. They walked all the way to town, wrapped up warm in their winter coats and hats. Brady’s hardware shop was their destination, and they would climb Brady’s Sixteen Steps to Toyland with trepidation. For just three weeks every December Brady’s first floor would be transformed from a storeroom, where Mike Brady kept his surplus stock, into a veritable Christmas Wonderland.
   Tinsel would decorate every rail on that wooden staircase. The smell of spruce would assail the nostrils, even before you were half way up the flight of steps. On arrival they would gaze with wonder at the shelves neatly stocked with games, jigsaws and puzzles, wooden marble runs and porcelain faced dolls that went on exhibition only once a year. Teddy-bears, covered in lifelike coats of fur, arranged themselves in picnic clusters. Lights winked and wonder grew as you stumbled, mesmerised, from one aisle to the other. The magic pervaded everything. The smell of cinnamon studded oranges and mint chocolate made the mouth water.
   Their mother would remind them that Santa had a lot of children to cater to. And somehow they knew that Santa’s budget would not stretch to the complete wooden doll’s house replete with handcrafted furniture, or the train set that was moved by a mysterious force along the right wing of Brady’s Wonderland.
   When they arrived home they would compose and decorate a carefully worded letter to the somewhat intimidating figure of Santa. Supervised by their mother, the letters would then be sent up the chimney. Only little Joey, their youngest, ever asked how Santa could read them, if they were burnt? But Mother assured him that Santa’s birds were waiting at the chimney top to whisk these precious missives off to the North Pole, where everybody knew Santa stayed put until Christmas Eve. Mum’s explanation was usually followed by a dash to the window in the hope of a sighting of the Christmas robins, followed by a declaration that they were invisible anyway. Paddy, who was nine and knew what was what, declared that Mum’s theory was stuff and nonsense, and that the truth was that Santa could read smoke signals all the way from the North Pole.
Only last week Maura’s eldest grandchild, Molly, had sent an email to Santa.
   “And will he reply?” Maura asked.
   “Instantly” was the assured response.
   Ben, aged six, had already received a letter from the great man and didn’t even remember writing to him.  Where was the mystery any more? Maura just hoped that their parents were up to date on their children’s wish list shopping baskets.
   For old time’s sake she decided to set off with her list to Brady’s Toyland.  She hopped on the bus at her local corner shop and was standing in front of the hardware shop in minutes. Maura was disappointed that the door, which used to tinkle like a bell when you entered it, had been replaced by an automatic glass panel that whizzed open  every time anyone stepped near it. Crossing the threshold Maura was doubly surprised to find herself already in Wonderland.
   The main aisles were choker block full of Christmas fare. She missed the anticipation of the long climb up the sixteen steps that had now been removed altogether. There were too many smells, pine clashed with lemongrass. The noise was deafening. Instead of soft background carol singing, loud tuneless voices blared out from high quality speakers.
   “Can I help you?” a voice broke into her unhappy musings.
   “I really don’t think so,” was Maura’s reply. “It’s changed. The shop, I mean. It used to be different. The Sixteen Steps to Wonderland. They’re gone!”
  “Yes, you can take the lift now, Madam. It’s at the back of the shop.”
  “You mean this isn’t it. There’s more of this?” and Maura waved her arm around the overstocked, glittering, garish aisles.
  “Yes, much more. Would you like me to show you?”
  “No. I think I’ve seen enough. Thanks all the same.”
   Maura moved towards the glass doors that opened automatically; these sliding panels were the only mystery she had experienced that day.
    She climbed off the bus and found her eyes drawn to the marble run displayed in the window of her local corner shop. Jimmy Toner stood behind the counter, as usual, administering information on the weather, the state of the nation and any local piece of news that had come in to him in the past hour.
   “How much is the marble run, Jimmy?”
   “Twenty euro, Maura. But there’s lots of other stuff in the back.”
   It wasn’t a sixteen step climb to the back of Toner’s Shop but each step brought her closer to the kind of toys she remembered as a child. Cut up cardboard dolls, giant magnets, kites and spinning tops. Half an hour later Maura stumbled out of Wonderland with a heavy bag, and the weather forecast as well.
   When Christmas morning came her grandchildren whooped with delight as they unwrapped the brown paper parcels wrapped up with string.
   “Where do you find this stuff?” asked her sons and daughters. “Haven’t seen one of these in years!” It was her own children whose eyes lingered longest over the cut out dolls and spinning top.
   “I think Gran’s been to the North Pole!” declared Molly.
   “Did you meet Santa?” asked Ben.
   “Can I come with you next year?” asked her eldest daughter.

    “I’ll have to think about that,” replied Maura in a tone that could only be described as mysterious.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018

Friday 5 October 2018


Attended a lecture on Paul Gauguin at the National Gallery; From Britanny to Tahiti.
Exhibition on Roderic O'Conor and the Modernists runs until end of October.

From There to Here

This revisioning of Gauguin
is not kind
But he still holds
Centre stage
Not for his artist
Or his South Sea canvases
Or his salmon journey
to Peru
His pointed ears
Elongated chin
Wide cheek bones
Not for his derision
of civilisation
Or his Yellow Christ
Or his Noa Noa

But for his mimicry
His stagecraft
His Bill Cody hair
His Chinese takeaways
His ham acting-
That woodcutting incident-
His escape from Modernity
and deference to it
His self aggrandisement
Self advertisement
His deconstructed
of himself

He could have run
for President here.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018

Thursday 4 October 2018

Falling Leaves Time

Falling Leaves Time

Disillusionment is a thickness
in the air
and in the throat
a closing up like a clam shell
a hedgehog turning in for winter
a self reflective bubble
feet touching mouth in a perfect O.

All myths and legends have their Tartarus
their underworld journey
through darkness to rebirth 
and regeneration.
Red Indians call it 
Falling Leaves Time.

In Newgrange we squatted in darkness 
and waited for a shaft of light
that would herald the promise 
of a new dawn.

So for now I will hold my feet
in my mouth and wait
for the coming of Solstice...

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 3 October 2018


The Autumn Salon

Today the tree is flush
with bronze and ochre highlights 
and ringlets of clustered red berries
Its roots are still green
And its need for a new tint and colour apparent

And though I will daily sweep 
and gather its shorn clippings
for reconstruction as mulch
or fertiliser or compost extensions

Sometime between now and Winter’s end
I will stop noticing
And the sight of its shaven pate in January
will startle me, and beg the question:
When did that happen?

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Poetry Challenge

The Obheal challenge this week is to make a poem with:


My attempt below...I'm sure you can do better....


Did snakes really lick her ears
Roiling her spirit
Launching her on parallel wavelengths
where the future was already lost
where she will wander forever odd
with no-one ever believing her?

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2018