This week Trasna is pleased to feature Irish poet, Frank Farrelly, who is based in Waterford city. Frank’s poems here are from his first full collection, The Boiler Room, and reflect on childhood, place and a growing towards an understanding of the complexities of life and living. The poem, Against the Clock, brings us to our current situation, living through the COVID pandemic, and here Farrelly brings a mature understanding of the qualities that might help us to bear and to “cheat this crimping of our time”.
for my parents
Uprooted once again, this time south, you leave
your home, your friends, drive for hours through
lonely hills, darkened towns, your two-week child
close-swaddlead in the maw of winter.
When you arrive you flop down fully-clothed, sleep
like astronauts until the planet turns its cheek
and you awake, draw back the curtain to reveal
a swatch of sea beneath a periwinkle-sky
cloud-ribbed, unfolding like a masterpiece,
a trawler, beleaguered by a fuss of gulls.
You watch the tide wipe clean the slate of sand,
all print of passing life, and all you miss seems gathered too
and washed away. You push the window wide,
admit the salty air—its heady promise.
Oranges (circa 1974)
My parents sent me oranges and home-made bread.
Others received Weetabix, Rice Krispies, jars of Nescafe.
It made me stand out, a kind of charity-case,
though friends said nothing to offend
—they loved the bread, especially with marmalade.
I’d hide the oranges inside my locker, out of view,
it was cool to stink of cigarettes or chewing gum
but oranges, oranges were in the league of buttoned cuffs
and polished shoes and homework always done.
Sunday afternoons that made you feel the world was dead
and you were left behind, I’d take one to the lake and sit
beneath the willow tree and cut it with my army-knife
and peel it cleanly from the skin and eat it like a secret
swallowed whole, then wash the odour from my hands
– though bouquets lingered on..
I remember Haydar from the Lebanon who never had a visitor,
whiled away his Sundays on the tennis-court practising his serve,
and once, going to the refectory, stopped me on the steps
and said how much he loved the way I smelled, then smiled,
closed his eyes and slowly opened them again,
as if he had been asked to picture somewhere beautiful.
Although he slapped me with his breviary
for swearing in the yard and interrupted
Sunday Mass to beat a boy for sleeping in the pew
—then turned to consecrate the host,
there was the time he played the Overture
the day we finished Lear— sat like penitents
in our desks until he raised the needle
and we left the room, and afterwards for weeks
stretched long as prisoners on the rack, I heard
the peal of bells and cannon rip the Marseillaise
and wild excitement stood up every hair
and I forgot all drudgery and woe,
and in my blood the drum of marching feet
—my heavy heart retreating in the snow.
Against The Clock
We are living in the clock of the Corona.
Its ticking is the rhythm of our lives.
It decides when we wake, sleep,
what we think about the world.
It drives us together, pulls us apart,
leaves its daily calling-card:
infections, deaths, totalled
till the number is forgettable
—though weighs as heavily.
Yet keeping caution as our talisman
we can cheat this crimping of our time,
peer through the eye of nature
with the needle of our senses,
embroider its magnificence to our hearts,
allow a single thought the amplitude
to bud and blossom like a shining fruit,
be means and end unto itself,
feel how a life intensifies
at thought of losing it,
how loss of what we felt we couldn’t live without
and kindness counts,
above all else.
Frank Farrelly is from Waterford. His poems have appeared in The SHOp, Poetry Ireland Review, The Moth, Stinging Fly, The Honest Ulsterman, Crannog, and other magazines. He won the inaugural Rush Poetry Prize, was runner-up in the Fish Poetry Prize, The Doolin Prize, Poets Meet Politics, and North West Words. He was shortlisted for the Writing Spirit Award, Cuirt New Writing, The Trim Poetry Prize, and Highly Commended in The Blue Nib Chapbook Contest 6. His first chapbook, Close to Home, was published in 2017, with the help of a Literary Bursary from Waterford Arts Office. He was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2019. The Boiler Room (Revival Press) is his first full collection, available through Limerick Writers’ Centre / Revival Press. Twitter: @giftforhope3