John McKeown

Long-Term Relationships

They break you down

then sweep you into the corner.

Then they dominate the ring

and dare you to come out

fists flailing.

If you do they forgive you

through the tears

and give you one last chance.

You take it with bad grace

grudgingly catching the light

that glints from their good side

through your half bruise-closed eyes.

Though really, everything is dark.

The Spirit of Dublin

A local drunk,

a twitchy, aged,

little deflated old ball,

muttering to himself.

But he drank that Guinness

so reverential,

like he was kissing

some ancient beloved.

For those seconds

he was fluid, inspiring as music.

Then half-way down

the landlord comes,

tone-deaf to all the shades

of the heart,

takes his pint,

gives him his coins back,

and throws him out

An Irish Funeral

Look at all the people

you didn’t know who cared,

hanging round the churchyard

for you to slide into the hearse.

Noisy shiftless bastards! – What?

they only want the day off work?

Death’s made you so cynical –

but you forgot the whiskey at the wake.

Seriously, isn’t it grand this show

of solidarity with your family’s loss?...

Yes, it is hard to credit so many grinning


who happen to give a toss.

John McKeown © 2008