If I think of a poem
as I take the next step
on the stairs of my home,
I will fall to my death

and you’ll never have known
that I loved you the best,
because I lost that poem
when I missed the next step.

Photo: Traditional eve of Mayday bouquet on doorstep

Unquiet Flows the Tolka

Bridge of Tolka, Drumcondra Park, spelter baluster, pewter spate. Spectre of Swan’s liturgy, philtre of Stac’s refrain, and peroxide Ida, acid exchange student, your college green a prairie to our Botanics. You sexed me with a buttercup, highly, and yogi-sat akimbo. Oh Ida, we shoulda. I’da!

Where are you now, Obama bounden, marked for McCain, bankrupt in Ohio, divorced in Union City? Do men put their words into your mouth in Idaho? Are you a mother of succour or did you die purple-hearted by the tracks in Maine?

I’ll seek you high and low in Isle au Haut, I’ll trade Manhattan for rosary beads and pray for an apparition, I’ll drop into every dive from Atlantic City to shining Zee, and go over Niagara in a glass-bottomed boat, looking for my Tolka naiad.

But should all peroxide Idas look the same, I’ll find out what Martinis are and drink them dry, I’ll down firewater without reservation in the Indian nations, I’ll find a night door and wait for you there as longing, unquiet as the Tolka flows.


Photo: The Tolka river viewed from the bridge at Drumcondra

Dear Foot

Dear foot, you are as much a part of me as this thought.
I see our veins the doctor said were not of concern “at this stage”.
I’m sorry for thinking you were ugly, now I need you, you are lovely.
Don’t think of socks as hoods for kidnapped hostages kept in the dark
In a humid, sweltering basement,
Think of them as robes of armour and invisibility
So you can go everywhere without being seen.
And now forgive me, I have to talk to Righty.

Photo: This text as I typed it into my notes on my phone the other morning. It came to me while getting dressed. You can argue that this is not a poem but do I care? (Screenshot from Evernote)

Who do you think you are?

Mother Superior’s no paragon
Francis is not the Pope’s real name
The arch bishop with his dry wit
Doesn’t impress me one little bit

Mother Theresa is not my mother
Father Harney means nothing to me
Brother Benildus is not my brother
Believe it or not, I have a family.

Sketch for a cartoon, clerical figures “not my father/mother/sister/brother”

Postcard from Venice

On a vaporetto back from the island,
turbulent wake of Murano jade
splashes about us out in the stern.

The sun is chasing platinum facets
from the lagoon to molten confiserie.
We roll with the swell, then into dock.

Children awestruck, the engine reversing
churns the canal like a waterspout
and our vessel wallows by the wharf.

Where we go there’s not much shade
but water trickles always from a tap
to the pavement, for us and for the birds.

Photo: Venice lagoon in bright sunlight with view of a small cargo boat, its boatman in the stern. In the background is the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. I took this photo while on the journey referred to in the above poem, returning from Murano to Venice. (2001)


Years fly by and you get to an age
when they give you a pension.
Then in no time at all, you get to an age
when they give you a funeral.

And they carry you out of the house
past your last joke, so typical,
a sign that says Dunbotherin.
I wonder who will say, ‘Well he is now.’

Photo: Union Station clock number 570, window of architectural salvage shop

On the Island of Me and You

On the island of me and you, there are no worries.
It’s only cold enough to make us keep warm.
I get up early, you have a lie-in, the dishes are done
When you appear and I go for a walk along the shore.

On the island of you and me, we’re always online.
Hundreds of friends in your mind, a few in mine,
So I listen to yours, playing ukes, reliving youths,
And never tire of your old friends, who loved you.

I can see the island of you from the island of me,
And I’m going to swim over.

Photo: With Tess on Inchydoney Beach, Cork, Ireland. Photo by Craig Moran.

Maid of Light

Maid of Light by S.J. Moran

I washed my face in the mud of faith
that turned into a holy spring
ever effervescing from pebbles
made of light made of light

and I saw the Maid of Light
who was made of light,
heard a voice tell
secrets from the secret well

and her secrets fell into me,
into the secret well within,
into the water made of light
and one of her secrets this:

there are no secrets in me
and the well is all there is,
the silvery water made of light
made of light.

Photo: Sunburst over St. Bernadette’s grotto, Lourdes. Foreground: the river Gave du Pau with a footbridge in the distance. Background: the Basilica. Visitors and crowds can just about be discerned, silhouetted.

Honey, I Shrunk Myself

In bed, alone, hand to forehead
shrunken by weariness, fingers
spread but little, like on a pear
and smaller, till I am a mouse
perhaps. Tiny nostrils flare.
Settling jaw onto paw, nestling
the fragile, ever lighter skull,
an empty shell in the open air.

If ever you see one you know
shrink inexplicably, in want
of something, on the edge of need,
like a baby about to cry, go –
turn into children, run away,
invent new words and paint the sky.

Photo: SJ Moran outside the Guinness Storehouse, St James’s Gate, Dublin

Some Lines of Late

Don’t do anything

Don’t do anything, don’t go anywhere,
don’t say anything, the water whispered,
and nothing will happen, you’ll be safe,
don’t rock the boat. The water in spate
then roared, keep still, you’re too small,
lie down and surrender to the waterfall.

People are like atoms

People are like atoms in molecules
bound tightly with other atomic people
as elements or compounds, stable/unstable,
in tension with the heat of passion,
volatile reagents, heavy waves of opinion,
wicked catalysts in the rolling news.
I’d go to mass only I haven’t got the energy.

The fearless old lady of Wood End Road

It’s raining but she walks with a stick,
its ferrule worn to thirty-three degrees.
Her feet are tiny but aright, her smile ready
to reply a morning to my good morning.
White hair under beret. Not tall.
I saw her walk with ski poles when it snowed,
the fearless old lady of Wood End Road.

I am a time traveller

I am a time traveller, same as you.
I travelled here from the nineteen-fifties
and I hope soon to visit twenty-twenty-two
and further into the future as well.
It’s always lovely, entrancing to see
old ones when they’re young, to meet
other time travellers in their home places
but heartsore to hear them wail.

Baby blue sky

Baby blue sky of November,
a touch of jaundice around your nape.
Nibs full of microscopic people
are drawing white lines on your face.

There are people walking behind me

There are people walking behind me,
I hear their steps and distant voices.
Will they see me looking here and there
At a willow or a birch, elm or linden,
A tree fern in a pretty garden? I wish
They would turn away somewhere
Because they make me feel uneasy,
Yet I laugh to imagine them saying
There’s a man who knows his trees.
I know nothing. Leave me in peace.

Photo: The Thames at Deptford, 25 Nov 2021

SJ Bradley Author

Author, short story writer, arts project management

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