Download PDF Here 13th Anniversary
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two December 2022.
Press Photographs, poems by Michael Farry.
They all remember the one of me in Saigon
February sixty eight, walking head down towards the airport
while the police chief executes the guerrilla
and still ask me why I didn’t show more interest.
I deny it’s a uniform, insist I was a tourist
caught up in the offensive, rushing to get out of hell.
They believe me, or say they do.
A few remember the one in Comber, County Down,
November seventy eight, outside the Peacock Room
rushing through approaching diners towards the main road
wrapped in topcoat, gloves and hat.
I tell them I was an innocent, unaware of depths to come,
had just enjoyed a steak on a chilly northern afternoon.
They look at me again, say nothing.
But no-one remembers the one on the holiday pages,
summer eighty two, with her, strolling by a still lake
somewhere in the west, heads bowed in earnest conversation
the sun setting behind a darkening horizon.
In truth I almost forget that day myself, the heat,
the overflowing bins, the fuchsia on the lane.
They think they know me, don’t they.
“I had a dream recently. I was begging in the street.
When I awoke I cried and cried.”
Andrei Tarkovsky – Sacrifice, (1986)
The apocalypse begins on the public street.
The spooked public rushing by ignore my lines,
my trimmed beard, my varifocal sunglasses.
but stare at the yellow stain on my shirt front,
my crooked tie, clumsy knot, undone zips.
The questions I ask are far too difficult.
What do I know about economic recovery,
neoliberalism or the standard of service
in the best restaurants in the capital city?
The directions I’m asked for are always
to a part of the city I’m unfamiliar with,
financial, shopping or red light districts.
Beggars I encounter seem genuine, have
what I regard as an honest look in their eyes,
the misspelling on their pleading placards
a signifier of their deserving honesty
but the coins I put in their coffee cups
never seem enough and notes an extravagance
so that even my giving makes me unhappy.
The ambulance sirens make me feel my age,
my weak heart, vertigo, inherited darkness
so I give up on reaching sanctuary, instead
look for a final resting place, a cobbled street
where the blinds are down to show respect
for all who died, are dying, are about to die,
who cared nothing for balance sheet, lived
for life alone, daily drudge of love and care,
hope and promise. That much I owe them.
It may of course be another false alarm.
Saint Michael and the Dragon –
Lady Lever Gallery
Spanish artist, 15th century, oil on panel
Shining in silver leaf at the side of the Catalonian
altar panel my neat wings, gold breast-plate
crusader shield and sword reassured the faithful
fearful about their south, their future successes
foretold by the dragon’s dimmed flames, helpless
wings and those three heads trampled underfoot.
Styles changed. I was too primitive but determined
not to waste, they cut me down to fit a doorway,
added hinges and three strong locks, hung me
to safeguard with clipped wings and blunted sword
their treasury, those shelves of precious vessels,
rich embroidered vestments, massing stuff.
When metal took over I was redundant, reduced
to an object of admiration, sold to businessmen,
part-time collectors hankering after the simple faith
they helped destroy. Here I am now, resplendent,
recovered, cleansed of the accretions of centuries,
the weight of veneration, expectation, hanging
happy here with magician, laureate, scapegoat.
© Michael Farry
Michael Farry’s latest poetry collection, Troubles (2020), is published by Revival Press, Limerick. Previous collections were Asking for Directions (Doghouse Books, 2012) and The Age of Glass (Revival, 2017). His poetry has been widely published in Ireland and abroad. He has also written and published widely on the history of the Irish war of independence and civil war. A retired primary teacher, he lives in Trim, Co Meath, Ireland.