John Liddy – Travelogue

Liddy LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

Travelogue, poems by John Liddy.

These new poems are for a Travelogue in collaboration with Jim Burke.


In spite of the load on our backs
and our envy of those Germans
with their leather pannier bags

We were propelled to fulfil
the day’s quota of miles, to reach
our port of call before nightfall

And set up camp on a spare bit
of ground outside a village,
trace the flames moonlit

Detail, fodder for the eye
on the road here; a flickering
slide show to transmogrify

The journey so far, both aware
we might never know freedom
like this again, the last of the fire

Doused, darkness closing in,
tomorrow’s stage ahead, each
to our own shared destination.

Inside the barren rock

From a precise angle in a particular light
At a certain time of day, we saw seven
White horses ride out of the cave, set
Into the rockface, and to our delight

We made camp in a strange field
Soft as eiderdown, denuded of stone
By generations of hands, to make of it
A grassy bed for something healed.

And at the foot of a slope was a lake
Surrounded by rushes, a fortress
For swans and mallards who dallied
At the mouth of a stream that snaked

Down to the sea which we followed
And swam in as if it might suddenly
Disappear, retreat as an illusion,
Return to where all is swallowed

Up by hatred festered since partition,
To wonder in this idyll how many flaps
Of a blackbird’s wing it takes to survey
The work of a boundary commission

Its wings splattered by innocent blood,
A Bogside Massacre in its crazed eyes,
To contemplate such savagery in ‘72
Was to weep for the creviced orchid

Bed down with a guilty heartbeat
Bin-banging throughout the night,
To wake into peace and silence,
Our journey to complete.


There were times of despondency
when the bicycle chain snapped
from too much strain or the wind
caused havoc with our odyssey.

Moments when the writing lark
seemed like too much hard work,
bereft of inspiration, nothing
by way of a sign in the pitch-dark

To sustain the link with the pen
in spite of spectacular scenery
tormented by a raging storm,
lake water lashing the moorhen

Our tent about to take flight
for one of the twelve Bens,
until a rainbow conjured itself
and through its Arclight

We passed, sailing the highroad
in search of our crock of words,
a futile pursuit worth the effort
for what the slant bestowed.

Either way

Is it up or down hill we go?
No stopping the loss of air with age,
time oxidising the frame’s mechanism
that once moved on fulsome tyres,
sleek and slender like a thoroughbred,
eating up the summer road on wheels
pedalled as though we had four legs
and four hearts, masters of the saddle,
sure of our grip on the handlebars.

With my two and one I now get by,
still powered by the spokes in my head,
the memory-chain intact and the ability
to feel my way in the dark a blessing;
the mind working on tightened valves
despite the frame’s malfunctioning.
And I know, to conquer the hill
is to admire the view, delight in
and celebrate its descent.

© John Liddy

John Liddy is from Limerick, Ireland and lives in Madrid, Spain, where he worked as a teacher/librarian. He has many collections published and his latest poetry book is Arias of Consolation, Revival Press (2022). He is the founding editor, along with Jim Burke, of The Stony Thursday Book (1975-), one of Ireland’s longest running literary reviews and is on the Advisory Board of The Hong Kong Review. Soon to be published Spanish Points, a bilingual anthology of his Spanish-related poems.

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