I grew up with two tongues –
for a poet, that’s a bonus.
I knew milk could also be bainne
and quiet could be cuinas.

I love the fact that druid
in Irish means starling, a bird.
But one of my favourites is focal
the Irish word for word.

For it looks like an English word,
focal, ‘of a point of origin’ –
which our words are, forever marking
the place where we begin.

But it doesn’t rhyme with local,
no, we pronounce it ‘phucal‘ –
which sounds like an English expletive,
a little bit near the knuckle.

So, when asked what I’ve written lately,
don’t think me rude or absurd
if I simply smile a cryptic smile
and then say ‘Focal‘ –



Superstition is a sin,
Catholicism said.
(But new shoes on a table
filled my Irish mam with dread.)

No, don’t believe in omens,
or in hexes, or a curse.
(Don’t forget to cross yourself
if you should see a hearse.)

Horoscopes are nonsense –
only God knows what’s in store.
(You can tell a man is coming
if a knife falls to the floor.)

Tea is just for drinking now,
don’t try to read the leaves.
(Folded sheets foretell a death
if there’s a diamond crease.)

Never play with Ouija boards,
not even for a lark.
(Never open up your door
if a knock’s heard after dark.)

This is the only life we’ll have –
of that, the church is sure.
(My mam told me the midwife said
that I’d been here before.)

No, we’re not superstitious –
we haven’t been for years.
(Though everybody knows that it’s
your first child gets your fears.)