Ted Mc Carthy

I live and teach in Clones, Ireland. My work has appeared in publications and anthologies in Ireland, UK, Europe and the U.S. I have had one collection, 'November Wedding' published; the follow-up ‘Beverly Downs’, is due out next year. I am currently working on a number of scripts for short films.


As the fire dies we dream of summer,
wrap it round us as our life unfolds.
Over time I've edged into a corner,
a sinew in my side forever cold,
and pass an hour in thoughts of what might be
without the burden of philosophy.

And when I stand up, stiff and out of sorts,
it's always with a sharp bewilderment
at how the world has shrunk, how mild and short
the summers are, how feeble our intent
when wind veers north and rain invades old joints.
I try to hide from damp and peeling paint

much as my life has been such vain evasion;
my Horace has been boxed up and replaced
by a row of barely looked-at meditations;
still they look good, a new and shiny face
to the passer-by who glances in the window
on a rare day when the parlour's not in shadow.

A tedious business this, of new beginnings,
especially when the hour grows late and heat
is at a premium; sinned against in sinning,
self-injurious, singing with a bleat
of pity in the throat - you chalk it up
to a shitty day, the kind that made you sup,

the kind you had to laugh at out of fear
at what might follow. But those days are gone,
the end of them at any rate: the tear
that falls is salt and water now; no gin
or cider drop pollutes the purity
of pain, the ego's steel integrity.

It's almost over now, day, dream, ambition;
I've left them with a strange, exhausted joy.
All that remains is to set foot in Florence,
to feast the senses on what fires that boy
I barely recognise: his memory
deserves at least a sunset among beauty.

What's to Happen

I know the separate pain of what's to happen;
your sisters' houses waiting for the phone
to ring; how, these many nights you dream,
your eyelids on the very rim of opening;
your mother in her drifting; how my own
mother, when all was over, seemed
to have stepped wholly into a silence
whence she came. And there was a kindness
in her absence, a knowledge of hope
as dwelling only in a battered world.
Soon your time will come to know this; to hold
for holding's sake, as you do with children
when the pain between you makes you one
and nothing to be said, or heard, or hidden.


"For example, he discovered that one old lady,
who had spent the fifty years of her incarceration
on the Burgholzli making stitching movements
as if she was sewing shoes, had been jilted
by her lover just before she became ill:
as Jung was able to discover, he was a cobbler."

Jung: Anthony Stevens

The shoe will not keep away the world
any more than the parting
air is sewn by the retreating stream
which is her sole succour
from that day's taste which has never left her;
her weaving is a vain spitting out.
Although she knows the watching face is kind,
the rhythmic, soothing face is a babble of the dead.

Suddenly sun floods the room with sense,
her hand stilled above her head,
dust and insects dance unconducted
and in this heartbreaking
ravelling, every other afternoon
those fifty years past, floats like honey
or the pained, remembered small of leather,
time reasserted in its own annihilation.

The gesture is a gesture again,
the arm tired, the muscle sore
with a freshness that holds every ache
not yet experienced
and because to come, ever negated.
She is back in the safe, work-lit womb
of the cobbler's shop, warm with promises
and the dizzy, assuring freedom of betrothal.

It passes. Light is a reprieve,
her hands begin the long swim
into grace, into muddied meaning.
Winter falls, but gently,
the small glitter in her eyes is the last
mirroring of that short, shadowed life;
if she lives, she will walk among the buds,
her arms breaking the mimed silence of wall and still shrub.


There is something terrifying
in watching the still-young mind flying
into oblivion, while the body
maintains its course; steady,

functioning in every obvious
way, but absorbed in some mysterious
world which shadows ours, then bursts
through, drawing down a curse

which lingers after explanation.
Something of primal superstition
attends on each heart-rending flight
into that place from which they might

never return; then all twists, so
that it’s we who are the shadows
meeting flesh in Purgatory,
hearing that stranger tell his story.


Copyright © 2010 Ted Mc Carthy