Gwrageddy Annwn

pond 2

Green pond scum her skinsalve

Lakespit the spittle on her lips

Clinging grasping fronds her hair

Brown and sharp her greenteeth for crunching scaly fish

Webby her hands and feet on lakebed ooze

Powler patience her secret weapon

To catch our childish happiness unawares her plan

Tragedy her satisfaction

She is a grasping accident

She is a small white box

She is the photo that never grows old

She is a mother’s ruin

She is a broken family.


Martin Swords

June 2018

31c   summer water safety




The Holy Holocaust of Ireland, of Peter, James and John



Peter’s growing in his mother. 
She doesn’t know she’s pregnant.

James is in the leering look of George.
Uncle George thinking of young Molly.

John is in Pass Maths.
In the womb of a young girl doing the Leaving.


Peter’s in the sacristy.
The priest is shouting shame at his mother.

James is in Molly’s big belly.
They’re in the kitchen saying the family Rosary, waiting for the car.

 John is nearly born.
His mother failed the Leaving with the upset.
Don’t mention that shame either.


Peter’s in his mother’s arms.
They’re looking from the gate up to the grey stone Home.

James and Molly, in Uncle George’s car.
Heading for the nuns, somewhere far away where no one knows Molly.
Or George.

John is with his Granny.
In a parlour. In a convent. Under The Sacred Heart.
Waiting for a holy nun to take him.
Granddad’s in the car outside.  Listening to the hurling.
It’s Sunday


 Peter’s in tears.
In his wet nappy. In his metal cot. Near the window.
His next cot companion, beside the window, is in a fit of coughing.

James is in the basket.
On the weighing scales, his weight OK, just.
He’s in his mammy’s thoughts and prayers. Always.

 John is on the nun’s list.
There are lots of names on the nun’s list but John’s name is near the top.


Peter’s in a coma.
Beside the window now, he hasn’t woken. For days.

James is in a blue blanket, all wrapped up.
His mammy thought she’d still be holding him. But she’s not.
She’s upstairs at the long window screaming his name,
crying hysterically.
He’s in the Ford Anglia.  Soon he’ll be in Ranelagh.

John is in Milwaukie.
He’s warm, and fed, and sleeping.
In a house his Mother could never dream of, or would ever know.  Ever.
His mother is in bits.


Peter’s mammy’s in a bad way.
Manchester, in a squat. Red Biddy in each hand. Not long now.
She’ll never hear or read about the Angel’s plot, the big tank,the eight hundred.
Just as well.

James’s mammy’s in the convent still.
Scrubbing, serving, broken.
She likes the new glass window of the holy children in the chapel .
Sister Myra Anasthasia put it in with money from America, they said.
She likes the light, but she can’t see through it.
She feels attracted to it, she doesn’t know why.

John’s mammy’s in New Jersey.
Older now. Looking. Always looking.
At home they found a certificate where a baby’s name was changed.
‘Maybe this is it, maybe this one’, she thought.
John is a doctor in Denver now. He knows nothing.


The  Holy Holocaust.
The Holy Holocaust of Ireland, of Peter, James and John.
And their mammies.
No daddies.

                                                                                                                                                      Martin Swords
June 2018


‘Kathleen’s Child’






In The Days Before


I’m sorry I’ll read that again.

I’m sorry I’ll read that again.


In a warm cave of scratchy blanket in the alcove bed.

Turning the dial as the valves warm up.

Athlone. Hilversum? Where is that?

Luxembourg if lucky for Rock ‘N Roll.

AFN depending on the weather for talk and music.

Moscow? Never got there.

Hopeful, watching the green light fade and grow strong.

Someone speaking in static somewhere in Europe.

BBC best, LW, Radio 3 and 4.

Listening and laughing so as not to be heard, lucky to

Happen on I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again.

Great wits and half-wits from Cambridge Footlights.

It’s a long way from Glasthule to Cambridge, not only in miles.

Intelligent zany comedy, why can’t I think and write like that?

How many listen in Ireland? In Glasthule?

I did. I tell no one.



Martin Swords       April 2018

Inspired after listening to Van Morrison’s and Paul Durcan’s great song

‘In The Days Before Rock and Roll’

Making Bread




Much that might be said

Remains unspoken

Soft words are hard to swallow

Man to man

Son to father, father to son

Yet in the slap and fold, stretching, shaping,

Much is learned, much is proved.

A lesson given, confirmation. 

Without words, none needed.

The love is in the bread.


Martin Swords

Sat. Jan 6th 2018

A Galway Morning in Kiltullagh




This is a Galway morning

Not dry, really, not raining, actually

A cloud has laid down to rest on

The endless grass and walled fields

A wedge of swans fly over, honking

Flapping strongly through the thick air

A murmuration of starlings,

Murmur at the crows

A murder of crows call back threateningly

And every grey sullen stone that was ever lifted

In a hard won stubborn Galway field

Is still in every grey stone wall around

This is a wild tribal stubborn Galway

Swan. Starling. Crow and Stone

All say in their special way “Fáilte,

Fáilte go Gaillimh”


Martin Swords

Brusk, Kiltullagh

January 22nd 2017   


All Over Ireland



The lights are going out

In cottages all over Ireland

For the Old man, the Widow, and the Dog

Children flown, if not Canada, Perth, or London,

Then a one-bed in dockland Dublin.

Their future not in white walled houses

Scuttery pens and mucky yards.

Only Him, and Her, in dim lights,

Soon they will go out.


The lights are going out

In villages all over Ireland,

The old and feeble not meeting anyone.

Post office, bank, police station, pub,

Once friendly useful talking shops, now quiet.

Now gone online,  if you had a line.

Or could see the phone in the half-dark,

In the cottage where the lights are going out.

To be followed soon by Him and Her.


Martin Swords              January 2017




Snowdonia From Ballymacrow Hill


Snowdonia From Ballymacrow Hill


Driving down to Ashford from Tiglin

And there it was clear as day across the sea

Snowdon and the Welsh Mountains

Sharp, near, like I could touch them, or walk them.

Where was it yesterday when I drove this way,

or all the other days, since last I saw these hills, last year

If I had paid attention all those years in class

I might now have the scientific explanation,

And tell you more of inversion, refraction,

High pressure and good seeing, but I was dreaming then

Of far off lands and olden days

Now when I see those Cymric hills I don’t ask why

But thrill to see their pale grey blue again and know

They are Faerie Hills floating on a Faerie Sea

A Faerie vista hanging in a Faerie sky


Martin Swords

Wicklow Writers

September 2016

Tá Sé ?


That you Jem?


Eh…..Tá Sé

Tá Sé?…….no that’s wrong……Tá Mé surely

No……Tá Sé……that’s what they said…….big letters….

Tá Sé….on the front like….with all the pitcheurs….

of the Guinness y’know….an’ the two cans…

Ah c’mere two can play at that game….I think you’re

mad with your Tá Sé’s an’ your Tá Mé’s an’ your two cans

Well Tá Sé or Tá Mé…..I’ve had enough………get me down off

this ladder…..even tho’ I’m only painted on the wall……

I’d be better off if I was plastered……

Tá Mé ag Thirsty Mór….an Digeann Tú……..

Oh I Digeann Tú all right…….c’mere…… carefull steppin’ down…

…there’s paint everywhere….sure I feel only a dull matt meself……

….desperate thirsty work this paintin’……..

….two pints there Malachy… good man….Led Do Hull!


Martin Swords    Wicklow Writers   Sept 2016