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…..my good man….Led Do Hull!


Martin Swords    Wicklow Writers   Sept 2016



The Cat’s Ramble To The Slack


The Cat’s Ramble to the Slack


It’s that Birdy O’Brien wan

Her an’ her cats an’ they wanderin’

everywhere on their rambles

An’ leavin’ their doin’s for others to deal with

I’ll run them. I’ll give them slack an’ I can tell yeh.


That we should now remember.

Mae, least educated, least likely to say anything worth remembering.

Pride was it, thinking we had all the words, all the wise sayings.

It took us a lifetime of learning to know that everyone

has something worth saying, worth hearing, worth remembering.

Now, what did you say?



Martin Swords

August 2016



Remembering Mae Swords giving out yards about Birdy O’Brien,

a next door neighbour, and her cats rambles to the slack, Mae’s slack,

which Mae had to clean up before using the slack on the fire, still grumbling.  




The Cat’s Ramble to the Slack          *Number 2

For Mary (Mae) Swords

It’s an Echo

of a different voice, of other words coming back

Something that was said once, then often


It’s a Wave

Fetching over space and time

To crash, gently, littoraly, as on a beach


It’s a Ripple

In the energy of life, a blip that bleeps

Down the years, repeating, repeating


It’s a Memory

In the lore of family, a legendary phrase,

Said unwittingly, unintentionally, by a kind unlettered lady

A throwaway remark, thrown away.

A phrase, travelling through time

Crashing on this shore, falling on this page, living again

As if from her lips, hearing her voice again.


A Memory, a Thought, an Echo

A life remembered in an unexpected way.

A cat taking a shit in a coal bunker?


Martin Swords

Sept 2016


What Will Remain


What will remain?



A confusion of photographs,

a film in silent staccato.

Perhaps a recording,

that familiar voice repeating

the same words over and over.

Letters, that fast familiar signature.

You will cling to these, revisit them,

one touch away from touching .

In the closest hearts the warm feelings

of love, and loss, continue,

until they also cool or pass.

You will have and hold dear, old tales

and stories, retold, and funnier

in the telling than ever was,

wanting them to be really real.

Until they also fade.

Only this may remain.

Only this to show what was anticipated,

may remain.



Martin Swords

July 2009   


Easter Monday 2016

It’s 1916 wall to wall

Revolution is in the air on the radio

Joe is doing his meet and greet,

Meeting the plain people of 1916

It’s not working but it’s Joe being Joe.

I’m in the kitchen listening to the Revolution Cabaret.

Most of it is successfully filling the airtime, but little

Is historically interesting or real. I’m looking over

Three fields towards Moneystown,

Fields of sheep and leaping lambs, scudding clouds

And rain coming soon.

What takes me back to the Rising is the thought

That I am free to sit here, to spend a day like this,

In comfort undreamed of by people like me then.

It’s a long long way from Sackville Street in 1916

To Tiglin 2016.

I think of those who started this journey

And of the family doBaby Martin 2 sep 1952 2wn through the years

Who helped me get to here, with thanks.


Martin Swords

Easter Monday 28th March 2016