The dead. I fuckin’ love ’em. They’re better
than us at everything, good or bad.
Even the sombre numerals and letters

carved on a lackwit’s grave, covered with weeds,
still hold a gravity that we can’t match,
no matter how considerable our deeds.

You don’t agree with all this? Kid, just watch
some half forgotten actress pop her clogs
and see the populace forget the stretch

of mawkish TV movie dialogues
from cookie cutter, penny-per word hacks
as they proclaim her greatness on their blogs.

The dead don’t spam me, nor do they break
my concentration as I try to write,
they sometimes haunt my dreams but when I wake

they head back to their distant, shadowed seats
to quietly look on my words and moves.
I’d choose their company, both day and night

in place of mouth and nose breathers like you.


Canto CLI

Irony doesn’t seem such a treasure
when stumbling upon the hard, steel steps
while making my exit from the South Bank Centre

after writing poems about death
for punters that lined up for the honour,
to hear their darkest mortal thoughts expressed

in verse. I grabbed the rail, escaped disaster
and marked the only thoughts within my head
centred around my unborn baby daughter—

and as I settled down to catch my breath,
I’d never felt as thankful for believing
I hadn’t joined the armies of the dead

and kept step with the Home Guard of the living.

Canto LXIX

I will run today, through the thin sheets
of drizzle Irish champions wear with pride.
After that I’ll go on to complete

those applications I pushed to one side.
I won’t write an O’Hara parody
entitled “The Day Smokin’ Joe Died”

because we did it for Michael and Amy.
Today my business is with the living,
though still, the dead assemble in their armies

on bookshelves, radio playlists, sometimes waving
from photographs, the grainy afterlife,
the light they gave to silver gelatin.

We cannot beat them, we are but the waifs
that scurry in their shadows, though we wield
another weapon to absolve the grief

and guilt of our surviving, for we hold
the prospects of the lives we can deliver,
to double up our wide, ancestral worlds—

the rain of Cork and, sorry Joe, Manila.

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