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on the way we joke with joyful banter 

stack the fuel at Billy’s     more laughter

on a high    trip over words    say goodbyes

which time shadow and scythe solidify


                 from chopping wood by James Finnegan






chopping wood

 Hey Doc What’s Up

early December walk

 the fog drifts in

amicable split

 Let’s go over it all again

Photo Fifty One


Cuchulainn Castle

when I was going on seventeen

 hounds and white horses




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  James Finnegan


James Finnegan, who holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Living Educational Theory (University of Bath, 2001), is a retired secondary school teacher, St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Ireland, and has just completed poetry courses – Level One, Level Two, Mentoring Sessions One – with Jim Bennett, Liverpool. James has had poems published with The Rainbow Poetry News (2008), North West Words (Spring and Summer, 2015), Poets Meet Politics (2015) – a Hungry Hill Writing Publication. He takes part in the local North West Words Open Mic Sessions. In August 2012, James self-published a poetry book, The Expressive Mode, with CreateSpace, owned by Amazon. 


James Finnegan, Half-Open Door https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/half-open-door 







chopping wood


Billy asks me help him chop some wood

one sunny Good Friday    we pull the full

trailer of logs home at five like we’ve cut

down the wooden cross of the broken Christ


on the way we joke with joyful banter 

stack the fuel at Billy’s     more laughter

on a high    trip over words    say goodbyes

which time shadow and scythe solidify


the logs turn eventually to ash

nothing matches the marked memory

cheerful voice and bright endorphin face

casting some life on a torn Friday



Hey Doc What’s Up


after Raymond Carver


yes it seems to be the case and it’ll be no surprise

you’re not going to die just yet     however we hate

to break this other news to you        we have discovered an outbreak

of extreme ordinariness in your pitiful life

it has probably been there for quite some time

like a stone-still crocodile waiting to lightning-strike

you may have picked it up when reading broadsheets

or possibly from listening to too much late nite news on tv


normally     in ordinary ordinariness      we don’t say

a word      but yours is a most serious case

so far there’s no known treatment for it      we’re working on it

we’ll give you these       take two five times a day

and always when with others      where you can be seen

and      for now      don’t read The Trial by Franz Kafka

this Rig Lee CG medication will stop you talking

a good first step to recovery

people will begin to look at you differently

remember don’t chew and talk at the same time


and please     under no circumstances      blow bubbles      



early December walk


can anything good      or anything at all

come from an early December walk

walking past fields fenced with haphazard wooden posts


smooth square-patterned wire      mesh sized

to frame a sheep’s head

prescribed single top line      barbed


how much it has rained of late

never seeming to stop      but it has stopped now

gibbous moon lights up blackened hurrying clouds


reminding me the sun is there     somewhere

way     way     way     back    there

there is an eerie feeling as I walk


as if I am being watched by a hooded crow

indifferent to my confident stride

and intake of breath


my poor poor spirit attempts to ingest

some morsel of inspiration from car lights

reflecting off the base of electricity wires


on a cold dark December evening such as this



the fog drifts in


the only time I see clearly

is when it’s foggy

on clear days

I bump into cars     lamp-posts

walls and traffic wardens

I once bumped into Livinia

that’s how we met


when I wake in the morning

I sense if it’s bright and sunny out

I bump into the shower-head

crash into the range

the chair

fall into a sitting position

I bump and stagger on


but when the fog comes thickly in

I see everyone’s inner child

the gold dust that sparkles inside

I lead the traffic warden

across the street

I unbump into people

enjoy the lack of collisions

in our meetings


I am thinking of moving

to San Francisco

think of all the beautiful things

I can clearly see

with a diamond eye

in a cool misty morning fog


And I can’t wait



amicable split


breath freshener and toothpaste linger on

with the coffee kick       pen in her right hand

right hand resting on her left

readying to write the next words


the words take shape in white space

push the white aside       as though kites in the sky

late scent of fading cherry blossoms

pink petals decanting like large confetti


she walks to Windermere lake        stands by

the water’s edge       fails to raise a word

wanders back to her room      listens out for

sound-cries of lifeworlds and histories




Let’s go over it all again


After James Fenton


I voluntarily paint a long wall

in the local community hall:

Let’s go over it all again.


I search the high haystack

for a lost engagement ring:

Let’s go over it all again.


I explain my everyday innocence

to an intense and brainy barrister:

Let’s go over it all again.


I shove my ego over a prison wall;

an Alsatian eyeing me seems to say,

Let’s go over it all again.


I forward reasons to the internal saboteur

why I’m a person of worth, the saboteur says,

Let’s go over it all again.


I quieten the mantra, cast my

caution aside, gate-crash hope:

the tall walls subside.



Photo Fifty One


isolated from thymus glands of calves

gel in a jam-jar given to Franklin

purified    hydrated and crystallised


in that lab alongside the bomb crater

Rosalind Franklin’s fine-tuned XRD

yields the beautiful Photo Fifty One


which Wilkins secretly shares with Watson

and another secretly shares with Crick

helping them identify the double helix form


a spiral stairway to a Nobel Prize

the propeller-shaped Photo Fifty One

left unacknowledged like Rosalind





Paris-trained Rosalind Franklin

crystallographer of the amorphous  

readied for      long and thin      small and fat  


deoxy     ribo    nucleic     acid

where women do not dine with men  

tall thin hooded crows eat food alone  


a shining x-ray visionary      

with sharp edges in her piercing eye-line

two years after the city of Marie Curie   


falls out of King’s into bright Birkbeck   

like a precipitate from solution

clear space where she can stretch her wings   



Cuchulainn Castle


when ten we crawled through a tunnel

lit a candle    talked and joked       shadows danced


hidden from the world we took pleasure

in knowing no one knew where we were  


in the hush hush we whispered

then quickly forgot and burst into song


near lunchtime a silence came       we snuffed

the candle and emerged into dappled daylight


no one had smoked     a candle was everything

and a dark space brightened by a flame



when I was going on seventeen


Elvis was getting it back together

The Beatles were falling apart

our truck trundled north

Eamonn Lowry sang the Boston Burglar

knew all the words but not the tune

stopped at Finner Camp for a bite to eat

moved up-country to Fort Dunree  


on that sunny day       

we cut along the cliff-edge to the beach

got ticked off         on our return    

lay low in the billet

missed the first parade   


four days later

the lads went dancing in Buncrana 

I was on fire duty and

washing dishes for ninety-seven

they had all spun yarns

about who they were

but sheepishly withdrew at midnight

because of trouble in Derry

August the twelfth nineteen sixty nine


the next day

we were sent home early

a 180 mile trip southward


when my mother saw me

the welcome given

mirrored one

given to a son  

returning from war

which is exactly what it turned out to be 



hounds and white horses


after Michael Longley


Here are two scenes from the hounds of the sea
lodged in an inner cavern –

a no to the priesthood by my father

after a thirty day retreat,

post-war Kiltegan;

a 1947 yes to being a radio officer

in white uniform with the Marconi Company

telecommunicating ships’ news

for the next three years.


All the way to Durban to see separate black

and white queues form for drinking water –

a collared cramp for a colourless liquid:

In Madagascar monkeys threw coconuts

at the crew heading up river

which, laughing, they threw back;

a skeletal sharing of memories here,

apart from a long train journey inland once

made to get to Christmas Mass.


Later, in the midlands, he would scent salt-spray

and whisk the whole family beyond Spiddal

to the sea of his teenage years.

There’s a photo of him in sailor whites

in the front garden of his childless uncle and aunt

who brought him and his brother up.


Sometimes, when he visited his big family in Gort,

he was teased with gentle cruelty

to make him feel an outsider

How’s the Connemara man?

The hurt would soon pass for

this man who brought me up

with a love of the sea.





The Expressive Mode (Aug 2012) – self-published poetry book with CreateSpace, Independent Publishing Platform

when I was going on seventeen – Poets Meet Politics (Mar 2015)

hounds and white horses – North West Words (June 2015)

An Féar Bán – highly commended in Original Writing Anthology from Ireland’s Own (Oct 2015)


4 - Afterword

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