THE CONFESSIONAL BOX
Women cluck like hens outside the door,
they interrupt Fr. Doyle’s thoughts.
Joan doesn’t cluck, her voice a double bass,
her laugh, a well-tuned string.
He blinks his eyes, adjusts to the dark. The church,
this box has become his coffin.
Fingers the gold cross embroidered on the purple stole
hanging around his neck.
A John Major cough erupts from the other side of the grille,
followed by flatulence. He pulls back the curtain.
“Forgive me, Father …”
“Remember me telling you last week about the hard-on
I get when I go into Mullahy’s pub?”
Fr. Doyle bites his cracked lips.
“It’s Liz, the new barmaid, that causes it,” says Jim.
The priest fiddles with the strings on his stole.
“My wife should have fixed my zip when I told her it was broken.
After Liz pulled, I couldn’t get it up again.”
“The zip?” asks Father Doyle.
“So it’s your Joan’s fault that you fucked the barmaid.”
The hens stop clucking.
“If the Bishop heard you were swearing in the confessional box…”
Fr. Doyle stabs the wire grille.
“What would Joan do?”
Jim jumps from his knees.
“Just give me my penance and I’ll leave you in peace.”
“Climb Croagh Patrick in your bare feet, no walking stick.”
Jim crosses his chest.
“My heart wouldn’t be able for that or my gammy hip.”
“Climb it twice.”
Fr. Doyle opens the confessional box door, shouts at the hens,
“No more confessions today, I’ve an urgent house call to make.”
After Adrian Mitchell
When she was a cub,
she was happy
I felt her twitch
at my first disco,
when I gaped at all the boys
and their little lions
tucked inside skinny jeans.
Clammy from dry ice,
she got wet when one
rubbed against her.
When I fell in love,
she opened wide, welcomed
a lion, clenched him until he filled
her with his milk.
Before long she was pushing
out babies. Lost her muscle tone.
The gynaecologist stitched her up.
Lion preferred the back door.
Wasn’t as wet as she used to be.
He lost his mane.
Wasn’t as hard as he used to be.
Now she plays with a lion,
powered with batteries
A TIGER CALLED MID-LIFE
After Adrian Mitchell
I have a tiger called mid-life
All she ever wants
Is to be taken on the prowl to hunt Dobermans
And spend the rest of her lifetime
Devouring their tongues
DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL
After Henry Scott-Holland
Death is not –
It is everything.
It is not –
a negligible accident.
For my mother chose
into the next room.
Our laughter forgotten.
Now, I roam derelict buildings,
Screaming into the silent night
Why couldn’t God
Have taken her?
After Mary Oliver
If you feel your heart leap
when you glimpse your face
in the kitchen window
admire the faint image that is you
feast on your beauty
dwell in your heart
don’t think of self-love
as a crumb you must blow
from your table
think of it as the yeast
that will develop your dough
think of how it will nourish you