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Derek Coyle poetry

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Derek Coyle has published poems in Irish Pages, The Texas Literary Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Orbis, Cuadrivio, Skylight 47, Assaracus, and The Stony Thursday Book. He has been shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award (2010, 2014, 2015), and in 2012 he was a chosen poet for the Poetry Ireland ‘Introductions Series.’ In 2013 he was runner up in the Bradshaw Prize. He is a founding member of the Carlow Writers’ Co-Operative. He lectures in Carlow College/St Patrick’s. He took part in a three-week poetry residency in Tranås, Sweden during the summer of 2017, at the invite of Kultivera.




Carlow Poem #61


In the dream

I’d shrunk to the size of a pea.

Maybe that way

I thought I could get into the bed

of a prince, but all I got was Puss in Boots

who got up and ordered

a beer

from the barman – I’m sure

it was a German craft beer –

he was a feline of impeccable taste after all.

The barman looked remarkably

like Leonard Cohen.

He was eating a banana

and seemed to whisper

under his breath

‘I’m your man.’

I knew there was no cure

for love

but maybe Lenny

might be a little bit of fun

for a while.

Boys will be boys

after all.

Lenny told me in bed

he’d made up what he’d said

about Janis Joplin

in the bedroom of the Chelsea Hotel.

I thought it was a ruse

in order to get me

to give him a blowjob.

Never trust a folk singer,

they never tell the truth—

whatever about Canadians.

As for men,

well, they’ll tell you

sugar is sweet

and violets are blue

– both of which are true –

but it’s the cheap attempt

at crap poetry

that turns the stomach

of an honest woman

or any man with a taste

for something beautiful

said in earnest.

I want to be a c.d.

next time around.

When I amn’t sitting

quietly in the corner,

I’ll spin around

and make music.

Like Enya

I’ll paint the sky with stars.

A fine job

after a few jars

of Orinoco Flow,

a craft beer

made in Borris

by a three legged

German leprechaun

who retired from Braun

after growing up in Berlin

during the Cold War.

He was often heard to say,

‘Ireland’s grand, but Carlow’s perfect.

Anything for a quiet life.’

Myself and the German

will make impeccable love

to the sound

of the bonnie Donegal lass

– O Caribbean Blue –

all in the abstract, of course,

which is far more tantalizing than the real thing.

As for the rest of the world,

well, youz can all go and fuck off.




Kathleen Ní Houlihan


Rumour has it

he woke one morning

and she was gone,

tired of his drunken harangue,

dirty nails, sour breath,

all his dead pieties.


Rumour has it

what he didn’t know was

she had fallen in love

with a seductive youth

of film-star looks.

She’d met him first

in the silent dark

one Saturday,

in the back of the cinema

in the local town.


Rumour has it

she was last seen

under the blue moon of Kentucky

in the arms of a cowboy

who looked remarkably like Johnny Cash.

In check shirt, straw hat and boots,

smoking cheroots and drinking malt whiskey,

she was singing bawdy ballads—

a Calamity Jane, crooning

of the wild, wild west,

a wild, wild woman but free.

It brought a tear

to his eye, he raised a glass,

and smiled. His Kathleen.


Rumour has it

you could see her crying too

in some dingy back-room bar

in New Orleans, shattered

the day Louis Armstrong died.

‘How that Kat could jive!’

She’d helped him book gigs

when he decided to take to the road.

‘Behind every great man, Louis,

there’s a better woman!’



Rumour has it

she donned her boxing gloves

and joined the fight

for negro rights

somewhere south of Alabama in ’62.

In small rooms, drab sheds,

she could be seen, night after night,

arguing, urging, organizing,

sit down protests, civil disruption,

one fiery Irish Colleen

worthy of Delacroix,

Liberty Storming the Barricades.


He thought he saw her once

in the crowd

in some old black and white footage

of Dr King at the Lincoln Memorial,

her boot plonked on a step,

a hand on her hip. His Kathleen,

in defiant mode – how he knew it well.


Rumour has it

he was found blubbering,

teary-eyed and incomprehensible

in the local library,

pointing to a cheap reproduction

of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

‘That’s my Kathleen there!’

He pointed

to the red-haired beauty

about to go home

with the suave gent in suit and hat.

His Kathleen,

a wild, wild woman, but free.

‘I can be lonely too,’ he said.

‘I can be lonely too.’


Which is to say, rumour has it,

he nearly died the day

she walked back in the door,

somewhat haggard and a little dusty.

‘Stick on the kettle, love,

I’d shoot a President

for a good cup of Lyons Tea.’

He put it on without a word,

and put out a tray

of her favourite biscuits, Chocolate Kimberley.

‘What brings you home to the Barrow, dear,

this small midlands town

you left all those years ago?’


‘‘You were always on my mind, my dear.

The way you sang,

‘I’ll take you home again, Kathleen,’

with that glitter in your eye,

it haunted my days, my nights.

What Johnny Cash told me that night

we emptied the last

Jack Daniels down the gullet

is so true:

‘The world’s more full o’ weepin’

than a gal can understand, Kathleen.

Yep, the world’s more full o’ weepin’

than a gal can understand.’

‘You are dead right, Johnny,’

I said to him.

‘It’s a right bollix, isn’t it?

A right bollix, the whole thing.’’

‘Now, where’s me tae?’




Ove FunTranåsdin Dream

(Ove Fundin, World Speedway Champion, from Tranås, Sweden)


(for Magnus Grehn)


The strange, illogical hope of the human

strays on to your retina every minute

you spend in this town, the persistence

of its prams, short dresses, the glitter

in the eyes of young men, who see

heaven dawn from an armpit.

All we have are partial perspectives,

and so, how can I capture

anything of the truth of life in this town?


Its tedium on a Sunday afternoon

reminds me of childhood Sundays

in the ‘70s. I’m sure its small dramas

are as small as any I have known.

There are many virgins in the town

who won’t be virgins by the time

the year is out. And still

the sun will rise from Lake Sommen

and descend into it

after this day is done. Fathers

will take their sons fishing

out by the lake, like their fathers,

as their fathers’ fathers did with them,

generation after generation. And the eccentric

librarian of the town, a lover

of Ella Fitzgerald and Sid Vicious,

will tell his tale of Lenin

passing the town in the train,

just days before its infamous

potato rebellion, where a rebel band

of 400 protested the price of spuds,

and how the wealthy were exploiting their labour

for their own gain. He may well be

one of the town’s eccentrics

but he’s surely right in thinking

we might need this spirit of rebellion



In this town

even the old

zip along her streets in their little

mobility scooters, because it is

always better to be out

in the thick of life

than moping in melancholic fashion

over a cup of coffee

in a dark corner of the kitchen.

This is how this town

provides its own answer

to existential doubt as to the value

of existence—get out and do it,

you hope for sunny days, but you prepare

for wind and rain, your jeans

and sneakers decent enough, and a car

that works always helps. A Volvo isn’t pretty

but she’s rock solid. A Nääs beer,

children, a wife,

and midsummer in the rain

at the park, dancing a folk dance

with your neighbours, seeing who is

out and about

and what the crack might be.


There is no ferocious vulture

hissing over this town, only

the persistent cries of the seagulls,

querulous and gossipy as they scavenge

all along its French-style boulevard,

the second widest in Sweden.

The little girl in the pink hat

dances along the street in the rain,

in colourful wellies, she is

the delight of her mother.

The beautiful blonde, a tall man,

pushes the type of pram you recall

from the ‘70s up the hill

by the town square, patting

his equally blonde daughter

on the head, who

virtually squirms with delight.

Here, this is how the inconceivably mundane

yields up its own rich commentary.


The beautiful virus called life

has caught on wonderfully here.

This town is far too eccentric

and interesting for the prescriptions

of common sense and order,

for which the Swedes are typically known.

You can see it summed up in the emblem,

the statue in bronze they’ve placed

at the centre of their town, the ‘60s

icon who made his name

for wheelies, speeding, road-bike racing,

facing danger head-on at full speed,

only two wheels of inflatable rubber

between you and the road.

This is the only way to take on life,

even if it seems you are just

perambulating on a Sunday with your wife

down by the park, or in the woods,

it’s all about the attitude

with which you take these things on.




The Shoulder


Let us think of Kafka

in the arms of Milena Jesenská.

He, who had already

coughed up blood while swimming

in the Civilian Swimming School

where he often chose to spend

his leisure hours. Anything to escape

the drudgery of the Asbestos Factory,

the tyranny of his father, the law,

and business, business, business.

He loved and feared

her living fire. He stands

and kisses her left shoulder

as she draws back her blouse.

Milena Jesenská, the firebrand,

who was to die years later, in Ravensbrück.

Let us picture them together,

the weight of her almost

uncovered breast upon him.

Since he has come to love her

he has discovered his love

for the world, a world in which

he has lately come across her left shoulder.

He kisses it,

the way a man

might kiss the head of his new-born child.






Tranås Poem #213


(for Peter Nyberg)


In a rather strange way

he became a parable

to the children of the town,

and its teenagers. When parents

wished to chastise

their children, to switch off

their mobile phones, take

off their headphones, plug out,

his name would always be mentioned.

‘Think of Magnus Larsson’, they would say.


He’d sat at a table

in the hotel in the town square

through hail, rain, fog, snow,

for over forty years,

writing his poems.

Poems about New York,

Cracow, Prague, cities

he had read about

in books

from the local Bibliotek,

brought to him by the

O so accommodating,

friendly town librarian,

another Magnus.


The thing is, Magnus Larsson

never left his appointed writing desk,

such perfection, such concentration,

he had brought to the craft

to which he had dedicated his life.

When the hotel booked weddings,

or birthday parties, or any

manner or type of function

you’d typically expect in a small town,

it was a condition of booking

that you had to accept

Magnus Larsson sitting in his usual corner,

writing, scribbling, thinking away.

It was well known

that when he was stuck

on a particular consonant,

how to articulate it, how did

its sound blend with the vowels

in the previous line,

that he’d get up

and pace about, making

weird gestures and noises

as he tried to achieve

the just perfectly symmetrical balance

he was constantly striving for in his lines.

People would travel out

from Stockholm to see

the famous poet Larsson.

Of course, they would never

interrupt him in mid-composition,

or dare to say ‘Hallå’ most times.

They were just happy to observe

such dedication in action,

a type of single-minded spiritual pursuit

not seen in Tranås

since the heyday of the Reformation,

albeit in a more contemporary form.


His ‘tragic humourism’

had been the subject of commentary

in literary periodicals

all over the world.

He had fans in Barcelona,

Beijing, and there was even

one brave critic who went

so far as to claim:

‘If it were ever firmly established

that there was such a thing

as extra-terrestrial life

in outer space, be assured,

Larsson will be read,

alongside Shakespeare, Kafka, and Joyce.’


Some critics considered his epic poem

about the jockey Frank Hayes

crossing the finishing line,

despite having died mid-

way through the race

—by heart attack—

his greatest. A 20/1

outside victory in such circumstances

was the embodiment

of epic poetry itself. Still,

others held

his poem about the whale

—this good earth’s loneliest creature—

calling out, over and over

again, for a mate

—for two long decades—

in a voice so high-pitched

no other whale could ever

respond, this, this, this was surely,

his most tragic work.


Occasionally, some rather brave soul,

quite often a mother,

would dare to raise the question:

‘Was this really life, a life

worth living, or indeed worthy

of emulation? Shouldn’t a man

have children, romance, a real hobby – like fishing?

Tranås is famous for its lakes

and forests, after all!’

To which Larsson would smile

obliquely, and say:

‘My heart is too sensitive,

you have no idea of the

subterranean tapestry

of feeling that runs through

every fibre, every tendon, every cell,

of my being. I have lived

deeper than most of the population

of Sweden in my lifetime

without moving less than fifty yards

in forty years

—are you sure that you could say

this much?’

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