New Poetry from Hennessy awards nominee James Finnegan


a Clare born priest-poet 
and philosopher advises
     that one be consoled by 
     and sure about 
          one’s own death

as I walk along Ballyraine Road
our springer and I in stride
I think about the difference
between dying and falling asleep
and think it has something to do
with waking up in different places
     or waking up in the same place
     and not waking up at all

just then     an empty hearse
full of light on a sunny mid-June day
comes towards me     on the other side
of the road     and a few things come to mind

first     where Juba in The Gladiator says
to Maximus Decimus Meridius
I will see you again     but not yet     not yet

second     where Denholm Elliott
as Mister Emerson in A Room 
with a View tells Lucy
he wishes his son to understand that
     alongside the why
there is a yes and a yes and a yes

third     where I say to the hearse
          thank you 
for not sneaking up behind me


the clock’s lips are thin
     and grim
as quarter after nine
          and eerily
     your six o’clock kiss
runs the length of your face
     and where is the eye
of Under the Eye
     is your soul business
          to keep alert
and where is your bell
          as you can’t yawn
               I take it
     you never tire
are you conscious of
     every tick every tock
               or are you immersed
                    in this room 
     watching me watching you
          in the pure presence
                                   of eternity


a lot of people know the joke
     about the difference
between a hedgehog and a Mercedes
filled with five guys wearing sunglasses
     the hedgehog has the pricks on the outside
which is fine     and well we may laugh
     but today on the way to Lough Barra
I came across a hedgehog who’d made it
     most of the way across the road
a soft spiky hemispherical hump
                         with a pool of blood by her head


the celibate priest
lives in part of the college
     called     Private Quarters


but June stops by
lays her hands on 
my shoulders and says 

     it’s June
     all that light
     aren’t you happy

it’s not the end 
of the world
if you die soon

James Finnegan appears in The Best British and Irish Poets 2018. Get it on Amazon

About the contributor

James Finnegan was shortlisted for Hennessy Literary Award 2018, highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition (2016, 2018), published in New Hibernia Review (April 2019), Poetry Ireland Review (Jul 2018), CYPHERS, Skylight 47, North West Words, and The Best New British & Irish Poets 2018 - first full collection of poems Half-Open Door (Eyewear Publishing, 2018).

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