Dylan Lyrics

by t t

Songs are not poems and song lyrics are not lines of verse to be read on a page. That should be self-evident, and thus when the Nobel committee announced that its 2016 prize for literature was to be awarded to Bob Dylan, lovers of both poetry and music were bemused. Yes, he probably deserved a […]


Heytesbury Lane

by John Boland

Waking at night I hear a pig squeal. My room is low-ceilinged with half-moon windows. Outside the front door there is a courtyard. On summer mornings I can trap the sun. Sometimes at night, though, I wake to hear the pitiable scream of a trapped pig. It is difficult to believe I am not having […]

The life of Reilly

by John Boland

My father, who was almost forty-one when he married my mother, tells me now that the happiest days he ever spent were in a boarding house on Gardiner Street. His present room looks out on a familiar view, those Dublin mountains he made us climb when Sunday afternons meant scenic spins in a cramped Ford […]

That September

by John Boland

With a shock I realise I’m in the picture, too. It is afternoon in the Zoological Gardens and you are seated on an iron bench, beside a woman who peers primly at the camera; behind stands a stern-faced man in a bow-tie, and next to him my father. You are wearing a pleated skirt and […]

Helvick Head, 4 May

by John Boland

(for Joe Kennedy) Out there, on that rock licked by the waves, life is pampering itself: a solitary cormorant spreads his great wings to embrace the heat; nearby, six guillemots, stunned by the sun, preen like a foreign legion waiting to be inspected. These creatures are wiser than we are, who have spent all afternoon […]

The death of the moth

by John Boland

Margaret found you at the side of the house in a tray full of rain. You were too exhausted to flutter free, so she brought you in and put you carefully on the window sill, to recover your strength. But you didn’t. The next morning we went to remove your corpse and found behind you […]

The singer

by John Boland

Snug in this midnight bar, two drinks in front of him, he bends my ear. Time to take stock, he thinks: sixty (can you believe?) this year. Women, I’m told, once swooned. He was the baby of the group, though now his cherub’s face, unruined by all the bad that living throws at everybody else, […]

Safe sex

by John Boland

Afterwards, from one or both of you, will come a whispered Are you OK? as if you had just been in an accident and were checking to see who’d survived.

The end of it

by John Boland

That moment when the rituals of love turn into chores: the whispered calls from work desks, the secret codes on home phones, those stolen afternoons of dazed delirium out on that bed, that long-promised weekend far away from everyone – all now seem somehow more difficult to manage, and in their place are tiresome problems […]


by John Boland

Just go to sleep, my love, and don’t mind what I said. Dream of the stars above and rest your little head. Tomorrow will be fine, your dad will still be here, so stop your silly crying, there’s nothing you need fear. Sometimes it’s hard, I know, to tell what life’s about, sometimes we come […]

Winter kept us warm

by John Boland

And then the snow. We ran inside. You cried, as I recall, the tears lingering longer than the snow that streaked its sobs across the window-pane. The fire laughed, then we laughed, too, until laughter and tears mingled, setting us free to doubt which was which. We groped into the dark as the flames darted […]

A prayer for my daughter

by John Boland

Somewhere out there, further than I can see, she bobs over the waves, beyond the blue horizon, sailing away from me towards another country. Less than two hours ago we wrenched her from her dreams and drove her down at dawn to this bleak terminal. It is nothing, really, a three-day school outing to Shakespeare’s […]

Away from it all

by John Boland

(for Steve) Here in Sardinia on a brief junket, I soak up the sun, and listen to a woman who tells of a love that came undone, and there in a golf club (another brief junket) somewhere in Sligo, you sweat in a sauna on the morning after a long night before until life says […]

Round about midnight

by John Boland

Lights wink from houses up on Dalkey Hill, the road below my window purrs with cars, two drunks enact a loony vaudeville, the moon is full, the sky’s agog with stars. It seems like fun out there, but not to mind; all round my reading lamp Stan Getz spatters those soft-blown notes that say the […]

You’ll like my wife

by John Boland

That’s what you said, and I did. The quaint mole up where the thigh met the drenched tangle of hair, the sheen of soft fuzz in the curve of her lower back, the musky smell as I bowed into her secret self, these were all much to my liking; also the way she’d crouch over […]

The 62 bus

by John Boland

Our lives were ruled by the 62 bus. A phantom service, it came when it wished, not when the schedule declared – friends for life were first encountered at the stop. I took it into work those years I lived in what my parents chose as their last home, and peered from the top into […]

Brow Head

by John Boland

Lost to the world on this finger of land that claws its way into the open sea, a village sleeps in the midday heat. It has been slumbering here a long time, a clutch of houses convulsed by age and a century’s slow drift to elsewhere. Children grew up in this place, their kingdom the […]

Youth’s a stuff

by John Boland

Girls I once loved in this little city of sexual intrigue now are married somewhere out there among the suburbs. It was only yesterday we dawdled for hours along the Leinster Road or perched on stools in dimly-lit bars on Pembroke Street. Today I walked up Grafton Street and saw how, overnight, a whole generation […]

(for Helen) There was nothing strange about that overnight stop in Singleton, New South Wales, a wagon-train ride from Sydney, where you and Warren welcomed two pilgrims from the far country, except it was a one-horse town no-one had heard of, and except, after a night of drenching rain, the street was parched as Laramie, […]

Boon companions

by John Boland

(for John Coyle) You can see them still, shadows of the men my father might have met sixty long years ago among the snug and smoky parlours of Dublin pubs. He chose not to. Other servants, civil or not, of the state they were in found solace, chance companions and some cheer amid the porter, […]