Derek Coyle (Climate Change, Eco-activism, Whisperings of Social Justice)

Derek Coyle
published his first collection, Reading John Ashbery in Costa Coffee Carlow in a dual-language edition in Tranas Sweden and Carlow Ireland in April 2019, and it was shortlisted for the Shine Strong 2020 poetry award. He lectures in Carlow College/St Patrick’s, Ireland. His second collection, Sipping Martinis under Mount Leinster is due in 2023.

Derek Coyle has published poems in The Irish Times, Irish Pages, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Texas Literary Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Orbis, Skylight 47, Assaracus, and The Stony Thursday Book.



Carlow Poem #157


I went out to Clogrennane

in search of a good thorn

autumn was the right time for it

the leaves bare their thorns exposed

I picked several

sorry poor brambles for nipping

these off

forgive me

I carried them home in my pocket

and then set about

replacing the worn out stylus

on my record player

wondering who’d be best

to test out the new stylus

I settled for Tom Waits

something of the crunch of gravel

in his voice

I switched it on

and lifted the arm across

somewhat crackly at first

there was Tom

‘I’m big in Japan’

it was then they came to the window

the open door

down from rooftops

down from lampposts

rooks and robins a pigeon

and then some cats

hopped the fence

ignoring birds

ignoring the dogs who

wagged their tails to the rhythm

the beat of Tom’s tune

they could hear the sound

of a summer of crows

the June cries of a fox

the furtive sounds of rabbits in winter

the tinkle of rain drops

on the leaves of a larch in September

in pitch perfect harmony with Tom’s vocal

orchestrated through the record player

and the thing is

I thought I saw a goose

the one you mention Merwin

in your poem to Po Chui-I

the one who escaped famines

wars human and natural pestilence

he who knew Tang Dynasty China

and the palm trees of Hawaii

here he was smiling

for a moment

taking a rest you might say

re-charging his batteries

in suspension from worry

not wondering

or trying to figure out

what to do

since we’ve set sail

on this sea

the ice-caps melting

the earth heating up



Carlow Poem #181

I only realized how far
I had travelled to get here

over my Cocopops this Sunday,
the milk turning a delightful chocolatey brown.

I was thinking of how I live
in a house of concrete and brick

containing coccolithophores,
the very lads crushed in the limestone

of the Great Pyramids of Giza –
maybe I wouldn’t have to go see them

after all – and how the sulphur
in the protein molecules of my hair

had blown into the atmosphere
after the eruption of Vesuvius –

another one off the list.
Sitting still at my kitchen table, I realized

the water in my eyes had travelled
on asteroids, icy comets to get here,

hurtling through space
long before the dreams of Time.

How my little toe was hoarding
brine from an ancient trader

sailing down the Strait of Hormuz.
Sinbad the Sailor

smacking Royal Fillets of Mackerel from his lips
and he voyaging out of Baghdad

with frankincense destined for India.
How the snot in my nose could be

made from particles of Chaucer.
Something from his fingernails, let’s say,

and he biting them
bored in a tavern in Southwark,

gawking at the face of a pilgrim Merchant
trudging out to Canterbury

another rainy Sunday in April.
Sure who’d need to head to church

to pray of a Sunday
and he a living shrine

to the creative energies of the cosmos,
the presence of that God’s dream

in his every cuticle, every particle?



Carlow Poem #167

What struck everyone was the terrible stench.
This was the conversation starter for years after,
over glasses of wine, snifters of whiskey,

the foul stink, where wood polish
and varnish, the whiff of stale air,
a certain mustiness, was the accepted odour.

It was strange, it all happened
on the same day. Caretakers rose
from their beds, kissed their children goodbye,

and headed into work, Vienna, Hamburg, Rome.
In the Galleria Doria Pamphilz
someone was hovering the floor,

others polishing dusty frames,
the lights on, the hum of portable
ear pods blasting in the latest pop,

before someone walked in and was hit. Looking up,
the glorious portrait by Velázquez.
Pope Innocent – virtually smothered –

standing on top of his throne,
a strain on his face,
attempting to keep his fingers

on his nose. He was squeezing hard,
trying to stifle the malodorous stench,
buried beneath stacks

of rubbish, empty drink cans,
the plastic packages of sweets,
ice-lollies, beer bottles, milk cartons.

Lost to sight the vermillion of his robes,
his red cap askew on his head,
the gold and white of throne and soutane

swamped in garish yellow, lurid greens,
the work of midnight oil, design teams
in high-rise offices, Milan, Chicago, London.

The news started to arrive in,
phone calls to Vienna confirmed,
Bruegel’s children were throwing

empty Coke cans around the town square,
racing down small hillocks of trash,
empty tetra packs of orange juice,

plastic egg cartons, old tyres,
petrol cans, broken doors, twisted
lines of reinforced steel from buildings

no longer required. The word
from Hamburg was the Wanderer
in the Sea of Fog was disorientated, lost.

Not in misty clouds
descended from mountains.
He had disappeared in the dull haze

that rises above an industrial scale
rubbish tip. He was down, gasping
for want of fresh air,

on top of some mountain peak
in a romantic valley. Now
he would be unable to find the path down;

piles of used clothes, jeans, fleeces, shoes;
the detritus of fast fashion, discarded
summer dresses, hats worn once at a wedding,

blouses for a season; sponges,
toothbrushes, floss. Nothing
had prepared him for this.

It was making the news in Washington.
The Madonna was last seen in the National Gallery,
holding her child above the litter,

her arms aching. At any moment
she’d see her child slip, to drown
in an ocean of discarded coffee cups, 

broken televisions, leaking batteries.

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