Poetry of Existence



Each morning she wakes 

Searches for forgiveness,

An anthropologist in search of a lost civilization. 


Through the rain forest she trudges

Hearing the screams and curses

Of tiny mammals she once nurtured at birth. 


Her scorpion sting punctures

Their minds, carries the poison forward 

Deep into tangled history. 


Thunder responds, a dark painted canvas

Of silver-ink rain she hopes

Will wash her clean.


Too late a discovery

Shadows, dogs her pursuit,

Their mouths full of stones

Muffled cry.

A snake sidles up to be useful

Encircles her body to finish off

A derelict hunt.


A terracotta relief figurine

She remains frozen

In place and time

Where forgiveness forgets to forgive.





Three Rivers (After Czeslaw Milosz)


Leaving Anna Livia Plurabelle

by way of Connolly Station

letting balance fly


to see

if only once

what gravity denies

secrets in flight

alighting three rivers


where ancestor tones

scale storm clouds-

symphony of sound and stone

in and out of

turf-marked memory.


Unselfish light allows

entrance to future

and past lives

as when you

faced the river

fifty years on

in Lithuania’s Issa Valley

to report a poet’s life.


You gave us

a world from which

we were excused

born as we are

at mercy’s end

when blood painted red

young mud-caked men.


Would we have had

your courage then

to take it on

this calling to art

when homo sapien

tongue extended

savored a communion

of cruelty?



you are gone now

across a farther river

leaving poems

rippling despair

celebrating doubt.


You said:

“I am grateful

to be called and the

incomprehensible contradiction

did not diminish

my wonder.”



your spirit echoes

over thrice-crossed rivers

of myth

of mourning.



your words whisper

prevail amid

the bitter grand



Siobhán Ó Mócháin Breathnach

June 25, 2012


At Ard Larthain (After Derek Hill)



At Ard Larthain

through the squall screen

the donor-painter’s landscape

laments his absence


but the wind roars

its approval of Glebe

as Foillot, Bingley and Gore



The skilled artist’s eye

like Balor na Suile Nimhe

seeks dominion in form yet


house paints shoe polish

and donkey hair


the schooled aside


while Columcille’s bell

rings and only

the corncrake listens


calling across

the sea-pink laden rocks

of Toraigh


Siobhán Ó Mócháin Breathnach            

July 1, 2004

Toraigh Island, Ireland


(Ard Larthain: the small studio among the stones on Toraigh Island built for the English painter Derek Hill. Balor na Súile Nimhe, Balor of the Evil Eye, the warrior champion of the Fomorians, could kill with a single look from the one eye situated in the middle of his forehead.)

Father Days

Father She said was raised next to a rectory Was it the imposition of belief made him run from the sight of his Da stooping to sweep the monsignor’s crumbs Or growing up poor Irish and Catholic next to the big apple Was he too close to the sanctuary where Jim Beam and Johnny Walker hid tall tales I’ll never know his life his story the way I now know my own In that moment when his eldest son followed him to where he lay Lear-like and called me to say Ironbelly AA was truly gone not simply gone like the last time we saw him gone but gone at 96 16 years after She who clothed and fed the six of us but dead gone in Florida while on vacation like the lengthy leave of absence he took from the ingrates he used to call our squealing needs I sat transfixed in the home She wrought from social worker hands staring at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary She carried with her to every domicile east to west we sprouted in and I knew then I was orphaned forever without being an orphan Orphaned from who they truly were from the lives of this “greatest generation” before my entrance Not the fairytales we channeled as offspring to paper our epic as heraldry but who are they really neath féth fíada That day he went I wept sitting in one of the old wooden pew seats loaned to Her by churchmen warming to an abandoned Irish Catholic wife with holy furniture rather than unholy divorce I wept a catholic aloneness pointless at 57 perhaps but tears came like black rain guilty and guiltless of being still here breathing family in and out Was it the twin towers of his gemini mind that trapped then liberated him From me From Her From us From here.




Irish Recipe



Too many people

under foot

Mother said

to descendants

of the depression wed,

scattering like bread crumbs

only to reassemble later

while she slept

her onerous sleep.



Too many people

in the kitchen

when history melts

the walls

slides into

the frying pan

Pop. Pop. Crackle. Cackle.


Too many stories

in the kitchen:

leaning against

the old pantry door

cold hot tales

of loss and love

tumbling on the




Dark wet conversations

square off there:

a voice from the cabinet

opens up

another near the stove

fires a volley

laughter erupts

from the Frigidaire

while tears wash dirty dishes.


A dull-edged knife


to menace myths

hidden in drawers

spoonfuls of memories

the better-left-unsaids.



Again today

still too many people

in the kitchen

assembled in place

heating up



December 11, 2005