Ted Mc Carthy

Ted Mc Carthy

Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’.

His work can be found on www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com


‘How mysterious are these charming sisters –
Youth, love and the sea!’ – Nikos Kazantzakis

The bodies are laid out neatly like seals,
raising their heads occasionally, stirred by a random movement.
They settle back into the comforting rhythm of blood,
the sun red on their closed lids.
The dunes tremble in the breeze: so slight an advance,
slower than evolution. And the sea brings a scent
of lemon mingled with ash, a smell of sacrifice
troubling the glassy noon. Can it be this body’s stillness
is like a sleeping bird’s, forever wary?

Heat shimmers either side of a couple hand in hand,
their age impossible to determine; tall, slender,
they look into the distance like old people. Nothing seems
to pass between their still forms, the space from head
to hands is a wedge no togetherness can dislodge.
Their silence seems almost to alarm the sea;
frightening too their sense of comfort in strain
so that they have become one with the tide’s invisible, soft
gouging, the hum that is both ease and destruction.

Now the wind rises: for an instant it stings
like a memory of a bad taste, brings a shiver of salt:
then gone again. Bodies stretch and nestle as though under sheets
but a restlessness persists. Is it the painted Christ
on a far clifftop monastery, all gardens leading to Him?
Or life tracing itself on the mind as though by the faintest
pressure of a fingernail? No longer there, the wind
still jumbles children’s voices at water’s edge, their message
lost, tonal shards puncturing the drift to sleep.

And the ferry in the distance is too white, there is
something skeletal about it; figures move on deck
like ticks on the bones of a stripped whale. It haunts hereabouts
islands only the happy may leave; others in port
stare as it opens to souls who can face
what they could not forget; dreams of dark mornings,
cold under coats: cold only another skin
can assuage. And those who remain turn to parasols
and cocktails, dry air and empty hours,

some longing maybe in spite of the call of blankness
for the smell of saltless damp, a sense of clay
carried over impossible distances: their breath
is taken by a silhouette of trees in a long,
low twilight, that shock when expected cold
becomes a sudden mildness, a miracle, a gift;
when a door opens onto spring. The moment passes
and the pull of home is a remembered sirens’ song,
an angel’s kiss for those with guttering candles.

So, slowly, dies day on the world of Aeschylus,
its islands a random spatter set in a pattern
no scientist can fathom: only the dark is universal
and arid as truth. Children in their dead of night will finger
the ridge of shells as those they revere count the contours of beads
and pray for sense among a thousand minglings.
No one wakes to the blood of goats, but bare feet
on sand, drinkers by porous harbour walls,
will bask in sun and plead with it, unknowing.


The hawthorn white as pain,
Communion-white, the stones
hiss in a midday shower.
I count each vacant hour

like John on Patmos waiting
not for revelation
but the end; of Hebrew, Greek,
of all envied by the meek,

knowing nothing matters
but the final hour; life clotted
round its fading remnants.
John, to cool the dimness

of his eyes at midday,
believing in the glory
of a seen annihilation ,
had learned the craft of patience

at gentle kitchen corners.
And we have moved no further.
I look through hope, through trouble,
at cows that could be Virgil’s

and know timelessness exists
in our knowing nothing lasts,
and that in John’s exile
we pass our little while.


Ariane, the sky is gathering in on itself
and light like mildew crawls
along the uneven walls.
The sun is low over hulks
round which the harbour is immobile.

There is a language to be discovered
where every noun is tight,
each verb reflexive,
and there is no continuous past.
And adjectives are definite as sand.

Time to pull the rug of self tight
round hurt eyes; to face Naxos
and what truth it holds, out there
where day shimmers, the sea deceives
and the voyage quarrels with the dream.

Poetry in this post: © Ted Mc Carthy
Published with the permission of Ted Mc Carthy