Foxes, Mating

She can smell his house as she enters the boreen. Sea of hedgerows. Her car presses forward, releases the fragrance of plants which reach in through the open window. Traces of dew on hand and face. Elder and woodbine, dog-rose and nettle, bindweed and sceach. Headlights glare from a cottage window perched on the edge of a ditch. 3am. She swings the steering wheel, follows the bend in the road.
An open metal gate marks the entrance to his farm. Guarded by two houses. On one side a labourer’s cottage with lime washed pebble dash walls and white UPVC windows, garden set with flowers and shrubs. In darkness. To the other side a rectangular building. The Sister, he told her in passing, gesturing with his head towards the house. Seeded lawns. Gravel paths, the boundary of the site demarcated by post and rail fencing. Light shines from an upstairs window, below the slate roof.
Her car lurches as it hits the first of several humps of soil which have been tamped down across the bare dirt driveway.
The Father made them after he crashed into the Mother as she was driving out. He was looking at the fields.
His father is now dead. He is the last of three generations who have farmed this land.
The driveway is lined with ash trees. Their branches sway in the wind, leaves rustle against one other, whispering of her arrival. To the left is a field enclosed by electric wire fencing in which cows stand. They watch her pass, motionless except for the grinding of their jaws.
In a concreted yard next to the farmhouse she parks behind his 4×4. Farm machinery shelters under a corrugated awning. There is a dim glow visible through the net curtains of his bedroom. His windows are open. After turning off the ignition she looks in the rear-view mirror, runs her fingers through her hair. Walks through the garage to reach the back door, passes his BMW. On the front passenger seat is a scarf bearing his County colours. The side-view mirror hangs, smashed, suspended by threads of exposed electrical wiring.
Midges swarm around the exterior electric light. Milking parlour leggings have been stepped out of and are concertinaed over a pair of wellington boots. Empty glass bottles are lined up against a garage wall. She tries the handle of the back door. It opens.

From ‘Foxes, Mating’ by SJ Ryan


A Gift So Precious, Received

Saturday morning. It’s trying to get out, says the postmistress, pushing the package across the counter. Shredded gold paper spills from its breathing holes. Punched for chicks, hampsters, kittens and puppies in larger containers. Embryotic hearts beating in eggs. I already know its contents are alive. Rumpelstiltskin in British Mail transit, gold spun from straw. I wait until I’m home before I slice the cellotape with a sharp knife.

The white cardboard box springs open. I inhale her breath, scent. Orna Ross. Touch the envelope. Read the handwritten card. Inscribed cover page. For a moment, we are in the same room, as years before and she has walked across Dublin in the dark of winter to reach the James Joyce Irish Writers Centre and teach a class, and I have worked in time to leave early, organised an overnight babysitter, caught a bus, train, Luas, from Co Kildare, to sleep in a multi-bunk hostel off O’Connell Street and make the dawn journey back.

I weep. Her kindness. The exquisite indigo threaded bound cloth, imprinted with gold. More beautiful than the picture. The heavy pulped feel of the pages. It smells like the Hamlyn books of childhood, the ones I sneak into bookshops to open and inhale, for the chance of re-entering that bliss. The weight and anguish of my stories, waiting, unbirthed. Without manifestation, we are nothing, she said. Lani O’Hanlon, ruffled jet black hair, light blue eyes, dancing the rainbow at Glendalough, strong in the stages of womanhood. I have never forgotten her words.

How many Irish women are larger, more, than Cuban propogandist images to me. Bigger than Mary. Without intent, hovering over my bed, desk, in dream and conscious thought. Present, strong, nurturing. My Mothers Irlanda. I light a candle at your feet.

Morality Play

In which Everyman calls Death a cunt, and your man becomes vexed.  The Medieval roots are deep.  Push through, flower in a nightclub, a council flat, a tip – SE1, London. The more contemporary theatre I see, the more it affirms my own vision and writing. This production gives me courage.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Everyman at the National Thetre, London

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Everyman at the National Theatre, London

These feelings won’t go away

Weekend characterised by trailing, traipsing the trails of two Londoners who knocked themselves early. Alexander McQueen. ghost alex

Amy Winehouse.


The irreligious freedom of being common, and the isolation of it. Of speaking of something more.

In Praise of Small Independent Publishers of Poetry

Mark Abley: The Tongues of Earth (published by Coteau Books)

Mark Abley: The Tongues of Earth (published by Coteau Books)

As If

you+++++++++(says Mark Abley)

+++hear a bird on a scarcely
++++++discernible branch
of a high ash
+++by the road begin to try
++++++out his pair of songstruck

lungs – tentative,
+++explorative – as if
++++++any god worth his salt
would create
+++music before light

Bookshop alcove. U-shaped seating. At the top a table and microphone for the poet whose projected voice cuts out as he (and he, and he) looks sideways at the audience as he reads.  John Donlan.  Mark Abley.  Robert Currie.
+++Long-boned Northern European German Russian shifted gene pool audience in jeans running shoes long sleeved plaid shirts short grey white hair John Deere caps. A life squinting at the horizon. But for two – the last readers – in stout wool, one I think a bachelor by the unravelled white tacking still holding the vent of his jacket in place until he mentions his wife.
+++My immigrant heart struck deaf dumb mute by weight of sky, clutching, clutching for an edge on the continent of North America, from the Canadian prairies.
+++They give voice to it, the hectares of land torn from wilderness, tilled, survived upon. A hundred years from nowhere. Endless horizon. Six months of snow.
+++In that palm-sized audience three poet laureates. The publishers of two independent Saskatchewan presses – Thisteldown Press, Coteau Books; Brick Books Ontario there in spirit.
+++I am in holy company. Gathered to hear poets read, as am I.  We are transformed by the cadence of their spoken words.  Carry away, in paperback, an echo of their hearts.

Appeal from the Home for Abandoned Blogs

Did you, SJ Ryan, pawn this blog on 20th Street, Downtown, in September 2014?
I did.
For what reason?
To feed my emigration-immigration habit.
Why did you start this blog?
To: knit the bones of an exegesis; make a public declaration of intent and thereby compel myself, with teeth and claws, to unearth, breathe life into and complete a novel; make a declaration of commitment to the muse; put the characters on notice.
Did it occur to you that these characters could have been put to better use, led multiple tragi-comic existences, been fulfilled, elsewhere? You abandoned them. Why do you feel you’re entitled to make them wait, the years rotting off their bones, teeth loose in their heads, eyeballs rolling onto tattered clothing – wild creatures you have caged and neglected to feed.
How many parts can a character play. Perhaps there is only one character in existence for each one told, therefore a million Lady Macbeths, for instance, one for each of the derivations – written, scripted, sung or played – of the first, of the Platonic Form of the character.
Fancy digressive footwork bullshit. What makes you think they’re going to be waiting where you left them, when you decide to show up and start writing their story. If you can’t be trusted with a blog, why should you be allowed to write a novel. Who is even going to read this blog?
They’re mine. My characters. I’ll damn well strangle them and bring them back to life, cut them up and put them back together again, swapping pieces, losing some, re-creating others. For my imagined audience of one. Who may, or may not, be interested in reading this blog. I demand my right to write. I may be a flight risk, but have no previous record of abandoning blogs. I have never been found guilty of abusing a character. Look! Smoke rising from the Waiting Room. It has no fireplace. Something’s happening. I have to go there. Now!
Sit in that chair and get on with it.
*Types* “The woman in the white silk kimono, arms outstretched in fluttering sleeves, crouches. Balanced on one foot, long black hair flowing, she draws back her silver Samurai sword and, with a single circular stroke, beheads Superego. The End.”