I worked for ten years as a hospital doctor before it drove me bonkers and I moved in to writing. I had written poetry for many years in secret before being unleashed by Write Out Loud. I write medical stuff to pay the rent and poetry and other creative stuff for fun, and whatever comes my way. I do some anti-war stuff, metaphysical meanderings, existential observational paeons and a whole load of other guff. I know that poetry is one of the subtlest and most powerful forms of creative expression; live poetry with my fellow rhymesters just blows my arse hair sideways.
Christmas Day 1994 We stalk the wards Dr Davies and I, Fixing what has gone awry, Preparing for periodic paltry medical attendance, A desert spell of festive bank holidays; Saturday; Sunday. Before this day Michael had beamed a light, On the dark drudgery of trudging round the wards, Witty, bubbly, gorgeous Michael, Whose friends might joke that his lovers hand-in-hand, Would run Canal Street’s length. But today, Michael has no yuletide cheer, He does not charm or joke or feign in flirts, He lies gasping and unaware, Holding his dad’s hand Hurtling on the slide downhill, Because Michael is dying. His father knows, His brothers know, The nurses know, I know, Michael knows, But Dr Davies, this guy who knows all there is to know about fungi, Does not want to know, that Michael is dying. The specialist’s eyes have captured steep decline, His ears have held the stertorous hiss of rattling breath, He’s watched the wasting of a hard young frame, To bones fit only for ash, He’s noticed the interlocking hands, Holding on to this the last, Because Michael is dying. Dr Davies strives for Michael’s time, Reeling off a concise list of clinical derring-do, Cefaclor, pentamidine, intubate and ventilate, Michael’s father winces in this crystal litany’s midst, He smells antiseptic futility; holds a holed umbrella for a killing rain, Because Michael is dying. Dr Davies leaves, I sit with Michael’s dad, He cries and asks me what I think, Is there any point to all this stuff, For can’t we see that Michael is dying. Agreeing, I decide to speak again to the man in charge, Wrestling subjugated fear and dialling, Passing on familial reservations, They want it all to end, Since Michael is dying. Dr Davies says he understands, But doing nothing will not do, I jump myself in sharp response, “Why not?”, I say, “Michael is dying”. Over wire I feel his shock, Then taste the dangerous insubordination, In the silence’s grisly yawn, Then I hear him mutter, of CD4 counts dreadfully low, And concession that it might be best to let him go, I sigh relief as he feels that Michael is dying. I do not blame him for his fear, For wanting at least partial victory, Over viral loads that swept young men in droves, Nor for shrinking as a witness, like me, to Michael’s shining locks’ rot To balding desolation Dr Davies fought and fought, so knew not when to stop, And now, fourteen years on, is winning, But back then, Michael was dying. © Sean Kavanagh 29/2/2008 Anthem for Dead Youth Lines written on seeing the original copy of the first draft of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, titled Anthem for Dead Youth, in The British Library. So, his hand rested there, On that leaf there, Framing this first draft, Misspelt draught, As though it was but beer and laughs. His friend, Siegfried, scribes tight lines atop, Darker ink, a straighter hand, Gives a title with a glint of steel, Changed, in time, so we could feel for real. They sat, stiff shell-shocked cases, Were they suffering? This paper shows no trace, No shaking hand nor shivering place. Writing in defiance, gilt-edged with guilt, For friends still take their stick in France, Mired in palsied fear, they fight, To crush two brainless empires’ writhing might. In final form in my creased schoolbook, This verse spilled up an acrid stench, Of boy-men shit-scared, And bloat-black gangrene for those who dared. And still we send our young to die for nought, A stream of promise, Pissed up walls, By men in suits. Another manufactured threat, More fuel to stoke, The wasteful furnaces of death, Lies slip from leaders’ lips; they do not draw for breath. Dead youth that learns so slow, Better shops and sweeter drugs will keep you low, Stand up and tell them they are full of shit, Rise from your trenches, building peace by piece, And bit by bit. © Sean Kavanagh 2007 Highly Visible Nothingness I’ve got a high visibility tabard, me I’m special, I stand out, can’t you bloody see? I’m fluorescently reflective and though I am not free I like it ‘cos it licks on a dash of pure authority. Well people, do not let it, please Just because he’s shiny I won’t get down on my knees I’ve seen every brand of tosspot swathed in orange, green or shock cerise The high-vis jacket is invisible to a man who sees. Unless they’re fixing lines for trains, Digging motorways in upland rain, Crossing kids with lollipops over the car’s terrain, Loading ships with cranes then heading off for Spain, Or some other true need to shine, unnamed. All the rest should refrain Uniforms are dangerous, especially when they mean fuck-all I see a person in a funny coloured vest, that is all. © Sean Kavanagh 7/2008 What you need to save you Will not be Jesus, but friend or friends, Known or not, Who hear your landing gear Drag through coral in the last lagoon, Who’ll tend you on the beach, Leaving many footprints. The loss of your altitude might blow in on a bile-choked storm, Or fall from unseen supercells that you designed, The downdraught; or burning wings from leaking fuel. You’ll hit the azure lake and turn it into trash, Smash shards, calcified spikes, Release your plumes of spume and CO2, And if you’re lucky they’ll look up and notice you are down. And if you’re not you’ll drown, And grasp at cuttlefish beaks and tetrapaks, For want of shouting out the drab phrase “Help”, Or for want of anyone at all, the truest hell, And for those, I hope that Jesus wades into the surf, But you know, I’m not so sure he does so anymore. © Sean Kavanagh 6/08 Unmarked grave by a tree Bury me in Pennine earth, Beneath a line of loam, Reclining in a cardboard box, Until my bones grow cold and old. Smashed in violent winter becks, In summer I am flecks in silt, My fingers squashed in cloying clay, Smeared and spread like nebulae, That held me before I was formed, And coughed me outwards to be born. Above the grassy eiderdown, That hides my scattered teeth, Stand limestone molars piercing turf, The headstones that I’m not beneath. In lignum, staying wind-strained trunks, In scum I float on flaccid ponds, Friends sluice me down enamelled troughs, Leaning filled with ale and warmth, In death, at peace and truly blessed, Nought I’ll be yet all the rest. © Sean Kavanagh, 2000 Dust Settling In the corner By the inhalers Two dead spiders Few lights on In the towerblock Of course, sirens Abandoned failed handicrafts Odour off radiators Aquamarine mould tangerines Spectacle-case drawer Jammed old batteries Defunct laptop stack 26/10/10
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