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On Water

I’ve never forgotten the Glen river’s  

smell on those wet Donegal days.

Its convoluted arteries drained

through bogs of purple heather,

to emerge in petrichor and painterly swirls.


Just boys, we traipsed its fern banks

on mizzled days with wet feet

squelching. Off balance, our eyelines

like gunsight, skimming black stones

in flat counts to the far bank.


Our young arms linked in a ‘slabhra beo’

under Carrick bridge as we edged back, back 

against its flaking grey abutment.

We dared to dip forward without falling.

Like young musketeers we were ‘one for all’.


Egged on, we grew brave, hopping 

from slick green stepping stones

in a primaeval hunt with Willow spears, 

hoping speckled brown trout might flit, 

unmasked from their river bed camouflage. 


Later, laid back on those fern banks,

we watched wild geese spear the blue sky. 

Those days drifted like the river below

as slowly our innocence dissolved

like paint, in the memory of water.



(slabhra beo - Irish for human chain)





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Ciaran Cunningham

Tue 21st May 2024 18:48

@keithjeffries thanks, I always hope my writing will resonate with others.

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Ciaran Cunningham

Tue 21st May 2024 18:47

@russelljacklin glad it reminded you of your own childhood, thanks.

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Ciaran Cunningham

Tue 21st May 2024 18:46

@gregfreeman - thanks, although I have to admit, I never noticed that....and I wrote it 😉

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Ciaran Cunningham

Tue 21st May 2024 18:44

@stephengospage thanks for your lovely comment.

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Stephen Gospage

Tue 21st May 2024 08:59

Thank you for this fine poem, Ciaran. You have a wonderful way of conjuring up a universal memory of childhood and of days gone by, which, as the comments suggest, could apply to us all. Thanks again.

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Greg Freeman

Tue 21st May 2024 08:12

I noticed 'eyelines like gunsight', 'camouflage', 'wild geese spear', and innocence dissolving, slipped in with Heaney-like cunning. I may well have been mistaken in the inference I made. Even if I was, it's a very fine poem.

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Russell Jacklin

Tue 21st May 2024 06:15

This in some way recaptured my own youth in the East of England, beautiful skies, meadows and streams, with a similar musketeer band, thank you for my reminiscence made possible by your wonderful descriptions

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keith jeffries

Mon 20th May 2024 22:39

You have the distinct ability to take the reader with you to the scene which is so well described. 'Feet squelching and skimming black stones' brought to my mind similar excursions with friends at weekends close to the River Avon.
Thank you for this,

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