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Saturday, 31 December 2011


Getting ready to say farewell,
words clear in my mind,
rehearsed to perfection,
masterpieces of short speeches
primed and ready to go.

What can go wrong?

At the pinnacle of emotions,
the heart will rule and unsettle me,
the words will stick, the mouth will dry,
surely as it should be.

Friday, 30 December 2011


I am dazzled by the knife blade in the sunlight,
my skin cuts easily but the pain is less than I imagined
and as my blood escapes I notice it is less red,
more emerald blue.

I see the history in it, the life and death - it is blood after all -
and as a delta appears on my hand, I resist the urge to lick
or press the wound, waiting for other colours in vain, continuing to
bleed emerald blue.

I hear songs and poetry, see old faces, hear breathing, sense spirits,
noises from a long-distance life, siren wails from wars on streets,
witness splashes of full-colour blood, sepia blood, black blood,
seldom emerald blue.

For this liquid is mine, my protective albumen, my defence, my roots,
an unstoppable slow-flow to mesmerise, to kindle feelings, to remind,
to stimulate a fondness for beginnings, to underline weaknesses, to ease 
feeling emerald blue.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


For Rita

There are moments
for memories,
for happiness,
for reflection,
for resolutions,
for forgiveness,
for creation,
for untangling,
for emptiness,
for consolidation,
for perspective
and, as now,
for sadness,
for appreciation,
for love.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Two near-identical trees, 
side by side,
one is dead still,
the other sways in the breeze.

I wonder which tree
is a reflection of me.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


I was there when
the Minoans emerged in Crete,
the Mycenaeans arrived in Greece,

civilisation collapsed,

the Dorians invaded,

the colonies were founded,

Athens entered its golden age,
and the Hellenistic era
only to fall when the Romans came.

My table weighs heavy with myths

as I ponder another Bushmills tumbler.

I look at Plato, Saucero, Knifeo, Forko, Spoono,
and bang my head in boredom slumber.

Monday, 26 December 2011


Terror, murder and mayhem,
financial and climate concerns,
political and social bickering,
festive enjoyment classed as a crime,
naysayers, gurus and charlatans
out to subdue and suppress
any notion of human goodwill 
at this and every Christmastime.


Saturday, 24 December 2011


As Chrismas Eve
eases into Christmas Day,
I still listen
for the swoosh of a sleigh,
for bells in the sky,
refusing at fifty-seven
to let the magic die.

Sssssh! Listen...........

Friday, 23 December 2011


Two smells
resurrect images of my father:
sausages burning and shaving soap.

One day after a blazing row with him
my mother took us kids out of the house,
for a breather, fresh air, time for things to calm.
We came back to find him lying on the settee,
in a light, smokey haze, sleeping off the booze, 
while sausages burned in the frying pan.

In the half a dozen times 
he hugged me, the scent of earthiness
on his chin was overpowering but reassuring.
Affection did not come naturally to him.
Six hugs, one for every year of my life
before he walked away from us.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


She's a beacon,
a shining, guiding light,
I know what she means to me,
I need to know she's close.

I have no axe to grind,
except what's on my mind.

She's my strength,
a shoulder to cry on,
I know what she means to me,
I need to know she's there.

I have no axe to grind,
except what's on my mind.

She's my seasons,
my present, my future,
I know what she means to me,
I pray we last forever.

I have no axe to grind,
except what's on my mind,
except what's on my mind.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


The chair 
was his chair.
He is no longer there
but the chair 
is still his chair.

Why do we stand
next to an empty chair?
He is not there
but he's always there.

It is still his chair.
It will always be his chair.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


At that time, I was the only male in the house,
the day my sister's face drained at the sight of the mouse.
Her jaw-dropping, silent-movie gasp said it all
and I heard the panic yell of the "mouse catcher" call.

I slid the door between the kitchen and the sitting room
and tiptoed to the cupboard for the sweeping broom.
I banged the larder door to disturb the monstrous pest,
listening hard for scuffles between the thumpings in my chest.

"Have you got it? Have you killed it?" came my sister's yaps.
"Sssssshhh, be quiet!" I breathed, searching cracks and gaps
for tiny eyes and movements to reveal the hiding place
until, at last, the moment when we both came face to face.

Bangs, clatters and crashes echoed around the kitchen room
but the mouse had no chance against me and my lethal broom.
(Word must have spread to other mice
for we never had to do the same thing twice.)

Monday, 19 December 2011


Happily, Irish folk music has always been in my system and this is an affectionate tribute to The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem who immortalised the image of folk singers in cable stitch pullovers! I can hear myself singing this with a three chord arrangement on my old guitar.

Four aran jumpers singing of all shades of green,
of rebellions and highwaymen, martyrs and pretty colleens.
Four aran jumpers singing the songs of the past
of old folks in old times from Dublin up to Belfast.

Hearty and hellish, the tales of the tinkers, the drinkers, the rare mountain dew.
Rambling and roving the roads and the oceans and dining with John McEldoo.
Supping and sipping the porters and whiskies from dawn to the rise of the moon.
Courting and loving the young and the old and missing those taken too soon.

Four aran jumpers singing of all shades of green,
of rebellions and highwaymen, martyrs and pretty colleens.
Four aran jumpers singing the songs of the past
of old folks in old times from Dublin up to Belfast.


This is a poem that disguises an advertisement for my book “Retail Confidential”. I think I’ll call this type of blatant plugging an “adverpoem” – or perhaps not.

I wouldn’t say it’s definitive,
I wouldn’t say it’s unbiased,
I wouldn’t say it’s balanced,
occasionally it might be pious.

I wouldn’t say it’s boring,
I wouldn’t say it’s essential,
I wouldn’t say it’s suits all tastes,
this “Retail Confidential”.

I would say it’s an honest book,
about two hundred pages
with advice and stories tucked between
random rants and rages.

I would say it’s an offbeat look
at shops, shoppers and shopping
that should raise a smile with customers
and get store managers hopping.

“Retail Confidential”
a book from my career
on sale at Amazon and elsewhere
and you’ll find it’s not too dear!

Alternatively, go to Amazon and Search "Joe Cushnan" or "Retail Confidential"

Sunday, 18 December 2011


"Where will it end?"
said the whiskers and wrinkles.
"It's got to end soon,"
he cried, nearing decease.
"Can anyone prove,"
came the last words he spoke,
"that there is such a thing as peace?"

Saturday, 17 December 2011


Three Christmas poems:



I love the ocean and I hate the ocean,
I laugh and I cry with the tide,
I have my pride and I have my sins,
and I have nowhere to hide.

I spend my days here at the window
looking out on the sea,
the noise of the ocean whispers and moans,
it's a pain and a pleasure to me.

I am an old man remembering friends,
the courageous young folks I led,
storms and lightning ended their lives
and they haunt me now that they're dead.

I drink my whisky straight from the bottle
like the crew of the last boat I sailed,
I steered them into the troublesome waters
now I live with the fact that I failed.

Friday, 16 December 2011


It was a perfect day for asking,
it was a perfect day for trying,
it was a perfect day for hoping
that you'd say yes to me.

It was a perfect day for romance,
it was a perfect day for love,
it was a perfect day for me if you
would just say yes to me.

Second by second,
minute by minute,
hour by hour,
I thought of how I'd play it.
Day by day,
week by week,
month by month,
I wondered how I'd say it.

It was a perfect day for walking,
it was a perfect day for humming,
it was a perfect day for praying
that you'd say yes to me.
It was the perfect day
to find a perfect moment
and you said....................

Thursday, 15 December 2011


I remember them sitting in the evening breeze,
holding hands and watching the sun go down,
not saying much for they both knew why
they loved each other and the orange sky.

When they first met their world was young,
his jokes were corny, her laugh polite,
a simpler time when love was shy,
at first sight under an orange sky.

A family raised as best they could,
ups and downs on a rocky road,
then decades passed in the blink of an eye,
now they've time to enjoy their orange sky.

Ascloseasthis in the evening breeze,
holding hands as they always did,
never taking for granted the love in their eyes
and the warming glow of orange skies.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Memories of my grandfather Tommy.

We didn't call him Grandfather or even Grandad. He was Granda, my mother's father. He was a small, slight man but with the work ethic and grit of somebody twice his size. I remember he did the annual wallpapering and decorating in our house, always with a cheery demeanour, the occasional whistle and, every now and then, a song to himself. He had a stammer, quite severe at times, but that made him all the more endearing. He would give opinions and tell stories, sometimes struggling with certain words that simply refused to roll off the tongue. But, and I recall this very clearly, at a family do, he sang the song Nellie Dean and it was beautiful, even to a young kid like me. When he sang this simple little tune, the stammer was dead. Instead, he had the sweet voice of a tenor, unforced and pitch-perfect. "There's an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean," he sang and, you know, he looked happy and content, a small man but a great Granda. 

Monday, 12 December 2011


Here's part of what I remember;
the route we took, the bars
we visited on 14 September 1976,
me and Tom, one night,
as we went and got our kicks.

Mitre Hotel,
Town Hall Tavern,
Vine Inn,
Grey Horse,
Portland Hotel,
Piccadilly Hotel,

We eased into a satisfying hazy blur,
drinking beer after beer after beer,
bringing our Ulster craic to "the mainland",
in that long hot summer year.

We saw a woman, sitting at a bar,
half a lager, laddered tights,
beetroot sandwich, dangling cigarette,
our one-off crawl, her usual night of nights.

We stole an ashtray from a hotel lounge,
well one of us did but I'm no tell-tale-tit,
we stumbled to the last bus near midnight,
ate a Chinese takeaway and that was it.

The next morning was throbbing hangover hell
from the night me and Tom went out and got our kicks
and maybe there is much more to tell
about 14 September 1976.


Your eyes
your smile
your tenderness
captured me

Your lips
your kiss
your honesty
enlightened me

Your heart
your love
your transience
destroyed me

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Most Sundays in the summer,
from mid-morning to early evening,
the ice-cream van parked in a prime spot,
near the top of our street
to catch churchgoers and passers-by,
and kids sent out for the after-dinner treat.

We waited our turn listening to the noise
of the engine running, the occasional chimes,
smelling exhaust fumes, watching bluebottles
head-butting the glass, giving the open window a miss,
wondering how the ice-cream man could go all day
in his ice-cream van without taking a piss.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Life's moments are never destinations,
more like stepping stones, not equidistant,
some easy to walk, some more challenging,
urging decisions, choices, grasping of opportunities,
leaps of faith or hope or pure recklessness,
stepping stone to stepping stone,
better without companions or qualms,
to face the risks and dangers completely alone.

Friday, 9 December 2011


The Railway Man by Eric Lomax about his time as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II is one of the best books I have ever read - harrowing, yet uplifting. In 1998, he met Nagase Takashi, his interrogator and torturer, and a remarkable story of forgiveness emerged. The last two lines were written by Mr Lomax.

I read about the thirst,
about the hunger and filth.
I read about the naked fear,
the end of dignity.
I read about the hatred,
about the urge to kill.
I read of brutal acts,
the unbelievable.

I read about the day,
you and him ill at ease.
I read that face to face
you forgave enemies.
I recall petty things,
trivial and useless.
I compare me to you,
pathetic, courageous.

"Forgiveness is possible 
when someone is ready to accept forgiveness. 
Some time the hating has to stop."

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Rudolph ate the Christmas tree 
while Santa wasn't looking,
turkey hid the stuffing
to sabotage the cooking,
sherry superglued the cork
to stop pre-dinner drinking,
mince pies took a long deep breath
and their middles started sinking,
presents all unwrapped themselves
and swapped the labels round,
cards erased their sentiments
looking blankly at the ground,
tinsel lost its sparkle
in a game of festive whist,
mistletoe withdrew its role
to prompt the Christmas kiss.

It was a relief to find
that this nightmare wasn't true
I just dreamt it as I dozed
in the supermarket queue.


The whistling indecisiveness of freak winds,
the pull-push buffeting natural bully,
failed to blur the explorer's sharp focus
on the horizon, a point of end and start.
The blazing sun as sky-anchor, director,
the stars guidance at night, cloud patterns, currents,
added science to notions of the possible,
lust for the new, driven by curiosity and fame.
Who knows what is over the distant line - keep moving,
survive, eat snow, gorge on salted provisions, sour milk and flat beer,
drive on to a place without footprints and human smells,
then consider a flawed future now that Man is here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


This happened sometime in the early 1970s in our living room.

In an uncharacteristic burst of anger,
my mother once took off her slipper,
concentrated hard, took careful aim
and let fly at the television set.

On impact, the vase on top wobbled,
we kids tranced between gasp and cough
and the reason for mother's missile -
Ian Paisley shouting his mouth off.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Constance the contortionist
on a gig up in Kircaldy*
was performing all her usual tricks
with her supple rubber body.

But halfway through proceedings
in a flash of memory lapse
a leg went left instead of right
and the act veered toward collapse.

One wrong move and what came next
just added to the rot
and Constance left the stage that night
rolled up in a knot.

(*Some will know but others might not – it’s pronounced Kircaudy)

Monday, 5 December 2011


I hear the wind
urging the door to creak,
upsetting my concentration 
and mood so bleak.

I hear a thought
refusing to let you die
a delicate moment,
capturing you and I.

Sunday, 4 December 2011



If flamingo
plays bingo,
If baboon
plays pontoon,
can you object
To newt
trivial pursuit?


Round and round
the milliner’s shop
my group of rabbits
on the hop
eating every type of hat
until each one was very fat.

So now one of my magical habits
is pulling top hats out of rabbits.


There was a gardener called Brewer
who invented a grass-cutting cure
his brain went pow
he thought of a cow
as the ultimate efficient lawn mooer


One theory
about the humming bird
is really quite absurd.
It’s said
it hums the tune because
it doesn’t know the words


I had some friends for dinner
and from the evidence of empty dishes
despite the calorie intake
my friends were quite delicious.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


One Christmas, Santa brought me a toy tipper truck filled with sweets.
I loved it and had great fun loading and unloading my new toy,
driving up and down the hall, in and out of the legs of my family,
sometimes accused of being a pest, other times ignored completely,
but content in my own imagination, a happy, lucky little boy.

But the fun turned to frustration and despair when the hijackers closed in.
My brothers and sisters ganged up to steal the sweets, mean with greed.
I shouted, cried and appealed to my mother as I tried in vain to guard
the most precious possession at that time in my life, under threat
from my own family, this band of robbers pursuing this evil deed.

What does that say about me as fifty years on I remember it?
My only pleasure is knowing that the hijackers think they got away with it.