Complicated Measures – Billy Ramsell


Today is National Poetry Day, so I have decided to break from the norm of spouting my own creations and instead share with you some of my favourite poetry. Billy Ramsell, a fellow Irish poet, is truly a master of his craft and anyone with an interest in poetry would do well to read his work. If you would like to find out more about him, you can find his website here.

Picture 3
We were in bed together listening to Lyric,
to a special about the Russians,
when the tanks rolled into Babylon.

For a second I could feel their engines,
and the desert floor vibrating,
in the radio’s bass rattling your bedroom
as the drums expanded at the centre of the Leningrad,
as those sinister cellos invaded the melody.

We’d been trying, for the hell of it,
to speak our own tongue
and I was banging on about Iberia when your eyelids closed:
Tá do lámh I mo lámh” I whispered “ar nós cathair bán
sna sléibhte lárnach, d’anáil ar nós suantraí na mara i mBarcelona.
Codhladh sámh

But as I murmured “sleep, my darling, sleep” into your sleeping ear
I found myself thinking of magnets
of what I’d learned in school about the attraction of opposites,
that the two of us, so similar,
could only ever repel one another.

For the closer I clutched your compact body
the further apart we grew.

You have eleven laughs
and seven scents
and I know them like a language.
But what will it matter when the bombs start falling
that you could never love me?

Then you turned in my arms
and it was midnight again on the beach at Ardmore,
when the starlight collected in some rock pool or rain pool
among the ragged crags at the water’s edge
and the two of us sat there
and we didn’t even breathe
determined not to the disturb that puddle’s flux,
the tiny light-show in its rippling shallows,
the miniature star-charts that for a moment inhabited it.

And you whispered that the planets, like us, are slaves to magnetism,
gravity’s prisoners, as they dance the same circles again and again,
and that even the stars ramble mathematically,
their glitter preordained to the last flash.

You turned again as I looked at the night sky
through your attic window
and thought of the satellites
gliding and swivelling in their infinite silence,
as they gaze down on humanity’s fumbling,
on you and me, as you sniffled against my neck
and the drumming, drumming flooded your bedroom,
on powerful men in offices pressing buttons
that push buttons in powerful men,
on the tanks, like ants, advancing through the wilderness.

Those pitiless satellites, aware of every coming conflagration
and what would burn in it,
knowing for certain in their whispering circuits
that, like our island’s fragile language,
like Gaudi’s pinnacles and the Leningrad symphony,
– even worse – like your teeth and our four hands,
the very stars through which they wander would be gone,

those brittle constellations with the billion sinners that orbit them,
extinguished in a heartbeat, absolved instantly,
as if your hand had brushed the water slowly once.

Modern Lullaby – N. E. Skull


Picture 117

Q, W, E, R, T, Y
This is a modern lullaby.
U, I, O, P, parentheses,
21st Century ABCs.
A, S, D, F, G, H, J,
Mama’s gonna buy you the best blu-ray.
K, L, semi-colon, apostrophe, slash,
Papa’s gonna teach you how to clear your cache.
Z, X, C, V, B, N, M, space,
This is how you’ll learn about the human race.
Escape, Shift, Return, Control, Alt, Delete,
Looking at your phone while it looks at your feet.

Beautiful – N. E. Skull


Picture 109

I do not like the word ‘beautiful’.
It floats too easily from the mouths of lovers.
Rather, it should be heavy –
a weight you carry with you always
and protect at all times,
until you find someone
worthy of unburdening you.
It needs more consonants –
harsh ones that wait in the pit of
your stomach and then
shoot out of you like lava.
Harsh consonants that make
their mark upon 
the heart
they speak to –
one lousy t is not enough.



Untitled – N. E. Skull


Picture 19

Write every day,
even when you don’t know how,
find a way.
Just write! they say.
Nothing to lose when you
don’t have a muse
to seduce.
Pages and pages of
awkward stages and
unpaid wages.
Hate what you write,
Love what you forget to write down.
Sorry, I don’t have a pen right now.
Documents galore,
crumpled paper on my bedroom floor.
The ink ran dry months before.
Paragraphs and poetry
that nobody will ever see –
not even me.
Filed away forever under
Untitled Document 123.

4am – N. E. Skull


Picture 97

I dove into my wardrobe to rescue
The Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg
From the the pile of books that it
would soon cease to anchor.
The haggard bedside lamp pointed
towards the book, summoning
a ray from heaven itself as I opened it
and waited like a devout believer awaits
shepherding to a passage or a verse
when they find themselves turning
shoulder to shoulder in the heart of night.
I waited for Allen to give me the answer
in the form of some untoward rhyme
that would have meant nothing to me
had it not been for my desperation.
And shook him though I did,
I could not bring myself to wake him.

Morning – N. E. Skull


Picture 86

The sound of waves crashing against the pier is strong in my memory,

Although I am sure the tide was out.

Perhaps it was the alcohol reeling inside my head

Seeping into my memory and pandering to the

Sentimentalist in me.

We lay there until dawn, determined not to leave

Until the cold set in.

The cloudless sky was a perfect canvas for the airplanes

And we made plans to be in one of them together someday,

The kinds of plans that never make it past the haze of wine.

We allowed ourselves the novelty of honesty,

Unaware of the sobriety of daybreak,

Confessing things we wouldn’t dare say

Over the breakfast table, if we ever got the chance

To share one.

Rubber Gloves – N. E. Skull


Picture 69


For humanity’s sake, I hope not everyone can relate to this poem. I’m a messy person. I have no trouble admitting it, though I’m not proud of it either. I hate cleaning and would rather leave my house looking like a wrecking ball has just hit it rather than clean it. Which brings me to this poem. I often find that my main motivation for doing housework is so that, if I were to die suddenly, my house would be presentable for visitors to come and pay their respects. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I have to laugh at myself for doing this. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way?


There is dusting to be done when the vultures start to close in
It’s time to soak the mop when the air horn sounds
When the gas begins to leak, from outside I take the clothes in
And tidy them away before continuing my rounds. 

When the floor begins to tremble, knocking trinkets off the shelf,
It’s time to fill the sink with soap and water,
Employ tattered yellow gloves to clean the dishes, shine the delph,
In case the flames two floors below get any hotter.

All the carpets must be steamed when I hear the bullets fire,
Change all the bedclothes when the floodwaters loom.
Pressure’s on. Tick tock, tick tock, is it the red or blue wire?
Crash! Bang! Splat! At least I tidied my room.

Tell Them To Wait – N. E. Skull


This poem was inspired by the men known as the West Memphis Three. Though opinions are divided, I strongly believe that these men were wrongly convicted, even if solely on the basis of a lack of conclusive evidence. The grace with which they carried themselves throughout their incarceration is a constant inspiration to me and I carry their story in my heart every single day.
Just one wrong conviction is too many. Today, thousands of innocent people sit in prison cells all over the world while they wait for justice that may never come.

Don’t let the flowers bloom while I’m gone –
Tell them to wait; I’ll be back before long.
Don’t let the daisies flood the front lawn –
Tell them to wait; I’ll be back before long.

Don’t let the sun rise and redden your skin –
Tell it to wait; I’ll be back before then.
Don’t let the water invite to you swim –
Tell it to wait; I’ll be back before then.

Don’t let the leaves fall and strip the trees bare –
Tell them to wait because I’m nearly there.
Don’t let the heavens breathe down crisper air –
Tell them to wait because I’m nearly there.

Don’t let the snow turn the sky a dark grey –
Tell it to wait; I’ll be home any day.
Don’t let the hummingbirds fly far away –
Tell them to wait; I’ll be home any day.

Don’t let the flowers bloom while I’m gone –
Tell them to wait; I’ll be back before long.

Getting Lost – N. E. Skull


Mossy trails kissed with dew in misty morning air,

Higher up, the grass, like glass, cracks ‘neath travellers’ footwear,

But underneath your feet you’ll see no footprints left behind –

This is not the kind of place for other travellers to find.


The only way to find it is to get lost on the way.

You’ll never find it twice so please enjoy your stay.

When the journey seems fruitless and your ears are cold and sore,

Know you’ll find your resting place in just a few miles more.


Gather kindling for a fire, rest your head beneath the stars

Remember that the whole sky isn’t yours or mine – it’s ours.

Find solace in remembering that borders are man-made

There’ll be no fences near you when the night begins to fade.


Take these words, write them down, tear them up, forget them.

They’re already in your heart and they will guide you if you let them.

Stretch and yawn and greet the dawn with eagerness and grit,

Just close your eyes, spin around, open them – and sprint.

Hands – N. E. Skull


If I had no hand to hold yours with,

I’d link arms with you instead.

If I had no arms to link with yours,

I’d kiss you twice the more.

If I had no lips to kiss yours with,

I’d wink at you like they used to do

In old black and white films, when

Every man was a gentleman,

Every woman was passionate,

And every love lasted forever.



But I do have lips

And I do have arms

And I do have hands

And I will wear them all out on you.