I began writing poetry and short stories while in my early twenties and by the time I reached thirty had realised the limitations of my talent.
Around that time I gathered together everything I had written, hundreds of typewritten pages, and burned them.
I didn't write again for twenty years.
One or two of the early poems survived (those that had already been published in one magazine or another) and rose from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix.
The poem below, At Grandfather's, is one of them.
It gained favour with, what was then a fairly new literary magazine, The Honest Ulsterman, which I believe still exists under its modern title, HU.
I discovered a copy of the magazine a few years ago, made some amendments to the original, and included it in Strange Journey, my second collection of poems, published in 2012.
My paternal grandfather lived in Hillman Street, in north Belfast, and was an inveterate gambler, drinker and all-round wild man.
Both he and his wife, my grandmother, lived into their nineties and, whilst I doubt that hers was a particularly happy life, I never heard her complain.
This poem below is autobiographical and refers to an occasion my brother and I stayed overnight with them.
Along the entry he would come caterwauling,
striking bin-lids with his stick,
through the backyard knocking over milk bottles.
Up the wooden stair, rolling like a tar,
to lifeboat-bed and disapproval:
his salty, mermaid wife growling like an ocean.
On Sunday mornings there,
we children crouched, like mice,
digesting toast and catechisms,
as grandma stepped, stiff-backed, around him.
He would be still as stone, his bowl of porridge cooling.