Gypsy Pat from America!

(I gcuimhne ar mo athair Patrick J Doyle agus do mo dheirfiúr Debbie agus deartháir Adam)

quiet, fearless Cill Chainnigh man
homeward from work, crossing roads in single bounds
son and daughter cradled in titan’s arms

‘Gypsy Pat from America!’
club-land billboards declare:
‘Strongman Act! Bed of Nails!’

clad in gold and green, head-scarf
white boots and blackened moustache, he
springs stage right like Superman

drum roll din over beer and smoke
Pat tears the phone-book in two
to delight, disbelief and cheers

two tug of war teams held fast
“you won’t break his grip!” the compere roars
Pat stands firm and reels them in

then the finale, “a volunteer please”:
a twenty-two stone man teeters on his chest
a sledgehammer splinters the flagstone
on his breadboard stomach
while Pat lays supine on six-inch nails

then the day he hung up his cape
the doc said, “…six weeks to live,
you better sit, don’t stand…”
And: “How do you feel?”
Pat grinned, “With my hands.”

Patrik Gryst

Gypsy Pat


elusive autumn ghost
you are correlate‎, a
prodigious yet‎ constant reverie

encoded in musical refrains
the decaying filigree of leaves
each sanguine sunrise decoded

evanescent revenant
you are resurrected, a
stubborn yet yielding muse

located in ‎midnight musings
the ephemeral vagaries of dreams
each ‎keepsake collected

eidolon‎, I am entangled, a
wooden sentinel penning
nocturnes‎ for abandoned seasons

captivated by ‎clouds and conches
the peripheral subtleties of existence
each sunlit dust mote reflected

simulacra, I am defeated, a
disconsolate fugitive imprisoned
by a futile fantasy

‎haunted by summers past
the perpetual lament of absences
each litany unanswered

Patrik Gryst

Empires and Sunsets

fourteen years into my fifty
before my heart ached under a crush of leaves
we moved house like a carnival leaves town

eternity of a summer holiday ahead, I leaped,
at four a.m. into the forest with a typewriter
eager as a alchemist to ensnare the elixir:

sunsets burst like the fall of glorious empires
Upper Roddlesworth shimmered like the Klondike
iron shadows of trees rusted in last-light

I was a brave: the dark-dread was years away
shadows blossomed in roots-bowls and gullies
my typewritten words echoed across the reservoir

the forest leaned over my shoulder and whispered
I listened, my words fathomed the dark
as dragnets of cloud wrenched up the shoal of the sun

lion-eyed and tired, I kicked my heels home
through July’s fields into August, I ploughed
the golden acres until September stopped my heart

Patrik Gryst

Penumbra: Chapter 1, What to do in the afterlife if you find yourself there…

I know now. I have to go back.
Back down the telephone lines and power cables: back into the smouldering blue embers of summers where I left ghosts behind. Ghosts I need to exorcise. Back through the long-demolished derelict estates that smelt of damp plaster and deserted lives; that sheltered abandoned two-seater sofas which had seen too many nights of Coronation Street and Celebrity Squares. All those moments I tried to capture and failed because by then it probably had a hold of me and hooked me with peripheral distractions.
I must go back to find the things I lost: the things I neglected or ignored. The fragments: photographs, cigarette cards, games of Cowboys and Indians, starry nights and lost toys. All the chunks of time it has swallowed up: January 13th 1972, half the summer of 1976, September 28th 1984, a winter’s night in 1987 walking up Accrington Road – absences that haunt me still.
I need to put them to rest.
What am I referring to? The it I mentioned? You of all people should know. We discussed it often enough on any one of a hundred Fridays nights, somewhere between 1982 and 1986; when we used to walk in the twilit forest regaling Hill Street Blues and Hammer House of Horror. We talked about it; we talked around it but never really knew its name.
Imagine all the things we ever said or did; all our feelings, thoughts and behaviours, all our memories, collecting and morphing into something that would follow you around for the rest of your life. Just on the edge of your peripheral vision, in the half-shadow, in an hinterland, in…
…the Penumbra. You thought it was one of my more abstract ideas and stated, with your usual pragmatic tone, that it would be almost impossible to write a story about. I ignored you and began developing the idea.
Now it so out of control; I’ve stopped trying to convince myself that it’s not real.
There is so much I have forgotten or blanked out. So many memories I have buried; so many things that land-slipped into a chasm of shadows. There are so many things that I appear to have forgotten but actually buried.
Okay, my death was self-inflicted but perhaps it won’t let me go back and perhaps it can keep me sidetracked in here among the wreckages of other people’s lives. Surely there are enough of us to break out, but it keeps most of us sedated, drugged, and docile, tucked up in bed.
It’s curious how the past just creeps up on you and ambushes you in the present. Do you ever think about fate – about the illusion of fate? Something came back to me just now and I’m not sure why. I must have been about fourteen. I often climbed up the hill near the house we lived in after my dad remarried. A clump of oak and ash clung to the hill. I would gravitate there on autumnal nights and gaze out over the winding trails of sodium vapour and cooling twilight, the landscape in silhouette; taking it all in – soaking up the spectacle of the town throbbing with electricity and static. Then I would run down the hillside to where a pylon stood like a forgotten sentinel and stand right underneath, lining up the stanchions until I was exactly in the centre. I felt I could receive some kind of ethereal energy; as if this would protect me from against imaginary foes.
On the other side of the hill there was a landfill site I used to walk through on the way to and from school. It was full of the detritus of other people’s lives. The smell was sickly-sweet: wet paper and metallic clay. I remember carting home an old wireless, a film-projector, and a TV convinced I could cannibalise the parts to build a machine to record my dreams and breathe reality into celluloid.
I discovered a dead dog there once, crumpled in a heap at the side of the track. I don’t know why I decided to bury it. I wrenched the handle off an old vacuum cleaner and dragged it by the collar to the edge of the dump near a tree that the bulldozers hadn’t claimed. I covered the dead dog with corrugated steel and lengths of wood.
A couple of weeks later the smell was palpable. I peeked through the gaps in the steel and wood and saw the bloated corpse baking in the summer heat. I went back that night with a can of petrol and set fire to it. The reason escapes me now, but perhaps there was some seed germinating of my now defunct employment in the death trade.
Instead, every night is laden with these dreams and sleepless ideas I can never remember. Full moons, owls t-wit-t-wooing and the deafening roar of the celestial mechanics rotating: the rusty cogs of the universe screeching, grinding out, turning night into day, day into night.
If I had to nail down a moment in time when it got hold of me, it was when I went to visit Michael in Hospital…the day someone was murdered in the flats where I live… December 3rd 1990…

The Airing Cupboard

softest cushioned snow
snowflakes and stars smother my lashes
unexpected storm fronts rage
like the weather of sagas

bottomless lagoons
perfect-sided sinkholes
bored into the Jurassic of my soul,
monsters from the midnight zone
swell like tides of plankton

coiled in coppery darkness, against
the womb-heat of the hot-water tank,
summer, nineteen-seventy-three
sprawled outside in Technicolor,
sun-bleached and over-exposed

pale torchlight, a tortoiseshell
frantic in the hot cage of my fingers,
whispers booming on the well of the stairs
eager for bones to anchor
their lost souls

Patrik Gryst

Song of the Timber Wolf

there is no darker path than mine
where tree-roots sound hollows‎ deep
without green shoots

others hunt in valleys
where buffalo grow fat on grass
where sunlight brightens eyes

and in the lightless wood I’ll dance
less trodden ways I’ll trod
where my twilight-eyes will scout
for snout and claw and hoof

there is no longer path than mine
where the forest of an endless night
casts trees and rocks in winter iron

others sleep under stars
where cool winds swirl the grass
where moonlight keeps a watch

and in the dead-light wood I’ll pine
less trampled ways I’ll trod
where my wintered-eyes patrol
each song, each verse, each line

Patrik Gryst

Shadow Child and Great Grey Wolf

where are you going Shadow-Child, are you lost?
said the Great Grey Wolf through his teeth
why do you run barefoot in the tangled forest,
disturbing your ancesstors with your footfall?

I am going to find the edge of the day
where the light and the darkness meet
smiled the dark-eyed child,
I must speak with my brother Twilight Bird

Then you will need a guide
only I know the cliff path to the peak
only I can speak like Twilight Bird with his beak,
I will lead you across the frozen sea

why would you help me ‘walks on four-legs’?
why would you risk the thin sea-ice,
climb the slippery cliff steps into the night
and wait with me for the first dawn-light?

why, to find the edge of the day
where the light and the darkness meet
smiled the moon-eyed wolf,
I would speak with my brother Twilight Bird

and what would you tell him Great Wolf,
far from your lair in the hollow wood
what spirit-story would you utter
so Twilight Bird would let you wait with me

I would tell him the tale of Shadow-Child
and Great Grey Wolf crossing the frozen sea
climbing the canyon walls of the night
to be blessed by the first dawn-light

Patrik Gryst