STICKS #poetry #ruralchildhood #AntiCiv #NewBook

As a child I lived outside from morning until nightfall, exploring & playing in a dreamy landscape of bog & marginal land full of unprofitable plants & animals & the kind of WestIrish characters who no longer exist. I loved sticks. And sticks are the first tool, & the first science. We humans are a tool-being says the philosopher Heidegger. This poem, from my forthcoming collection Medium, examines my own formation as a tool-being back in those long-gone Bogwandering days & asks if we’d have been better off leaving the Sticks where they were. Medium will be free on Spotify & as e-book. I’m doing a limited, collectible print run which must be pre-ordered at

A reading of Sticks


Are the tree’s sprout, but the wind’s gift.

I choose the straightest among what I pluck

from the briars

or the shade by the ditch;

hip-height and thumb-thick and bone-strong.

I won’t take one too gluey with resin.

I won’t take one too old and too parched and too likely to crack.

A whorling gnarl

half a hand

from the thick end

will give a

good grip.

There is one imperative. Presumably it’s God’s.

Or the sky’s

or the bog’s

or the wind’s.

The wind is the voice of the sky saying this:

A branch is not a stick

and snapping off a healthy branch

will draw a heavy curse on life.

What and where cannot be said.

A healthy branch is a well of dread.

Still, ancient impulse leans to the perfect bond of a stick.

I feel a far ancestral honouring.

I shake the stick above my head and yawp like Eve,

yawp like Rousseau, yawp as beardy Whitman did.

I fall and rise and fall and rise…

and twist in my own yawping stick-dance,

spiralling to archetypal dreamtime,

to distant eidolons of human wilderness;

a million years old and unexpelled,

not yet parted from the forest…

….romantic guff,

paint and fumes to cheat my guilt, deny reality.

For God is only living-life, and when I was eight I tortured God,

tormented animals, hacked at sapping wood.

At eight a boy’s already part of teak,

already animated by his stick;

his spear,

his wand,

his staff,

his rod.

Each battling phantom in his DNA

still grasping through the aeons

at this multi-purpose limb,

this cable routing him

through instant ages up

to modern man,

to man who’d slash a path through anything,

to man who stands back to probe

without touching,

to man who handles the world

without feeling,

to man by which the hacked tree sows

its Amazon of grief,

to man by which the numb roots spread

colonising every nerve and tip.

I am man now, and I’m getting a grip.