Blog of Oonah V Joslin -- please visit my Parallel Oonahverse at WordPress

where I post stories and poems that have not been seen elsewhere - also recipes and various other stuff.

and see me At the Cumberland Arms 2011

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths -- Poems by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Back in the days of Every Day Poets, Kathleen submitted some poems. We liked them a lot. We took them. Eventually we invited her to become part of the editorial team. After five years working together, EDP folded. Connie and she moved on to Gyroscope Review and I moved to The Linnet's Wings but we stayed in touch, we remain friends. Now I am so glad to see Kathleen's first Chapbook come to fruition from Gyroscope Press with a lovely cover by Kath's son, artist, Shawn Dalsen.

How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths follows the seasons through a very difficult lock-down year. It is honest and brave, poignant and humourous and, like its author, it is gentle and kind. Kathleen is a person who chooses to love, chooses to hope, chooses to 

welcome the clarity that our fear keeps obcured

That's not an easy choice. We see that play out in the many moments within these poems, tiny personal, precious moments of crystal clear insight and realisation that there is always a choice to be made of gratitude perhaps because 

our miracles feel endless 

even as our time grows short

This book does what Kathleen's poetry does best. It reminds us that the world constantly changes around us, that we can't smell it or predict it and that it is up to us to keep ourselves grounded within that change. Of course that's difficult to do but then you can always Cook Your Way out of a Funk or Tuck some gentle things away to hang onto and this book suggests lots of ways you can do that. There's ordinary magic to be found in the book and some extraordinary and very profound insights. 

I highly recommend it to you. 

I do have a favourite poem but I won't tell you what it is because I know you will find a favourite too, a poem to hang onto. A poem that helps.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Mostly March -- Little Green Men

March is named after Mars and it's St Patrick's Day this week so I've been digging into NASA's latest data to find out what's really going on up there and guess what I found? Irrefutable evidence of

Little Green Men

Mars is a nice place – with a bit of curiosity and a lot more perseverance it could become a hit with the tourist trade. But when we first landed in March, I don’t know what I was expecting really, maybe not the full on maria-chi band and red dust cocktails in the foyer but at least a grunt of recognition, an acknowledgement for the effort it took to travel three hundred million miles.

Pat” says the commander, “c’mon. We have work to do.” They always use the word ‘we’ in the loose sense.

Now, I’m used to roughing it and I don’t mind taking orders but building your own camp from flat pack? You know what those instructions are like. I couldn’t make heads nor tails of them. We went through it all in mission training but I was too excited to listen, a potential defect they said.

They don’t call it the red planet for nothing. Everything’s covered in red dirt and there’s rocks all over the place. It’s like a regular building site but then that’s what we were there for – Building and Assessment of Resources for Colonization. Since I was pretty pants at the building part, the commander decides he’d be better off sending me off on reconnaissance.
Reconnaissance?” says I.
Do you see that volcano over there?”
Well you couldn’t really miss it. “Affirmative,” I said. They like you to say words like affirmative. It makes them feel important.
“That’s your destination. Terrain report, lots of photos. Take along a Roverbot.”

Patbots aren’t super-intelligent but dogbots take the biscuit. He just ran wild. He must have sniffed every rock between Tharsis camp and Pavonis! Thank god there’s no trees on Mars.

was way farther than it looked. I’d seen nothing but red dust for so long the sky looked green. The volcano it was gigantic with sides like the ski slope from hell. It was red. It was dusty. Nothing to see here. But then Rover ran off and just disappeared down a hole in the ground. I’m shouting Rover, Rover like a demented… when the ground gives way under me and I’m on a roller-coaster ride like one of them giant swimming pool tubes. I don’t know how far I fell but the first thing I remember was a great deal kerfuffle, then faces and a cacophony of voices.
What is it do ye tink?”
Sure I’ve nivver seen the like o’ it in all my born days.”
What’s yer name if ye have one fella?”
Pat,” says I. “My name’s Pat.”
Seamus, it says its name’s Pat!” Someone poured some golden warming stuff down my speaker, “and it speaks English so it does.”
This information was not universally welcomed.
So what are you doing here anyway, Pat?”
Building and reconnaissance,” I explained.
This news was very unwelcome.

The place was entirely green, a glen and underground forest, waterfalls, rainbows and, high overhead, a pink sky.

I choked a bit but managed to find my voice again. “What was that snake thing I slid down?”
“No snakes here m’lad. Yer namesake got rid of them all a long time ago.”
Ummm right. Did you happen to see my dog Rover?”
That eejit of a ting? Sure it ran away so it did. But sure we found you and it’s lucky being St Patrick’s Day. You’ll stay for the party?”
I honestly couldn’t see any reason not to and it was a great ceilidh. There was singing, jigs and reels, a good deal of drinking and much merriment.

The next day I came to, covered in dust, close to Tharsis camp. The base had been all but wiped out by a huge dust storm and the mission had to be abandoned. Of course I filled out my report but nobody believed me. My memory files, though intact from my point of view, were inaccessible and I’d somehow lost my camera. Defective they said and reassigned me to data analysis but I know the truth. I was up there partying with little green men. Leprechauns. The Irish got there first. And Rover? For all I know it’s still lost in the lava tubes. He must be barking by now!

Oonah V Joslin © 2021


Saturday, 6 March 2021

Mostly March -- beware them Ides

A year into lockdowns we have vaccines and some hope at last. We had our first vaccine this week. Astra Zenica. We didn't really care which vaccine we got. All these vaccines are the result of unsung people working tirelessly. Their very existence is a triumph. It's better than landing on Mars. It's a pity to see petty political arguments over them. It's a pity to see superstition and stupidity trying to supplant science but we're human, we must accept.

I know that in these 3 photos the seasons look as if they are going backwards but that is just a reflection of the variation in microclimate between the 3 gardens. Belsay is a quarry garden. Wallington is a walled garden. Howick is a woodland garden very close to the North Sea Coast.

January - Belsay

February - Wallington

March 6th 2020

A year ago today we were at Howick Hall doing one of our lovely walks that I miss so much.

Last March we didn't really quite know what was about to hit us and a good thing too! Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. I am lucky. As a child I hated having to go to school day after day -- all those other kids. For me it's bliss to wake up on a cold morning, look out the window, crawl back into bed and turn over. My default mode is not very social but this year, even on my scale of unsociable, takes the biscuit -- takes the biscuit, crushes it up and throws it to the winds! And we count ourselves lucky in that it's been such a nightmare for so very many people, loved ones lost, health lost, livelihoods lost, time together lost, opportunities lost. For front line staff their lives have turned into a disaster movie. It must be awful.

Reality has changed. Maybe our dreams have changed too. Even my nightmares have changed. 

Last night I dreamt we went to the theatre to see a ballet. Every other row of seats had gone. People were seated in family groups. At the interval there was a hard sell sponsorship raffle for the theatre. We were in the back row and the seats reclined right back so I lay back, fell asleep and missed the entire first act. At the second interval, just before the Bingo set started, we sneaked out like criminals so we could a taxi home rather than taking a bus. The streets were cordoned with yellow tape denoting one way systems but Northumberland St was pretty empty. We met a friend who had an german shepherd dog dressed in doggy PPE right down to a little snout mask, so I wasn't allowed pet it. I wanted to go for an Indian meal but realised all the restaurants were closed.

Last March, was that really only a year ago?

Saint David's Day I made Welsh Cakes. St Patrick's Day we'll have a dram of Bushmills. We have no plans to come out of lockdown. We won't be going on holiday any time soon. We might get back to Belsay or Wallington or Howick later this year. We have vaccines and some hope at lastLife goes on but perhaps not as we know it.


Sunday, 24 January 2021

January -- Burn's Night an a' that!

Oh indeed, I have my haggis at the ready. I have my neeps and tatties and my whiskey cake or shortbread and raspberries (yet to be decided). I have a couple, well a few, okay I have a lot of fine malts tae sample including a very nice Speyside sent at Christmas by Jim and Kathleen, Glen Morangie a Crabbies and Bushmills 10 yr Malt. 

Burns was my mother's favourite poet and she had a bust of him in the china cabinet. The lowland Scots dialect wasnae a great stretch in Ballymena! We were really more Scots than Irish -- Dalriadans, as I always like to say. We were the folk of the Stone of Scone, the people of the olden kingdoms of the north when the seas were connections, not barriers to trade. When the sea was the easy way to travel.

So I regard Burn's Night as my tradition too, though I never had haggis as a child but this was because my mother could not stand even the smell of lamb! She'd have frowned a bit on the whiskey too even if we could have afforded whiskey. But I love lamb and I like a wee dram and almost despite her encouragement, I still write poems. So I'll address the haggis and enjoy the tasting and here's the story: 

Quare advise tae a buddin' poet

Betimes as a wean I’d help Mammy tae dust.
The Bust, eight inches high aye sat in the corner o' the cabinet
but I wasn’t allowed tae touch it.

He was that young an’ fair and looked tae be made o' honeycomb
so I asked, Mammy, Is that yella man?
Naw yella man’s fer eaten.

Thon’s Rabbie Burns, mammy explained, the greatest Scottish poet ever lived.
My luv is like a red, red rose, A Man’s a man fer a’ that, Ye Banks and Braes,
To a mouse and Auld Lang Syne’s a wheen o’ what he wrote.

We’d learned Ye Banks and Braes in school. I was impressed.
I want to be a poet, I confessed, when I grow up.
Aye, yer arse in parsley! she aimed a bussock at my behind,

You’ll ha'tae up yer ideas a bit, she said.
Poetry’s not a payin’ job and anyway, Mammy lot a hoogh gie fit tae burst,
remember that ye ha'tae grow up first!

First Published in A New Ulster Apr 2018

This was published at the same time and seems more relevant than ever in these day when Ulster's status is in great doubt. 


I have the voice of no country. I don’t
know that my native land was ever real;
a place of fractures, born of volcanoes,
rifts in its rocks that never truly heal.
Even the old kingdom was united
more by a turbulence of sea than land.
But the blood, the blood was real between us,
these days depicted (Pict) by the red hand.
We were the Dal Riata. We were Scots.
Feth aye, we were! Fought over and fought back,
triumphed in defeat because Iona
was our own and the Stone of Destiny
belonged to us and spread our culture far.
And yes, that blood was thick and bloody real
between us, Aethelfrith, and the Ui Neills.
Yet we were not planted as in new soil,
but flowed here on the tides of history,
left and returned through many centuries.
Who will inflict a future on us next?
In global politics we have no friends.
But though I have no country and no voice,
I'll remain Dalriadan to the end.

Monday, 18 January 2021

January -- The Ides of

I've been feeling a bit trapped this past week. The cold and icy conditions have meant that I haven't been out for a walk. There's no point in risking a fall when hospitals are so overstretched. Right? 

And we seem to have a mouse! We can hear it periodically scratching about in the roof space which is all insulation. It can't get into the rooms from there as far as we know; at least it hasn't made an appearance thus far. We think it's made a little run for itself in and out. It may be a little uncomfortable up there because we have those electrical current deterents that make a nasty noise through all the wiring. We have traps at the ready just in case and are seeking some professional advice. I can't say I blame mousey with it being so cold. It wants in and I want out. Today we had a visit from the mouse man and he has confirmed a run in the attic. He found some nibbled paper up there. He was a lovely man! He asked how we were and we said fine -- no symptoms and he said 'I mean mentally. How are you coping?'    I felt like saying we were as mad as ever. But hey HOW NICE! He'll be back in two weeks to make sure they're gone and we're alright. That will be the 1st February 😁

In the garden there's little activity. A sudden Flight of Starlings rushed across the other day. I think the sparrow hawk had taken one of them. I could hear squeakings and alarm calls for about 5 minutes after the cerfuffle. This is the way of nature. We all survive as we can.

But the Sun is rising in the sky (or rather we are tilting ever more towards it in our yearly journey) and today for the first time it gave us some warmth through the kitchen door. It also showed up that the glass is very dirty. 

Apart from some political limericks I haven't been writing much. I can't get my head into that space. But I'm not a professional writer and so I don't worry much. If it comes it comes, if it doesn't I'll have to clean the windows of that sliding door instead.


Getting lighter.

Buds appearing.

Birdsong brighter

penetrates my lock-down room

silences the motes of gloom

allowing me in my mind’s eye

to scud across the winter sky

momentarily escaping.

Monday, 11 January 2021

January 2021 -- I hate January and let me tell you why -- Featuring work by Donall Dempsey

Christmas is over. It's not that I like Christmas so very much -- no that's not it. New Year has never been my thing. It's just one day to the next when all's said and done. In fact every day is just one day to the next. But some days you never forget. Some days life doesn't go on! 

The 11th January 1960 was one of those days. I was 5. I'd just started school in September and that was a big deal for me. I didn't like it!! There were other kids there. Scarey kids. You had to interact. You had to compete. You had to learn all sorts of difficult things. It was the beginning of being in the bigger world and I didn't much like the bigger world!

It was a Monday like it is this year and a Monday like no other because that was the day my father died. He was 48.

Jack Kyle

I have written lots and lots about it before and if you would like to read some of what I've written I refer you to this POST 

But the truth is I've never maybe written so viscerally and truthfully as this in piece by fellow Irish poet Donall Dempsey who is a FaceBook friend and has kindly allowed me to share this. This is what it felt like. It's how it still feels. There are days I'm still 5 inside and 

NO I don't like being in the world -- Not in January -- I don't -- not today.


"I'm scared...!" she sobs

"Of what love?" I cuddle her

"Of being in the world!"


This was when she was only a tiny little thing in the world of long ago but her words ring truer now in this rogue world of ours.

Her granny had just died and this all too too solid world of forever didn't seem as forever as it had before. She no longer trusted it if a granny could vanish...would she vanish too?

She cried and "wanted to go where ever Granny had goed!"

She was looking at a globe and asked me if she were in the world. And is Granny not in the world any more? And when Granny finishes being dead then will she come back? And what good is the world if Granny isn't in it. She sat on my lap and listened to auld Jemmy the Joist reading from Finnegans Wake with his own voice. I asked her what did she think the man was saying and she asked "Did he lose his granny too?"

                                                                    by Donall Dempsey

Thursday, 31 December 2020

A bunch of not quite Christmas Thoughts 2020 - 2021 -- New Year's Eve


The Ghost of an Idea

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”


Sovereignty” Boris’s beloved buzz-word, is never for the people. Sovereignty, by definition, makes people subject to their so-called betters.

In terms of Brexit, it was always about the ability of the rich to exploit workers without having European laws hold them back and crucially whilst squirrelling away money in off-shore tax havens, which Europe was going to make them declare.

With Brexit, deal or no deal, British people have lost all the recourse to European Law and the protections it offered us in terms of education, fairness in the workplace, the safety net of social services, equitable medical care, housing, pensions, insurance, travel and much more. For ordinary people this is a disaster.

Everywhere we see disparity. In every way our society is becoming more and more divided. The ruling class thrives on division. One only has to look at the privileged in Eton. Whilst other schools struggle for funding from local businesses, which are now often in difficulty themselves, Eton offers a head start and a clear run to those wealthy enough to pay for privilege. The under-qualified are promoted to the top whilst the intelligent poor are kept in their place by underfunding. The last thing privilege wants is an educated electorate.

But the dead and displaced of Grenfell Tower cry out for justice. The Windrush generation cry out for justice. The elderly and disabled have had benefits stripped away. Many have died because of it. You may applaud Key Workers but still Nurses pay does not reflect the value this lying government said it put of their work. We have lengthening food bank queues. Unicef is having to feed British children whilst politicians eat and drink on expenses and at discount. All about us we see the contempt with which the Tories hold the working people of Britain.

The North South divide is widening and united kingdom seems now a loose term of ridicule. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland – everyone has been abused by Westminster and even in other parts of England there is discontent. Now young people will no longer be able to afford to spend time abroad expanding their horizons – well unless they have a rich daddy. The Brexit lie duped half the people into voting against their own interests. Buzz-words like ‘Sovereignty’ and ‘Empire’ sound fine indeed but they have at their dark heart the spectres of power and avarice. Fine words are the weapons of subjugation.

Everything that divides us in these times of pandemic and global upheaval, when co-operation is more vital than ever for the good of the humanity, is utterly reprehensible and at this very time in history we have the most divisive government imaginable in charge.

Brexit will surely bring ignorance and want. Now the upper classes really do have the upper hand once more and all I can say is

God help us every one!