Raymond Friel

Raymond Friel’s collections of poems include Seeing the River and Renfrewshire in Old Photographs.

Poem: ‘On Chesil Beach’

Raymond Friel, 22 May 2003

I must begin with these stones as the world began. Hugh MacDiarmid

From the car park, the duckboard angles up like a runway to the overcast distance – but soon you’re back on solid earth, or rather shingle which yields and crunches underfoot. Behind you, the canter of the downs has come to an abrupt and nervous halt – as if it knows its own limitations. The rolling landscape...

Poem: ‘The Golf Years’

Raymond Friel, 15 November 2001

Out on the back nine, beyond the banter, we’d be stopped on the elevated tees by a sunset of epic proportions, or, down in the firth, the fin of a sub – its black body packed with catastrophe – heading for its ‘home’ in the Holy Loch.

He was working shifts in Hunterston and after the long silence of the coast road came home to the early morning bedlam of...

Two Poems

Raymond Friel, 1 June 2000

A New Jerusalem

in memoriam D.H.C. Hughes 1924-1979

Your mother rattled in whisky sodas. Above the fire a print of the Beagle on Pacific swell, 1835;

a mantel of peaked caps and wedding veils, your father on a beach in jacket and tie (in the hand on your shoulder an unlit smoke ...)

We lounged in the white bungalow he built, weighing our words in the tumblers as fire performed its one trick over...

Poem: ‘Trebarwith Strand’

Raymond Friel, 27 April 2000

Evening station: two bucket seats, glasses on a handy sill.

The bristly sea half-fills the big basin of the headlands;

on lower slopes crocosmia smoulders in the coarse grass;

hydrangeas spill over the stone wall of Treneglos

(hortensia – like a blousy barmaid at the pumps).

The roofs of shops (towers of beach clutter locked in the dark)

draw the lazy eye to the sun’s minted...

October.

Windfall is thin on the ground, quickly rotten. Perhaps it’s the sick summer, or a sick tree ...

My mind takes the same turns, overweight, ridiculous in trunks, arms in the air down the flume, on and on and down.

     *

Now the borders are pruned back

(the crippled peony pleading to the blue October sky)

the lost toys of summer are found, the handguns...

Poem: ‘The Halt’

Raymond Friel, 5 March 1998

We are the dawn sniffers, the motley few, This morning snuffling at the lateness Of the only service this side of midday. Does it still exist? Is it late enough To risk a common ground with coded quips Regarding ‘leaves’, or some such dreary mot?

The plaque inside the cedar-scented bothy Tells of how this elevated halt Was saved from nettly dereliction By Betjeman’s verses...

Two Poems

Raymond Friel, 27 November 1997

A World Fit to Live in

With his ‘shopping list’, my son makes us stop At choice hedges, a particular weed. He does not share my anticipation. In the long shadows, a man tends a grave With brisk affection, his jacket folded Inside out, specs high on his balding head.

The white horse, behind us on its hillside, Is summoning the nerve for a great leap. Outside St Michael’s, the...

Poem: ‘Father and Son’

Raymond Friel, 22 December 1994

Unbearably buoyant the night before My return to Blairs, I’d be brought back down To earth by Dad’s Polonius routine. He’d been there in the black and white Forties, And had to leave, he said, only because ...

Now, in the grey-skied secular Nineties, Home with a girlfriend who’s not a Catholic, I psych myself for one of our wee talks. A curt ‘she’s...

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