Stormcloudsdropwisdomonearthsday’s Childe

The sound. A bubbling over, as if millions of child-blown bubbles are popping all at once, small ones running here and there to explode them. Triptaptriptrap. The loneliest time of night is 3am and the lit moon slanting in the dusted-over window. Dog shifts; a snort, a rumble of dissatisfaction.

Across the world my mother wakes from unremembered dreams. Everything she does these days is without memory.

“Thank you” and “Thank you,” the chorus of voices. Scoliosis. Backs bearing weight today will be irredeemably arched like the bow of a harp some thirty years from now. Then it will be me unable to bear witness to the unfolding day and the small events that make up life in a small place.

There are times I keep good company in my writing life. Between the pages of a journal. Sandwiched between stories of apocalypse and flight. These days the words are petulant; not wanting to emerge from the dark. Meditation might open roadways to progress. Not enough hours in the day.






Death on the never never. Bass baritone spine tingling chill of the Irish Sea. Walls sheathed in snow like frosted cake on the dining room table at Christmas. The decorations of childhood are now no more. The sled. I remember the sled, and Santa urging the reindeer onwards, the back packed with parcels and bows.

A glass bead sits on the desk. The future reflected in its glow can’t quite make me understand. A list of sorts. Payment for services rendered. Boxes without packing slips. Meetings to discuss trivial things. Worry too much about checking off standards and measures, and not enough about impassioning the young students who want to be thralled.





A slow falling rain. The gauge ticks steadily to three. The downcast eyes of a stained glass Jesus. Before my time. Giant clips constrain the pages of disappointed manuscripts. Energy and effort are lacking. The writing must wait. There’s not enough time in the given day for all to be addressed.

Meat dried on a prairie. The lone coyote at the far end of the box canyon waits for the dim light of night. Men on horseback click tongues and move through the grey slush. Acres. Thousands. Widgets create wealth. A line item on an agenda goes unseen. The pastel painted card askew on the desk is a reminder of what’s left to accomplish.

Every falling drop is hungrily absorbed by the dried earth as it flexes its girth and welcomes renewal.

Sometimes I wake in the night and stare at the beams and their painted weight. Dreams remain forgotten. A hint here of what makes one anxious, a taste there of what engenders fear. A grave holds five coffins. There’s plenty of room for more beneath the frost-rimed surface. Don’t fool yourself to the ache of impermanence.


Andnowtheendhascomesday’s Childe

Days left in school year: 4

Manuscripts to work on: 3

Live submissions: 11

Rejections this week: 3

In-progress subs: 4

Books to review: 2

Copies of Blood a Cold Blue on hand: 8

Messy desks: 2

Headphones on desk: 1

Broken sand dollars: 1

IEP meetings this week: 4

Cash in pocket: $0

(Stringing racquets for Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton, some years ago)




Murder—My Legacy

Gloves of otter skin and a fur-lined anorak, dressed for the arrayal. The brittle leaves destroyed underfoot as the dead bird rattled in the cardboard box. Children’s hearts are empty when it comes to knowing deep grief, or at least they are up to a certain age. There had been no visible signs of struggle. The hen appeared quite normal when I collected the eggs that morning. Certainly, she was loud, her ire expressed with a piercing cry at seeing her treasure pilfered. The hole we dug was ample for the shoebox, the soil dark and moist like wet coffee grounds, a small pool of water in the bottom of the grave. Looking back, I thought the creature’s breast seemed swollen, abnormally so, perhaps some cardiac condition known only to poultry? Anyway, we dug the hole smack-dab in the middle of my mother’s manicured lawn. My parents were out of town on a weekend “getaway,” and I was the man of the house. Murder. That became my legacy. After the box was in the ground, we dumped the soil on top and patted it down tightly in case the bird came back to life and haunted us. When we finished, I thumped my best friend on the back and headed towards the house as the slanted sun poured its bloody light on the fresh mound.


the wall, behind the plasterboard, a small Clark’s Mary Jane shoe box, size 12D. The box holds three objects; a brownish, desiccated piece of umbilical, a clear-glass Rosary beads, and a lock of dark, curly hair, tied with a piece of string.


The Chirr of the Cicada

The great horned owl is running scales in the avocado tree. Dark, it is. Pitch. The mother’s birthday, tomorrow. She’ll doubtless not remember, stuck as she is in the nursing home. Year to year, I forget the exact date, too. Ungrateful child. Speeches to students, setting expectations, parameters, boundaries of respect and care. A hundred small Hass avocados from the fence line. Three for two dollars. A yak bone bracelet sits on my desk, faded, the white of the bone coming through the dyed ochre color. Books to review, payment not received, review anyway.

My book in a rusted cage on my desk. Labor of something—love, hate, pain, memory. Silence. Sit silent. Shushed in the swelter of the day. Patient, to wait, to bide the time, to know there is something behind that next hill, slowly tracking this way. Words on a page, deciphered. Old and new. The faces, familiar, returning warriors from the Peloponnesian War. Short sword for close combat. Next month I’ll buy My Life as a Foreign Country.  Never been to war, me. Ireland a neutral country, unless we’re blowing one another’s brains out for the love of God. Cicadas take over from tired owls and chirr in the vast evening beyond the open window.

Color. Pages of a book scored with hi-liter. YellowPinkPurple. Spare the time to open the short volume of poems, read aloud if needed. These grainy movies from the early part of the last century betray a great deal we are afraid to accept. Stills in the mountains, caches of guns and ammunition wrapped waterproof and sunk in cold lakes. My grandfather was arrested in 1921 for some reason unknown to me. A letter from the clergy brought him into freedom a few days later. Black sheep. Caorach dubh. Years from home. Decades away. Today, I remembered sitting in the smoky kitchen of my old home, the peeling linoleum, the ancient rocking horse in the shed annex behind the kitchen. There, a small window, cracked in the corner, cobwebbed. Ago.

thrice book project

thrice fiction magazine have published five short pieces of mine with wonderful artwork to accompany them. it is one of the best fiction venues my work has been featured at, and the professional job they do is stellar. when i mentioned to their art guy, dave simmer, how much i loved the artwork for my recent stories, the cane flays bare, and softening of the skull, and wished they could publish my book so their talents would be brought to bear on it, he dropped a hint they might be venturing into the book publishing territories in 2013. an email to editor, rw spryszak, prior to christmas led to a, “let’s talk in the new year,” and now, he declares:

“Dave Simmer and I want to expand on the magazine, Thrice Fiction, and begin to move into the realm of books. We’ve found the guy we want to publish, an expatriate Irishman named James Claffey.

If you’ve looked in on Thrice you’ve no doubt seen him in two of our six issues. For me, he is a logical continuation of the phenomenon of the Irish writer with that particular, peculiar Celtic mind, who improves on the English language as he goes along, that the world of literature always seems to call up. Claffey brings a modern vibe to that legacy. His work is lyrical, tightly executed, and incredibly engaging. Hard to stop reading once you start.

I’ve spoken with James and told him that after I sort through the stories we’re going to use in issue #7 (which will be published in March), we’ll have time to sit down and work out what he wants to do. It should be a blast. As far as I’m concerned we’ll just go with his instinct and work from that starting point.”

these are fine words to read, let me tell you. i’m delighted to be collaborating with them on my first book, most likely a novel based in 1980’s Ireland. stay tuned for further information on the process, and read more from rw, here, and then click here for thrice fiction magazine. cheers! james