This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at listowelconnection@gmail.com

Category: Poem Page 1 of 11

The Time of the Cuckoo

Athea Church at Easter 2022

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A Few Hard Cuckoo Facts

Cuckoo by bird.org

This parasitic bird is usually associated with this time of year.

The striping on the underside of the cuckoo’s body mimics the sparrowhawk. This frightens the sugar out of smaller birds. They abandon their nests long enough for the cuckoo to lay her eggs.

The eggs take 12 days to hatch. From day one these nestlings are bullies and they chuck the legitimate hatchlings out of the nest.

Cuckoo chicks grow quickly and are known for their voracious appetites. They often grow to several times the size of their adoptive parents. These parents are usually worn to a thread trying to feed their ever hungry offspring.

Wait for this bordering on incredible fact!!!!!!

A female cuckoo may visit and lay eggs in up to 50 nests in a breeding season.

By September they all clear off to Central and West Africa where they rest and gird their loins for another onslaught on the unsuspecting little Irish birds.

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From Pres. Listowel 1983/84 Journal

The journal opened with this kind of mission statement.

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History and NFTs

Photo; Jesuit photo archive

In 2015 I posted the Titanic story of this man. He is Dr. Francis O’Loughlin, formerly of Tralee, who drowned with The Titanic.

Here is the story I borrowed from a Facebook page called Historical Tralee and surrounding areas:

Bravery of Titanic Surgeon Dr. William Francis Norman O’Loughlin

New York Herald

Monday 22nd April 1912

In accounts printed about the Titanic and the bravery of her officers little has been said of one who probably was the most widely known and best beloved of all classes. He was Dr. William Francis Norman O’Loughlin, senior surgeon of the White Star Line, who perished with the ship.

During the forty years Dr. O’Loughlin has been a surgeon aboard ships of that line he gained the close friendship of innumerable men and women of prominence. Known as one of the most upright and kindly men, he also was regarded as a leader in his profession and a student of the highest order.

Survivors say they saw Dr. O’Loughlin on deck going from one to another of the frightened passengers, soothing them and aiding them in getting into the lifeboats. As the last lifeboat left the vessel he was seen standing in a companionway beside the chief steward, the purser and another officer swinging a lifebelt. He was heard to say: “I don’t think I’ll need to put this on.” He was in the companionway when the vessel went down. From those who knew him well statements were obtained yesterday regarding the fine character of the friend all were mourning. All agreed he was one of the kindest men they had ever met. Many incidents showing his unselfishness were related. One of the friends said: “He was the strongest personal friend of every officer and seaman he ever left a port with, and he was a most thorough officer. He would give his last dollar to charity and was never known to speak ill of anyone. He was the most tenderhearted man I ever met.”

One of Dr. O’Loughlin’s intimate friends in the profession was Dr. Edward C. Titus, medical director of the White Star Line. He said: “Dr. O’Loughlin was undoubtedly the finest man that I have ever known. Kind at all times, his work among the persons he met endeared him forever to them. Always ready to answer a call for aid at all hours of the day and night, he would go into the steerage to attend an ill mother or child, and they would receive as much consideration from him as the wealthiest and mightiest on board. “He was one of the best read men I ever met. Dr. O’Loughlin was always doing some charitable act. Of his income I believe it will be found that he left little, having distributed most of it among the poor. There is no doubt that he died as he wished. Once recently I said to him that as he was getting on in years he ought to make a will and leave directions for his burial, as he had no kith or kin. He replied that the only way he wanted to be buried was to be placed in a sack and buried at sea.”

Dr. O’Loughlin was a native of Tralee co kerry in Ireland. Left an orphan he was raised and educated by an uncle. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. When twenty-one years old he went to sea because of ill health and followed the sea continuously thereafter. Prior to being transferred to the Titanic he was surgeon on board the Olympic.

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Fast forward to April 2022 and I have an email from Lorelei Llee whose job title is

 Titanic Content Developer for E/M Group & Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. 

In her research she has come across my blog post about the good doctor and she wants to use it. I have to inform her that it’s not my story anyway and I certainly didn’t take the photo. Im old but….

So, of course, I look up her company. They are e/m group “an experiential media group”

https://www.emgroup.com

And here is the gas part. You know the way you have never heard of something one day and the next you are seeing it everywhere.

So it is with me and NFTs.

Enter to Win!

Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of history! RMS Titanic, Inc. is offering a select lot of NFT’s available for download and purchase.

The above is taken directly from this group’s website

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Poetry Day 2022

On Poetry Day 2022 I got a present of an anthology of modern Irish poetry.

Thank you, Nancy

Here is a short poem from my new book

It’s a lovely poem about the great human family, the tillers of soil and cutters of turf.

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An Obituary, a Joke and More

Knockanure church at Easter 2022 by Jer Kennelly

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John Molyneaux R.I.P.

David Kissane’s Tribute to the late John Molyneaux concluded

On one particular occasion, my father hadn’t finished the Western he was reading and I went into the college on Saturday Western-less. Scared stiff and I had forgotten the name of the book! If you failed to bring back the book, Mr Molyneaux would ask you what the plot was and who the main characters were. He was not pleased if you weren’t reading these Westerns. Around he came to each desk to collect the books. I could sense a cloud coming over my desk as I struggled to remember the name of the book I hadn’t read! “Well, Kissane, what book have you been reading?” he boomed as I fumbled in my school bag under the desk for the book that wasn’t there. A thick, deep dark silence followed. My fate seemed obvious and inevitable, a feeling so very of those times. Red-cheeked and broken, I called out the name of the only Western I could remember, “Something to Hide” and added with embarrassment, “I think my father borrowed it!” A smile from the teacher and a titter around the class. He passed on but when he was distributing the Westerns a few minutes later for the coming week, he read out the titles so that the students would put up their hands to choose which one they wanted. “And we have one left” he said with a smirk, “Something to Hide”! A dead silence permeated the class and I was ready to sink down through the ground. He allowed the moment to expand as the class awaited an execution! But it was Saturday and all he said was “Kissane, I think you have something to hide all right!” and dropped the book on my desk as the bell was rung outside the door. The great escape.

I read every Western after that and began to manage the complexity that was John Molyneaux.

School days are happening days and very soon after starting in St Michael’s College, the sporting side of John Molyneaux revealed itself to us. It was then his dimensionality was fully experienced. First it was football. With Johnny O’Flaherty, there was a dynamic duo who were charged and innovative in training methodology and intensity. The two Johns taught the full forwards (I was corner forward) to get possession of the long balls sent in and, instead of turning, pass it quickly to the half forwards rushing in. It worked in the Dunloe Cup final against St Brendan’s Killarney in 1970. High ball in from Jerry Kiernan at centre field landed in my hands and I could hear John Molyneaux’s imperious voice on the sideline saying “To Carroll” and before I knew it, I had let the ball into Eamonn O’Carroll’s hands – he was like a jet plane when in flight – and the net was rattled. And the referees were not safe from a Molyneaux-boom if he considered that the whistler was incorrect in his blowing! Total engagement in everything he was involved in. That was the Molyneaux way.

And of course there was athletics. In the mid-1960s, John Molyneaux was the driving force behind the formation of a BLE club in Listowel, assisted by Pat Kiernan, Michael Crowley and Johnny O’Flaherty. St Michael’s College benefitted hugely from the club, and from having the club personnel on the staff. Jerry Kiernan and co were generated. Along with Kiernan, John O’Connell, Pat O’Connell, Eamonn O’Carroll, John Hartnett (our own classmate from the class of ’72) and Gerald Leahy were the young stars of the times. It wasn’t just running…the O’Connells and Hartnett were jumpers of the top calibre. John O’Connell won the All Ireland Colleges gold medal in Santry in June 1970 with a leap of 43 feet 11 and a half inches in the triple jump. There was a broad smile on John Molyneaux’s face that day and for years after. Kiernan’s career is well known and it took Eamonn Coghlan to best him in the All Ireland schools 1500m in 1971 but Jerry was soon to run into legend. Athletics fires lit by John Molyneaux burned for a long time.

From doing running on the football pitch, sometimes without the ball, I was asked by Johnny O’Flaherty to run cross country but compelled by John Molyneaux to compete. And track too and there was the 17 mins something I ran in the 1971 North Munster 5000m to snatch a silver medal at my first North Munster schools attempt behind Mick O’Shea. Hopes were high for the mystical quest of the Munsters but inexperience allowed me to look back a few times on a hot afternoon in Rockwell College track and I got a good look at the leaders pulling away from me. I was bereft. Immediately after the race, John Molyneaux approached me and suggested, with that glint in his eye that “we’ll have to provide you with blinkers the next time, Kissane!” Ice broken. Lesson learned. 

But while dreams were shattered that Rockwell day, a love affair with athletics had begun. It was a treasure John Molyneaux and John O’Flaherty gave me for life. 

On a fine June evening in 1972, our class walked past the budding apple trees outside St Michael’s College for the last time as students. The past had happened and the future was there for the taking. There was no formal goodbye to the teachers but it did dawn on us that something special was being left behind. And special people too, like John Molyneaux.

When the Leaving Cert results reached us in the burning August 1972, there was an A beside Latin on the paper. Vital for college and a grant. My after-vision of John Molyneaux increased even more and his name was mentioned in the celebrations that followed in a Birmingham night club. I even took Latin a subject in first year in UCC but the lectures there never reached the pitch of Mr Molyneaux’s classes and it was jettisoned for second year. 

The next time I met John Molyneaux was in 1979. A fair few of the class of ’72 were also teachers now, scattered all over Ireland. The Clarence Hotel along the Liffey in Dublin and a meeting of the Dublin-based past pupils to assist with the centenary celebrations of the college. St Michael’s had been opened in 1879 in the recycled building that was the Fever Hospital. We never knew that while in the college as students!

John Molyneaux led the committee members who met us that rainy night in Dublin. A chat about how we were faring and it was only then we realised how proficient John Molyneaux was at golf. He was promoting the centenary golf event to be held later. In fact that year, 1979 he was a member of the Ballybunion Golf Club that won the Jimmy Bruen Shield in Portrush. An All Ireland winner. The first team from Kerry to win the honour and John was a key member along with such golfing names as Seán Walsh and Gerry Galvin. The college centenary celebrations were a huge success. Of course they were, with a committee man as effective as John Molyneaux on board.  

Our paths were to cross again when I returned to Kerry as a teacher in 1984. I was representing Tarbert Comprehensive School on the Kerry Colleges Football Board and there was John across the table at my first meeting. A different John now, settled into age and not at the top of the class in front of me. Was still my past-teacher though and he regained his past visage as we got to re-know each other. He was proposing to start a “Silver Circle” fundraising scheme for the Colleges Board. This was something he had been a big fan of and had recruited his students to get involved in over the years. It brought out the sales acumen in many students and accentuated their business skills. It entailed selling lines but with a commitment of a month or so by the punters and an incentive of a percentage stake by the seller. Jerry Riordan from Dromerin was particularly adept at it during our years in the college, partly because the Riordan family had a shop in Dromerin and had a consistent supply of customers. 

John retired in 1990 after a long stint at the profession. He had a long and productive retirement too. He was to be seen in The Town Park (aka the Cows’ Lawn) where he had spent the many happy hours coaching and training footballers and athletes. And he could be seen down by the Feale also. That’s where I met him on that day I last laid eyes on him. 

When a relation, colleague, neighbour, teacher, friend passes away, it is felt by all who are or were acquaintances. When we are shoving on in years, their deaths mean an empty place in the world we know, the irreversible change that lessens what it means to live. That was the feeling I got in the church in Listowel a few weeks ago on the day that John Molyneaux was laid to rest. When Canon Declan O’Connor told the congregation that John Molyneaux was the only son of an only son, was born and died in the same house in Charles St in Listowel and was a hard-working parent and husband, as well as an energetic, resourceful and innovative community and club man, it seemed strange that we hadn’t known some of these facts before. As students we had known only a fraction of the man he was. 

But many people who are gone still continue to grow in our existence. In our after-image of them, we often understand the whys behind the whats. Some of these people indeed become legends. John’s positivity for everything makes him eternal. As John Milton said “Hope proves a person deathless”.

John Molyneaux. Semper Invictus. Always undefeated.

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A Laugh for You

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Junior Infants

Junior Infants in Presentation Primary School from the 1983 School yearbook.

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Our Outdoor Dining and Performance Space

The promise:

Kerry County Council has received funding to provide a covered outdoor meeting, dining, and performance area at the existing pedestrian area in the Square in Listowel.

It’ll comprise three 7×7 metre covered structures on steel frames, LED lighting, as well as seated benches and picnic benches.

The story so far

I don’t like to be negative about a new initiative but I’m disappointed. The covers are more for ornament than use. They may protect you from the sun but they won’t keep out the rain or the wind.

However the project is not finished yet. There are lights to go in and the seating to be restored.

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John Molyneaux R.I.P.

Resurrection altar in St. Mary’s

This annual display on the side altar, as well as all the symbols of Easter includes animals. flowers, water and light.

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Commemorative Manhole Covers

These permanent memorials of 1916 are literally under our feet in town. I photographed this one on Church Street. Try to notice them next time you are out and about.

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Memories of an Influential Teacher

“And still they gazed and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.”

Oliver Goldsmith’s The Village Schoolmaster

The late John Molyneaux had a wealth of knowledge and he imparted it to cohorts of pupils in St. Michael’s. He had a prodigious knowledge of football, running and later golfing strategy.

One of his past pupils, David Kissane, published an obituary to his former teacher on line. I am including it here. As it is very long, I will give it to you in instalments.

Semper Invictus

 A tribute to Mr John Molyneaux, St Michael’s College, Listowel

                                                By David Kissane, Class of ’72

It is fifty years ago since a group of about thirty young fellas headed out the gates of St Michael’s College, Listowel and into the wide, wild and wonderful world of the 1970s. As a member of the class of ’72, there is a compulsion to remember the year and its hinterland. Its place in our layered lives. What contributed to what we are cannot go uncelebrated. It just keeps on keeping on.

But how can one capture the colours and contours, the shapes and shadows of half a century ago when the world had a very different texture to what we perceive now in the bóithríns of age? The ships we sailed out in may be wrecked or dismembered. The ports we set sail from are hidden in the mists of time and memory, and our fellow sailors are scattered.

So where does one begin? 

The writer Colm Tóibín once asked the artist Barrie Cooke how he began his paintings. Cooke answered “I make a random mark on the canvas and see what happens”.

Just as I follow Cooke’s suggestion and type a random “J” on the screen, the phone rings. It is Jim Finnerty from Glouria. I look at my J and wonder if Cooke was right! “There’s a man you knew well after passing away in Listowel” Jim announced. Listowel, I thought out loud as Jim let the news simmer in the wok of my memories. A number of names came to mind before Jim said “John Molyneaux”.

And then my canvas began to fill in. I write the name of Mr John Molyneaux, my Latin and English teacher, my athletics and football coach, and the dam opens. For the five years I spent in St Michael’s College, Listowel, he was an enduring presence, a multi-dimensional man who had a huge influence in our lives for those budding years. An icon.

Of course the first question that challenged my memory was “when did I last see John Molyneaux?”

About three years ago I parked my van down by the Feale off the Square in Listowel. Near Carroll’s Yard. Near the entrance bridge to Listowel Racecourse where you’d hear “Throw me down something!” on race days in sepia Septembers. As I returned to the van with a brand new chimney cowl, I saw him coming along the bank of the river. Lively as always, thoughtful, loaded with intention, energised quietly by the magic of the Feale walk, eyes down. I knew immediately if was him although I hadn’t met him in thirty years or more. 

I almost said “Sir”. There is something un-shielding about meeting our old teachers. For us teachers, there is often a similar feeling when we meet former students.

“Hallo”, I said. He looked up and at me and it was that same look that I had forgotten with the passing of the years. Stored in the subconscious though. A moment of silence. I heard myself say my name. “I know” he said and a pathway opened up between the two of us and five minutes of reacquaintance. The older face transformed itself back through the years and the voice reframed its undeniable Mr Molyneaux-ness. 

“We might have a chat about athletics sometime?” I broached timidly and he nodded. I was talking to the man who helped discover Jerry Kiernan and a host of other athletes. We parted and my day was enriched and changed.

Time and Covid played their cruel games and the chat never took place.

I will regret that for as long as memory is my colleague. 

A group of raw first year students entered St Michael’s College in September 1967 having done an entrance exam the previous May. From the hinterland of Listowel and the town itself. There were only two from Lisselton NS some eight miles away off the Ballybunion-Listowel road. Francis Kennelly and myself, coincidentally from the same townland of Lacca. And distantly related as well. 

The novices of 1967 were the first beneficiaries of Donagh O’Malley’s free education bill with free transport and no fees. Up to then second-level education was the premise of the wealthy. Now we were part of a historical educational development which would change the face of Ireland forever. Educate that you may be free, Pádraig Pearse had said long before he was executed in 1916. 

In we went to the famed, and sometimes feared St Michael’s College, imposing and immobile. Two storeys of history and education above the ground and one storey below looking out on our little minds. Long walk in like an estate house with manicured lawns and apple trees. We were told by those in the know that if we picked the apples that were growing on those trees that autumn that it would have worse repercussions than when Adam was persuaded by Eve to prove his manhood by picking the Granny Smiths in the Garden of Paradise. The principal, Fr Danny Long would punish the picker with impunity. We were herded up the spotted clackety marble stairs and looked down on the trees to our right and pondered the decree of ne tangere. Do not touch.

(more tomorrow)

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Turf

Photo by Caroline O’Sullivan taken near Listowel

CUTTING THE TURF.

A poem by Martin O’Hara

Ah god be with the

Good auld days. 

And the times, of long ago.

For to get the peat, 

for our household heat, 

To the bog, we had to go.

No modern ways, back

In those days.

All in life, you would require. 

Was a fine turf spade, 

That the blacksmith made. 

To secure, yourself a fire. 

With Patrick’s day, 

out of the way. 

It was time, to make a start. 

With the bike and dog, 

Off to the bog. 

And some, by ass and cart.

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The journeys, would begin. 

To replace once more, the

Old turf store. 

For the wintertime again.

Now the cutting of a

Bank of turf, 

This job was done, with pride. 

The cleaning first, was

Taken off, 

And placed down at the side. 

The peat exposed for 

Cutting now, 

Was cut out, with the spade.

And the sods of turf

Upon the bank, 

In rows, were neatly laid.

With the turf now dry,

 As time went by. 

The footing, would begin. 

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The people came again. 

With pains, and aches, 

And many breaks. 

We stood them, row by row. 

And to season then, they

Would begin. 

Where the mountain breezes

Blow. 

In harvest time, with

Weather fine, 

Once more, we would return. 

The turf by now, in perfect shape. 

Was good enough to burn. 

With the ass and cart, we

Made a start. 

To take them to the road. 

And a stack did rise, 

Before our eyes. 

Growing bigger, with each load. 

Now to take them home, 

For wintertime. 

To the bog, we came

Once more. 

With a fine big stack, built

Out the back. 

We renewed, our winter store. 

That was our way, and

Still today. 

This tradition, carries on, 

but In time they say. 

It will pass away, and

Forever will be gone. 

No bog, no more, for

The winter store. 

Only memories, that

Live on. 

Of our working ways, back

In the days. 

That are now, long past and gone. 

Martin O’Hara   3 /3/2020. ©

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Just a Thought

My reflections from Radio Kerry which were broadcast last week April 18 to April 22 2022

Just a Thought

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Schull and Dunamase

Photo; Breda OMullane

This image is one of a selection of photographs by members off Mallow Camera Club which are framed and hanging in Kanturk Community Hospital.

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From Pres Yearbook 2003

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Schull, Co Cork

Éamon ÓMurchú took this picture on a lovely weekend in Schull.

I was further east. I visited The Rock of Dunamase. I had so often wondered about it as I passed the signs on the motorway. This fortress once belonged to Isabel, daughter of Strongbow and his wife Aoife MacMorrough. Aoife, wife of Strongbow got Dunamase as part of her dowry from her father, Diarmuid MacMorrough.

It is now in ruins and more famous for the spectacular views it provides over the surrounding countryside.

Rock of Dunamase from the churchyard of the nearby Protestant church which is still in use

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Weather Signs from Beale School in the Schools Folklore collection

Michael Griffin, the schoolboy who recorded this, got the information “from people at home”.

Weather Signs
When bad weather is near at hand you will notice in this locality the foam rise and dash against the Cliffs off the coast of Clare. The Rooks and Seagulls fly to the land when severe weather is approaching searching for food. The cat sits on the hearth, the soot falls down the Chimney when we are near bad weather. You would also notice a circle round the sun and moon and the clouds are very dark. the wind is generally from the west or south west when we have bad weather.
When we have good weather in this locality you will hear the waves at the north or north east. When we have good weather the birds fly high into the air in search of food. This is generally the case with the swallow. The sun and moon shine bright and clear and the sea is quite calm.

Michael Griffin v.
Bromore,
Ballybunion
June 23rd -1938
Information from people at home

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A Poem for our Time

By Trista Mateer

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Look where I was Last Night

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March 17 2022

St. Patrick’s Day, William Street

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Vehicles in the Parade

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Some Listowel People in Far Flung Places for the Saint’s Day

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Another Ballybunion Puzzle

This lovely little spot by the playground used to have tables and benches for the children placed there by Ballybunion Tidy Towns.

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People at the Listowel Parade

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A Poem from Anne Mulcahy

The River

For Hannah, my Friend

My friend is a Traveller and I am a Country-Buffer  –

 she has left an imprint on me like a fossil, 

zig zag incisions that mould the hardest rock,

 planting themselves – living forever.

The delicate sprig of friendship has blossomed 

became a mountain with flowing spring waters.

The shared moments caught for us a time of no divide,

a silver net catching the Salmon Boyne- 

– like a sparkling clear river – our friendship swelled

 – each flow equal to the next –

 our laughter shattered the thin vail that hovers –

between prejudice and unity – 

between the –  I’ll accept you –  on my terms, fallacy 

 Prejudice acts as a lever to elevate our inferior selves

 to heights of dizzy disillusion –

Society feeding the layered segmentation segregation – 

like ladders – steps of insanity to clouds of fanaticism –

no one wants the bottom rung! 

Instead we cling foolishly to the middle ground,  

shouting –I’m good today –  I’m better than you!.

Refusing to be fossils in Rivers of friendship.

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