Gerald Kells ~ Three Poems

My Father Playing Needle Nugent

I would have been one years old
and he would have been fifty
when he played Needle Nugent
in Juno and the Paycock for the
Dramatic Society of University
College London, the Foundation
Play of 1960 — dur­ing the second
inter­val cof­fee was served in
the Lower Refectory according
to a pro­gramme which I still have
despite all attempts to bury it
under mounds of Bank Statements
and oth­er triv­ia — accord­ing to
the pro­gramme the use of an Apron Stage
attempts to bring the Streets of Dublin,
as far as pos­si­ble, into the audience -
there are adverts for Bunjie’s Coffee
House, 27 Litchfield Street, Cambridge
Circus, and Irish Linen, Ireland
for Varied Holidays, Olivier Tipped
Cigarettes, 3/4 for 20, 1/8 for 10,
and for Guiness, the Greatest
Disappearing Trick in the World,
per­formed 5 Million Times Daily -
Graduates look­ing for a good job
should con­tact the Staff Controller
of the North Thames Gas Board -
and all the time, while David Goldman
was pro­duc­ing and Victor Quayle
get­ting into char­ac­ter as the Second
IRA Man, you would be at home
with your third child, per­haps leaving
a dis­tract­ed babysit­ter so you could
attend the first night, admire your
hus­band play­ing Needle Nugent

when he was fifty and I was one years old

(From the Programme of June and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey,
Foundation Play 1960
pre­sent­ed by University College London Dramatic Society)



in my Father’s House there are many Mansions
and in each one is a wood­cut by Ohara Koson -

in this room it is a stork turned to the left,
rain dri­ving down in streaks like woodgrain,

a sin­gle eye on a thin beak’s staring -
there are flow­ers decay­ing into the wash

and a grey back­ground — severe, some crit­ic snipes -
they move on quick­ly in my Father’s House,

seek­ers after Mansions who nev­er notice
the wood­cut by Koson that is in every room

(Ohara Koson 1877–1945)


Scar Tissue

on my Right Hand I have a Scar
which I for­get from time to time -
I call it the Snake because
it cross­es my Palm with Silver
and Hisses if you stare too long -

it was in Lynton that I ran
towards the Ice Cream of Original Sin,
tripped over the Milk Bottle of
God’s Command, lost my innocence
to a Hospital Visit when I was Four -

I was under fire before
we went to Ireland and the
Troubles all kicked off, before
my Grandmother’s Shortbread
and my first encounter with a Tank -

in Lynton I have one recollection:
a Bowl, those old, thin, plas­tic types
where the colour drains into scratch-marks,
my Blood, as I recall, not Red like
a bus, but Scarlet like Judas’s -

accord­ing to my wife, a tale
I nev­er heard, my father took
me to the Hospital without
my moth­er know­ing, so she turned
up at the Corner Shop, Key-less
and clues-less while I was stitched
in a Shadowy Waiting Room -

no ice creams were ever obtained -

it was a lot like that on Holidays -
on Britain Beach, in the Dublin Pale,
a Thorn, an Inch per­haps, lodged
in my sole — up in Newcastle
pushed the flesh in until he could
wrench the Bugger out — and how
I Screamed — you’d have Screamed too
like you’d been wait­ing for your Saviour -

for I was almost Redeemed by then -
peo­ple had been ask­ing, you see,
if I’d come to the Lord — it’s good
to please, so I stood up and
Testified and they Prayed for me
and every­one was Happy and
I was hard­ly Troubled, hard­ly a
Fraud yet, hard­ly begin­ning to
Understand the lie that was
my Virtue -

now, when God and Serpent both
seem Unimportant, I have one thing
I can turn, the Scar on my Hand -
it’s fifty year’s old and more — I no
longer faint at Blood as I did, I no
longer faint at Needles as I once did,
or Sharp Knives — but when I say a Word
Awry it is like that first Falling
Over — and there is a Bucket of Blood -

I call it the Snake, you see, the Scar
on my Hand — it is no Stigmata, it is
healed over — Cold Remnant that will
be mar­velled at dur­ing my Post Mortem


Gerald Kells is a poet and writer based in Walsall in the English Midlands. He reads poet­ry across the Midlands. He has won sev­er­al slams and fea­tured at the Freeverse Festival in Brownhills. He has had a num­ber of poems pub­lished in antholo­gies and mag­a­zines, most recent­ly haikus in Seashores and ‘Heather in Bloom’ in Panoply Magazine. He has self-pub­lished a short col­lec­tion ‘LI — 51 Poems’. In 2018 he helped organ­ise an Arts Poetry Reading at the inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned Walsall Art Gallery and was involved in 2019 in the PoArtry Project in Stourbridge which led to pub­lish­ing ‘Nine Etchings’ with artist, Fran Wilde. His sto­ry, ‘Something to his Left’, was pub­lished in Twisted Little Sister and ‘Stone Walls’ in Coffin Bell. His short plays have been per­formed around England. His full-length play, ‘The e‑mail his­to­ry of Josef K, was long-list­ed for the Bruntwood Prize at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. He was also award­ed Green Leader Status by Sustainability West Midlands for his work as a cham­pi­on of envi­ron­men­tal protection.