Street Game for the Over 15s, a new poem by Thomas Kinsella

Thomas Kinsella. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Thomas Kinsella. Photograph: Aidan Crawley


Take a broad and empty face,
Insert a pair of artful eyes,
High in cunning, short on shame,
Mean mouth, loose lips.

Remove the normal human mind,
Substitute a swollen self,
Oversized but incomplete:

Bluntsubnormal, neatly dressed.


Form a circle,
Throw the hatchet.
Run for cover
If he catch it.

Hide and seek.

Close your eyes
And say your prayers.
Bare your necks
And start counting.

Thomas Kinsella: Born 1928. Childhood, with street games, in Inchicore. Career in Irish Civil Service and universities in United States. In retirement in Booterstown.