2 Poems by Terry McDonagh

8

GOING WEST BY TRAIN

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February 2019 on an early morning train

from Dublin heading west sweeping along

in coffee and comfort – we’re on time.

Houses are not modest and tucked away

like they used to be. Some stand like

great empty churches in pomp and

circumstance as if expecting a crowd

but they feel hollow and up for sale.

Home’s a commodity. Hedges are scarce,

meadows greener as slurry and silage

have taken charge of landscape. Turf

is no longer cut and dogs don’t freak.

A man with a handbag steps down at

Roscommon station and a woman with

a toolkit on the platform could be Polish,

German, French – Irish even. Fashion is

the leveller that nips and tucks at individuality,

that makes us plainer and almost the same.

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But fields were there – before wellness

or slatted-houses – when famine raged

and no god cared. The memory of

suffering is deep in veins and crannies

but the land is slowly returning to

its pagan roots as it sails into the light.

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And children, less unsure of a blue moon,

hear other languages and have classmates

with different ways of singing to a god.

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THE CHANTING OF HOOFBEATS

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Sour grapes are not enough to light up the mind

in the darkening buzz tattle buzz

of the Chapel of Clay bar under a black moon.

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Enter a flame of a dame worn to the bone

by a history of wind, weed, fungus and

other bits and bobs knee-deep in tommyrot.

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A horsey type in weary tweed fumes into a phone

as his children huddle next to Mummy

like unpicked potatoes in a sloppy wet field.

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Two buckos lash into pints on an open tab

and the same again Lady swearing they’d

tackle mules even if the sky turned upside down

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and then there’s that bony figure cowering like

an empty thing ranting to shadows in feckless light

hoping to cast off the pulse of endless time.

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Not all good. An aging gent in pinstripe and horn-rims

looks shy and shifty sharing a page with a young woman

who has one eye attached to her shoulder.

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Granted it’s not early but I’d imagine the best

is yet to come if that couple sidling in sidelong

is anything to go by, but it would seem that

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an Ave-Maria-Full-of-Rioja – even sour grapes

would be enough to light up the mind

in this Chapel of Clay Hotel bar. All that’s missing

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is the chanting of hoofbeats.

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