Terry McDonagh – Conversation over Coffee

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2023

Conversation over Coffee, poems by Terry McDonagh.

Conversation over Coffee

Why are we sitting here
discussing dystopia
and things we know little about

when we could be chanting football hymns
or toasting a boy and girl
walking out of a lavender wood

just as a church bell calls to prayer,
or with finger on chin,
we could be dreaming of fireflies

and a gaggle of geese
taking charge of crossroads.
A figure in black and police turn up too

and when the fireflies have had enough
of blue and cackle, they buzz off
to light up fields before sunrise.

In sinister undertones, you rattle on
about a relative
who borrowed a hearse to transport a ladder

with a strip of red lingerie
hooked to the end poking out.
Flat out he was. Foot to the floor. Full tilt

with exhaust fumes pluming to the skyline
and all for a wilting wife
and roof-tiles in tatters. It was urgent.

But if his spouse took a bad turn
and mayhem broke out on rooftops,
he’d be lost

having to fight a periodic fit of peeve
while settling
for pizza and Stella as stopgaps.

Relationships can be tricky
if literature is to be trusted.
You say the song the fat lady sings

is this side of the far horizon. What if
her song is nothing more
than moody moments in endless coffee breaks?

The same again, please with some of that nice spice
but above all else, let’s stay put for a while
with coffee, cakes and conversation.

In Days Like Those

The more I daydream, the more
I’m back in days
when time was infinite,
when I was that explorer –
a sometimes Tarzan –
in dense African jungle
or in Asian monsoons morass
fighting unshaped creatures
never before seen by man,

The earth was round
and I was a halo
in an unimaginable oneness.

and again there was me
in my polished football boots
dreaming like a lost word
on the greatest day
of the year
with a Jaffa orange
at half-time. I was
a special item – the
referee was to blame
when we lost – and
often behind the stand,
small clusters of tattlers
nestled in the shadows
telling tales
of scraps and stolen kisses.

We were as ungainly
as a raw species
in those days when
good days were good
when a cautious cat
watched over a dead rabbit
in morning mist
and a red-faced teacher
listened to lists of lies
as long and short
as the length of a piece of string.

Months came and went.
We nestled into summer.
September made way
for October – there were
endless human things on offer
at a distance and big books
with hard and soft covers
telling of morals, planets and magic.

There were odds and ends, pens
and horseshoes on shed doors.
People knew about flat batteries
and cars that only started with a push
and, yes, there was always rain
to keep us wet and, of course,
the Atlantic and the swell
of imaginary oceans that went
in and out like clockwork
like music if you listened,
like unfulfilled adventure,
that included pirates with eye-patches,
scurvy and sunken treasure,

and riding high above fishes
there were swimmers
in many shades of sunburn
and tans without blemish
for centre-page-addicts.

Most parents just paddled
or dipped in and out
in factor something sunscreen,
with one eye on the dog
they’d nibble a biscuit or
a grape or two, longing for teatime
while kids shovelled sand
into magic buckets
to built big castles
with turrets and moats
under a canopy of approaching stars.
Harmony was a kind of happiness.

Briars and blackberries
sprouted and skirted walls,
clover and shamrock
carpeted the landscape
and from almost any hilltop
smoke could be seen
twirling and spiralling
somewhere in my imagination.

Before I get carried away,
I’m going to stop
without a proper end
for joy, happiness and sadness
have no beginning and no end.
At least, I don’t think so.

© Terry McDonagh

Terry McDonagh, Irish poet and dramatist, reads and facilitates in Europe, USA, Asia and Australia. He’s taught creative writing at Hamburg University and was Drama Director at Hamburg International School. Published eleven poetry collections, letters, drama, prose and poetry for young people. He’s been an acting voice and narrator on RTE radio drama for children on many occasions. In March 2022, he was poet in residence and Grand Marshal as part of the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in Brussels – his poem, The Earls Didn’t Return, was commissioned as part of the residency, and launched at The Irish College in Leuven. He returns to Brussels in March 2023.

His work has been translated into German and Indonesian. His poem, ‘UCG by Degrees’ is included in the Galway Poetry Trail on Galway University campus. He works closely with Poetry Ireland and has been actively involved in Writers in Schools programme for many years. In 2020, Two Notes for Home – a two-part radio documentary, compiled and presented by Werner Lewon, on The Life and Work of Terry McDonagh, The Modern Bard of Cill Aodáin. His latest poetry collection, ‘Two Notes for Home’ – published by Arlen House – September 2022. He returned to live in County Mayo in 2019. http://www.terry-mcdonagh.com/

One Reply to “Terry McDonagh – Conversation over Coffee”

  1. What an inspiring read from a very gifted Terry M Donagh! I was transported back in time to visit treasured hidden memories! Thank you Terry.

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