Anne McDonald – Too Late to Fly

McDonald LE P&W June 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2023

Too Late to Fly, poems by Anne McDonald. 

Too Late to Fly

It was the fourth day of the fourth month
since you died when I found it.
Hiding in a Cadburys bisect tin,
in a plastic folder,
in the back of a cupboard,
that we somehow missed
during the big clean out.
-Your first ever, never used passport.

Good for ten years after April 2020,
it wasn’t a pandemic or an air strike
that stopped your first flight.
Nor lack of determination on your part.
A clean shirt and good tie,
for a head and shoulders shot,
“You should always look your best” you said,
and even on a week day, in the local chemist
against a plain beige backdrop,
you did.

A haircut every six weeks,
an account in the local cleaners,
to keep your only Louis Copeland suit
tickety boo, you said you never knew
who you might meet when you went to get petrol,
or to Tesco’s, or if you had to wait
until your prescription was ready.
I wonder now, did you know
that it was way too late?

That you would never stand
at a boarding gate, or check in luggage,
or grip the sides of an airplane seat
when you see above the clouds
for the first time, and wonder
if there really is a God?

Or did you want to let us know
that in your 90th year,
if you wanted to,
if there was a good
enough reason why,
you could actually fly.

Business advice and missing Billy

The best bit of business advice I ever got was from Billy,
the car park attendant, in the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
I handed him a ticket for one hour and one minute
through a hatch in the plexiglass window of his prefab hut.
“Seven fifty Missis” he shouted over
a howling wind in late November.
“Seven fucking fifty? Are you serious?” I shouted back,
as my umbrella took off in the direction of the exit,
crashing into a sign that says
“Remember don’t forget to validate your ticket.!”
Billy smiled, took my money and slammed his hatch door shut.

“Do I know you, Missis?” he shouted in December,
From the sanctuary of his one-bar electric fire.
“You should” I shouted back above the hailstones.
“I’ve spent half my life coming here,
or to some other hospital car park,
after a while, they are all the same.”

He winked and said “You’re in the wrong game.
If you ever have a few bob in your hand,
buy or rent a scrap of land near a hospital,
open a car park. Take it from me, it’s good business advice.
Mind you don’t slip on the ice!”

Winter passed, the sun came out,
I didn’t see Billy for a while,
almost missed his sunny smile when I handed over
my hard-earned money.
Last time I met him, I remember he said
“you know it’s funny, when someone is dead,
I wonder do people wish they could still come here
and moan about the cost of the carpark?
I knew your father. He was a gentleman.
Coins would be great if you can,
He loved putting a few bob on Lester Piggot.
I assume this will be your last ticket?”

Clothes peg in my pocket

I found a clothes peg in the pocket of my dressing gown today.
Yellow, plastic, metal spring ready to hang anything.
But that was not what I saw when I pulled it out into the midday sun.


I saw what it was not.

Not a diamond
or a pearl
or a piece of antique glass real enough to pass a jeweller’s eye
and be considered precious.
Not a piece of silver jewellery like an earring with a turquoise stone,
or a piece of satin ribbon,
or a slip of paper with the line of some remembered poem.


Families are eared through styles of pegs. I know that now.
From wooden, plain, to coloured plastic, back to wooden
to save the trees and thousands of years of toxic waste.
I could only taste the disappointment

That it was not a locket with a photograph of a secret lover,
or a number for a tryst,
or a date on which to wear a gown of emerald
to dance until the sun went down on board a gleaming yacht.


I saw what it was not.


I passed the bins saluting in their different hues.
Green for newspaper, brown for compost, black for every other thing
that will never morph into something beautiful,
a genuine “rubbish” bin.
I chose the black and dropped,
the peg and my disappointment in.

© Anne McDonald

Anne McDonald is a spoken word poet, artist, creative writing teacher and festival curator. Her work is centered on the challenges we face in a society that is changing rapidly and how we respond or react to those changes. Through her writing she explores themes of parenthood, aging, death, loss, inclusion and response to the human condition. Through her art she explores our connection and sometimes disconnect with nature, and the effect mankind has on nature. She in interested in the power of enabling people who would otherwise not be considered “writers or artists” to find ways to give voice and space to their own creative experience.

She was awarded  The Irish Writers Residency in Cill Rialag, Kerry. She has had work published in Women’s News, Hot Press, Electric Acorn, Woman’s Work Anthologies 1 & 2, The Blue Nib, The Strokestown Anthology, The Waxed Lemon, The Storms Inaugural Issue, Fragments Of Time, Blue Mondays’ Anthology 2021, 192 Magazine, and several issues of Live Encounters Poetry & Writing. Her work has also been featured on collaborations with musicians and animators and reviewed and broadcast on RTE Radio. Anne has an M.Phil in Creative Writing. Her first collection of poetry Crow’s Books was published in 2020 and her second collection, Clothespeg in my pocket, will be published in Autumn 2023.

2 Replies to “Anne McDonald – Too Late to Fly”

  1. Too Late To Fly had tears filling my eyes. It brings to mine my great grandfather who lived with us when I was growing up. He was such a special man.
    You have quite a gift. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words Ann-Marie. I am delighted you have such special memories of your great grandfather and I really appreciate you taking the time to pass on your experience of hearing about dad’s eternal optimism.x

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