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Terry McDonagh – The Chanting of Hoofbeats

Terry McDonagh LE P&W March 2019

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The Chanting of Hoofbeats, and other poems by Terry McDonagh

Terry McDonagh, poet and dramatist, taught creative writing at Hamburg University and was Drama Director at the International School Hamburg. He’s published ten poetry collections as well as letters, drama, prose and poetry for young people. His work has been translated into German and Indonesian. 2016: poetry collection, Lady Cassie Peregrina – Arlen House. 2017: included in Fire and Ice 2, Gill Education for Junior Cycle. 2017: poem, UCG by Degrees, included in Galway Poetry Trail on Galway University Campus. 2017: Director of WestWords, Irish literature festival in Hamburg. 2018: latest poetry collection, Fourth Floor Flat – 44 Cantos, published autumn 2018 by Arlen House.


The Chanting of Hoofbeats

Sour grapes are not enough to light up the mind
in the darkening buzz tattle buzz of
the Chapel of Clay Hotel bar under a black moon…
tick…
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…
tock…
a gent in weary tweed fumes into a phone
as his children huddle next to Mummy
like unpicked potatoes in a sloppy wet field…
tick…
two buckoos lash into pints on an open tab
and the same again Lady, swearing they’d
tackle wild horses even if the sky turned upside down…
tock…
and there’s that bony person cowering like an empty thing
ranting to shadows in the feckless light
hoping to cast off the pulse of hourless night…
tick…
not all good – an older 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…
tock…
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…
tick…
even an Ave Maria Full of Grapes is not enough
to light up the mind
in the bar room of the Chapel of Clay Hotel…
tock…
and God is not to be found in the small hours…
he needs his sleep to keep his legend alive…
stop clock stop.
All that’s missing is the chanting of hoofbeats.

Give Me a Flat any Day

When all the suburban flowers and
promises of streamlined sunshine
have vanished into glum, drear
or heavy red wine, I’m happy
to be surrounded by bouquets
of trusted noises in my city flat.
I have no hedges or walkways
to wallow in but I do have
the music of urgent footsteps
above me. I have a rich diet
that includes a cactus in the corner,
a bunch of cats on balconies
and daydreams of lopsided ducks
on leather feet that don’t end up
in postcards. There’s the chanting
of Sunday service and Tom Waits
next door and I like it. I inhale
symphonies in the tone and brick
of these old walls. I pick up on
the colour of hysteria with roots
in war zones in another flat and
I meet a man on the stairs with
a turned up collar and hesitant eyes
of blue glass – he hasn’t got the
swagger or language of here just yet.

Rows of suburban houses are designed
by colour-blind men but I live in a flat
where I don’t have to share hedgerows
with the Jones’.


Flying High

Any excuse and Mike was up there
out of sight and sound in cloud nine.
He’d whisper softly I won’t sign and
another Merlot please. Down below
on terra firma, there were traps and
snares behind every smile. No escape.
Two women arrived at Terminal Two
to meet this one man. One woman
was his wife – the other a lover.
They stood next to each other
both blonde and unaware but
blonde is not unusual at airports.
The man, Mike, looking forward
to his lover before his next flight,
floated through in American sweats
waving a heart-shaped pink balloon
he’d bought in Vegas. His wife,
full of quirky surprises and jest,
didn’t visit her mother after all.
Mike saw it all too late. There
was no way back up. The women
came at him from both sides and
grabbed at the balloon. He ducked.
The balloon burst. The women
tugged at him for a bit, got fed up
and rambled off for a cappuccino
and two nice slices of carrot cake.

Lament to a Lost Suburb

A dark wet evening
in a ruptured suburb
I find myself nowhere
astray – a rabbit
in headlights – helpless
in an illusion of toys
on tattered pavements
where children are cut off
from all caution as
frailer than frail
string over balconies
with no dreams
worth their salt
to indulge in with
air almost departed
and amen to a girl
beckoning my way
bouncing a ball
me inclined to think
behave or refugee
while birds and
living things stay away
in fear and nothing
to be had – little
to report in social media
or dot com – not even
an unsolved crime
and nobody cares
about trees here
about despair they do
as I cruise in circles
navigation kaput
hoping I don’t run out
of juice but I dare not ask
as I wouldn’t know
where to begin
in a lost suburb
of lament and grieving.


© Terry McDonagh