Poems from Terry McDonagh

Three Mayo poems from Terry McDonagh’s forthcoming collection, Two Notes for Home:

Along The Wild Atlantic Way

It’s raining in Killala today.
Not a day for whimpering
or whinging – only a shower.
Doors are still not numbered,
two women share an umbrella
but there’s sunlight enough to
backlight a cat in a cosy corner.


My name is non-headline.
I’m a nosy parker
driving out to Ballycroy
where not even a John Deere
ripping at fields can upset
a wayfarer eye-deep in contentment.

Clouds come and go. They
squirt like headless beads
on my windscreen – they
 giggle like willy wagtails
looking down their noses
at a cluster of folk in raincoats.


These days this landscape
is The Wild Atlantic Way.
Tourist-board-spin tells us
hill walking is innocent and
paths that go round mounds 
keep us safe and sound
as long as we keep going
round in their circles
et in saecula saeculorum.
Amen.

But all that ebbing and flowing
is the same Atlantic tide
that washed up fishermen
and took sons and daughters
to outlandish destinies.  

Electricity

After the KITCHEN POWER exhibition at The Museum of Country Life, Castlebar.

Early morning back in the fifties
a man rushed into a doctor’s surgery
in a terrible state about electricity.
I must be seeing things, Doc, he stammered.

The doctor became a little impatient.
Seeing things?
Yes, we got the electric light in yesterday
and the sight of herself shocked me.

The doctor sipped his tea contemplating
weight loss, a mild hangover,
Spanish holidays, a new car and
a Paul Cézanne exhibition in Dublin.

The man had never taken much notice
of his wife but now one look at her
in a fresh light had him flummoxed.
He knew of tragic outcomes from The Western People.

A fine-looking woman, she is Doc.
She could easily leave me for another.
If only he could return to the old ways.
Even to dim the bulb might help a bit.

The doctor first suggested dancing
but then his face lit up in an epiphany.
You could try putting a knot in the cable
and that might slow the current down.

Relieved, the man headed for the pub
but left after just one pint and began
picking primroses along the hedgerows
on his way home. A neighbour wondered

but the man smiled, happy to see where
he was going and what he had to do.                                                             

Céide Fields

I try to imagine how Céide farmers
must have struggled
with summers in smithereens and
the restless heart in wayward soil.
They’d have shared heathery bed-space
with grouse and partridge, raged at
thieving foxes, half-wild cattle and
rain lashing down on corn and drills.

They might have been stuck for words
to explain the revolution of earth,
sun, moon and stars but they knew
they belonged on warm-blooded paths
that led out across the sea from
the rising sun to the riddle of darkness
far beyond the majesty of Downpatrick Head.

The scrag and tear of their tillage
and harvest habits
have left us tufts of history to chew on.
If this shrine teaches anything at all,
it teaches that land, sun, water and memory
are one.

We give thanks to them for the legacy
they left us to dwell on. This was their home.

Biographical Note: www.terry-mcdonagh.com

Terry McDonagh, poet, translator and dramatist has taught creative writing at Hamburg University and take part in literary events in Europe, Asia and Australia. He’s published eleven poetry collections as well as letters, drama, prose and poetry for young people.His work has been translated into German and Indonesian. Now based in Mayo, he’s Director of Raftery Returns festival (Kiltimagh) October 2021. His next collection is due in 2021. 

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