Monday, 14 June 2021

Five Superb Poems by John Doyle

All the Things We Leave Behind


Like a bicycle 

with wheels twisted in a face of death,

like a grudge 

with old friends that lasts a century,

like a circle 

hammered into a square someone had the nerve to call eternity,

like a singer 

who ran out of songs then was murdered by the music,

and a cottage 

three miles from town grandma and grandpa shone like starlight in

on a Sunday, 

just one Sunday, when there was something we called peace


Athgarvan, County Kildare, Sunday 2nd May, 2021




Tráthnóna Céadaoin - Ag



Solas tráchta, 

súdaireachta ag an ghrian,

a chiorcail - cosúil le gloine



an gaoth, 

ag damhsa ar mo dhíon;

nuair a ghluaiseann mo charr

as seo,


athraíonn an solas 

ó ghlas go dearg

cosúil le mo chairde ag

fanacht an doras tábhairne, 


ag súil liom.

Ansin, mothaím náire -

casaim timpeall -


tá gach solas dearg,

tá an ghrian ag luí, 

tá gach teach tábhairne dúnta,


tá sé ró-dhéanach dul timpeall.

Níl mé in aon áit ar bith, 

ná - in aon am ar bith


The Test Card Gurl



on a train in Spain

on cannabis and Fanta-Cola,

learned to paint spying on

Uncle Ace

who lost his left leg and an


down in Puerto Rico,

using abstracts

hooded veils

his eyes and legs disguised

underneath the viaducts of


falling from that train

and Uncle Ace the first ever


to end-up pregnant

crossing the border

into Pore-Choo-Gahl.

I Liked Him a Lot, Uncle

Ace, I Really Had No Idea 

said Janey-Jane,

and Lou Reed and Jagger

queueing up to light her cigarettes


For Steven Treballas

Lord Mountjoy

went to Hell -

on a Greyhound Bus at nine o’clock

instead of 1957.



That morning he left us

we dreamed of beautiful things, like

songs of whiskey and sinking ships

Kelly played for weeks and years


down along the coast. My wife and I drove home

far too sober for our own good -

Lord Mountjoy behind us, writing his vows for Satan;

Portmarnock vanished like a $50 cheque in the tumble dryer,


but arresting in its blue.


We handcuffed ourselves to the night, broke two reds,


slowed down at the next green, and waited.

They were beautiful those vows,


and we cried as George Jones


handed his hip-flask to Jerry Lee Lewis,

knowing that soon

Job would murder Lord Mountjoy -


citing mental cruelty.


If I’d known he couldn’t help himself


we could’ve had an intervention,

but my daddy always told me to mind my own business -


and business was slack

down along the coast - just ask the stevadors


who hung chalk-white and useless - he said - they look just like Il Duce -


I replied -


life-free and pointless


in their ready-salted nets.

My wife helped his lordship


pack that night after we went home;


I stayed in my car, lights half-beam,

contemplating those things we leave behind -

like sons in Korea, winning slips under shoes on a rainy sidewalk


It would've been cheap to drive off


with all those woes to pack -

crass - as my daddy said, eyeballing his cigar

and drawing the Queen of Diamonds.

Lord Mountjoy, now sober, sat down and joined us.


It was 7-58, and daring to a fault, he gambled that watch

his squadron gave him in the Summer of ‘57


It was a small reminder of where his kneecap used to be

as he scratched his shin, then his chin and spat in my cockatoo’s eye.


Everyone in the room then

knew it - the bastard had another full-house,

as my Daddy


whispered “I fold


just like Brett Maverick;

and Lord Mountjoy -

that beechwood aged


son of a bitch - smiling, though starting to cough;


he could make his own way


to the bus station - limp or no limp -

pockets weighed down in gold,


his soul stinking of whiskey


Tonight’s Shipping Forecast leaves me short

on drama -

no nautical beast

emerges from seas

to become a widow-maker, dripping of weed and timber.

None of this appears, 

and I dream - in a fully-woken state -

of Skagerrak,

the Gulf of Riga,

Lake Vaenern -

tame nibbers of seas

that tear an inch or two from us yearly

so nothing’s left

when these winds are howling

one last time.

That thought suffices, I guess - an eternal surety

and leveller of all tides -

man and beast.


John Doyle is from County Kildare in Ireland. He returned to writing poetry in February 2015 after a gap of nearly 7 years. Since then he's had 6 poetry collections published, with a 7th collection, "Isolated Incidents" due to be released by Pski's Porch in Summer 2021.

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