Tuesday 28 March 2023

Eight Poems by John Doyle


Gathering Thoughts


His last-semester face

in a series of radio commercials

stitch my dog-tags in an old country quilt,

homesteads on T.V. aerial hills


fall and fall like shivering dominoes.

Passing the liquor store

hawks ferment in gullets

Elvis Presley's eyes


hide like snowstorms in -

there's an eternal flame

down by the goods yard

where the 200 wagon liners with 5 locomotives


meet ships that arrived from Denmark.

Some dreams we have of cities

are surplus to the size of our terrain,

they are moments to us


we repeat at breakfast,

fasten-up the death of daybreak in seat-belts, dipping mouths,

a number of children we did not count

who spoke of flapping chopper blades overhead



Hutch McKellar (Song for a Dirty Double-Crossing Fink)

Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much

Orson Welles


Three hustles since -

opera singer, trigger-happy cop, laundering Picasso's acolytes -


Hutch McKellar's a faceless mark

in a skinny cab taking me home to my dog


two Sundays out of every five - 

after that rock n roll band sell out 


Third Cousin Malone's - 

humanity twice removed.


Hutch McKellar's made me rich, made me sad, 

made me non-grata in Guatemala City - 


seconds into the howling lung of 1974. 

"I'll paint your name in lights, 


I know people, 

movers and Shiloh's shakers, 


I love you brother" Hutch McKellar tells me, holding hands 

with the chief of police from Grandad McKellar's hood


somewhere subdued by the northern highlands. 

Rumour says it’s where they stripped him down to his scalded axis, 


hosed and scoured his low-carb Buddha

after sixteen vestal reds were broken –  then that lizard green; 


that they say split his personal account

into multiple new-age disorders; made him a funky-cat on 


this space-age scene.

"I’ll give you life, eternal life too if that's something you considered,


a belly dancing wife, 

a secret Pastorious took to his grave - 


somewhere kindling the legacy of planet Jimmy J." 

It’s McKellar’s baloney that crushed his handbrake 


on his lips.

I'll see he gets his fare -


McKellar owes me nothing - I'm not saying it to his face.

Why should I? 


The mutes and the fools and sages of cold kind tolerance

let his stallion run loose


that morning his Mustang turned-over four times 

at Kesey's Citadel, 


twisted right back not once, 

maybe not twice


on that pledge he took

to drag all sins against him into the courthouses of Hell.


It's nowhere in the Book of Genesis how the sick, the needy, the weak and the lame owe every songbird something,


the bass-man who hangs out bleeding with the drummer -

their families need time to get over their sorrows too.


Give me nothing, gunslinger I fold - this songbird's a wrinkled hawk -

no matter; 


Hutch McKellar’s headphones slide on 

at a quarter past last year, opera’s loud and opera’s juicy,


his taxi's hopes and dreams high and sandpaper dry

in a hurricane of lies -


passing out his daddy's homeward stumble - 

from Caesar’s Palace;


watching - I knock that secret song on the leather-strap

that winds around their door. 


They know it's not Satan this time – 

and I introduce myself as the kid who knows how,


who knows when -

exactly what way to change a lightbulb barefoot


standing on metal,

with my hands in holier waters. 


"Hutch got stabbed by a biker gang over counterfeit bearer bonds"

I say - 


though no request comes from the FBI 

for this vital information. 


So long then Corporal McKellar,

professional courtesy 


never killed a curious cat in that cool summer 

of our discontent



Amhrán na Maidine

Feabhra 2023


Bogann ceol trí chathair,

an breo in aice leis, ag gáire.


Déanann amhrán an Domhnaigh

aisling Dé Luain dá uaigneas,


fuil ag fágáil an coirp –

ag filleadh ar a chroí –


tá an saol ann

in áit éigin,


I bhfad ar shiúl,

blianta ó shin



Smoke-Charred Wooden Sheds Still Standing


Things that keep me sane -

railroad--crossing bells,


that sheer-sheen

of locomotive white coming through the forest


with my uncle standing at the barriers

rolling a fat-one -


TV shows from 1984

Roger Daltrey ends up in


where he plays a photographer with a British accent

as Yankees like to call it.


What I miss the most in these woods

are smoke-charred wooden sheds still standing


where old-fashioned murders took place

over whiskey crossing state-lines


at the wrong bend in the river.

Here in these woods


are just the bodies



no more smoke charred wooden sheds.

I'm losing it.





An acid test with bar staff is simple.

Do they acknowledge you outside of working hours?

In the street,


in church, in the local gambler's anonymous?

Lucas was a waiter, then sales,

then something he never quite disclosed,


then his dislocation from reality.

He called it his missing years -

to be fair,


I don't think he'd ever heard of John Prine,

though vis-a-vis, not hearing of John Prine

is not something you'd put on your CV


if the urge

for something more exotic

came hunting


for your talents,

or what was left

of your Old Testament


killer instinct

after a breakdown such as his.

Lucas fills my glass,


hums something about Jesus

becoming disillusioned -

something about missing years.


So who you been

talking to then,




Marchegg Railway Station, Austria, 17/1/2015

For Douglas Cronk


Winter taste of oil

on elementary dusk,


the parchment

of pan-Europa colour


on goods trains

dragging my eyes somewhere, somewhere irresistible...



Light Up Mr. Lightfoot's Stogie

February 16th, 2023


Egg-yolk illuminations

take me home, those sunshine pricks

which warm up Wicklow's secret highway -

a home I left on 90s Sundays,

which, for their penance, gave me 1970s dreams and washed-out dreamers,

escaping bare-chested homily, broken lumps of Saturday's men

stitched together - in prayer, fiscal forgiveness.

Nearing Bray, I stitched my past to a celluloid messiah,

who made Sundays that same egg-yolk bright,

coming from a mountain

some cat drove past me, in his open-top, 

his brother-in-arms slumped to a delirium.

I want in. 

I'll give the kid his last-rites, 

I'll light up Mr. Lightfoot's stogie from the many loves of Jesus,

paint egg-yolk strokes on shards 

of peering rock 

that veer a slip-road into Greystones



Sandinistas y Contras


Sandinistas y Contras

on my tv screen like Mods and Rockers


on the beach smashing cheap wooden chairs

from Chinese labour camps across each others' spines and skulls.


Sandinistas y Contras

smoking cigarettes


as fat sweaty men in short-sleeve shirts

hand out soccer balls


and candy to little boys

who look like they were 19 years old


when they were born.

They give the camera a 50,000 yard stare,


an extra 20 miles to our definition

of a gallon.


I drove like a Titan through the rain

that spat and hissed


across the highway.

State Patrolmen flashed their lights at me


but stood static otherwise,

and I pressed my heel to the gas again.


There wasn't a single car

that came near me that night,


like a lioness protecting her young,

while the father prowled for fresh meat.


I caught the Mods and the Rockers

fighting on the beach,


some muffled popping sounds of far away shells landing,

Americans in short-sleeve shirts


with cheap sunglasses and sweaty armpits

neither walked or ran,


it was something in-between.

I failed to see any comparison


between pop-culture and socio-political analogies

but the dream was so good tonight


I turned around and told my girlfriend -

but she was still sleeping.


I turned and told it to myself,

grabbed a Biro, wrote down what I could remember,


before resuming to dream of Godzilla,

George Lazenby, and the Wall-Street Crash



rolling naked like new-born fawns

in petri-dishes made from rejected Belgian state-amendments

John DoyleI like to write poems about Atletico Madrid, freight trains, and Roger Moore. Sometimes other stuff too.


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