Four poems by Neil McCarthy

Neil McCarthy is torn as to whether he is from Cork or Galway, although the latter is where he has spent most of his adult life. In recent years he has also lived in Vienna where he continued to write and submit poems. His poetry has appeared all over, in such journals as The SHOp, The New York Quarterly, Magma, The Dalhousie Review and Poetry Salzburg Review to name a few. He is passionate performer of his work and is in the process of releasing a CD recorded live in Vienna with some musicians. He currently lives with his wife in Los Angeles where he works as a teacher.”

Four poems by Neil McCarthy


The thought does cross my mind, fleetingly,
almost on a daily basis, each time the sirens
thunder past, whether I have by a few minutes’
stroke of luck at a poor soul’s expense missed
a fatal accident.

In the Starbucks of the local convenience store,
twelve hopefuls sit nervously waiting for their
name to be called to the interview, jolting every
time the shop floor music is interrupted by
the brusque announcer.

I sit with my doppio, staring out across a sea of
fruit and vegetables, listening to the discounts
on offer, morbidly wondering if one day I will
burn, perhaps be cut in tact from the mangled
wreckage of my wife’s car;

or if my name will be called somewhere else,
with a quiet lane leading to our door, as I peter out
away from the sirens, from these giant stores and
coffee bars where out of twelve disciples waiting,
one will leave here walking on water.

Six Dictionaries

At first we looked for excuses,
hammered down a beer here
a cocktail for collateral there,
uncorked wine in hours unknown to God
and chose Tom Waits over religion.

Next thing you know we’re on our honkers,
looking for reasons,
behind the couch, in the residue of used
wine glasses, in living room picnics in
power cuts, in youtubes of ourselves, as if
the people we were then are the people
that we now attest to being.

For the next trick, we looked for words,
lay in bed for hours wishing the
ceiling above were a search engine while our
flagrant fingers did most of the talking;
six dictionaries would not have baited my
mouth to hook you.

Now, we look for each other, physically,
as absence undresses you, lays you down
beside me on my mattress, places your arms
gently crisscrossed under my pillow,
kisses your neck, your breasts and naval;
the shiver of the tree outside my open window
just a wishful breath
falling from my mouth to yours.

Quiet are the Cranes

The full moon sky above Salthill
is one big bruise fading on
morning’s skin.
You are sleeping, somewhere
across the demarcation line
of our consciences,
dreaming of colours, of clarity;
still as the cranes looming like
crucifixes over the city.

As night sinks its teeth
What you have to remember is that we were all kids
growing up in the eighties,
our fathers and us.
We didn’t know the difference between a nest egg
for a rainy day and cuckoo’s egg
for a day we’d never see coming.
Christ, we didn’t know the difference between
Mikhail Gorbachev and Telly Savalas,
between being dishonest and having a
real Christmas tree,
between the Gulag and fishing.
And where in the name of God was the Falklands?
Boats went out heavy with ice
and us little shits, when not acting the maggot,
prayed the only prayer we intended in mass
that they’d come back in, their holds
heaving with prawns, or hake, or herring or
a mermaid with a big fuck off pot of gold.
I remember the stink of my father’s jacket,
his scaly pullover soaked through,
the grease in his hair and the depth of his stubble,
dark as the night he’d just walked in from.
We didn’t know the difference between
sacrifice and surrender, between turning off
Dallas and laying on a welcome home, between
a good week and a bad one.
It was Advent when the Kowloon Bridge ran aground,
and we were quick to learn about oil.
I walked my blackened beach, tarry rocks
and dead seagulls, stared out at the silky horizon and
reached to pull it a little closer.

We follow the coast back from Pacific Palisades,
count the rigs flashing offshore,
watch the sky change from blue to blush
as night sinks its teeth into the concrete sprawl of angels.
We pass angels rooting through trash cans,
drunk on hope, flicking cigarette butts into gutters.
I turn on the radio to encourage silence and marvel at
the exposé of the city ablaze in the water.
Outside a CVS discarded wings protrude
from dumpsters where the reflection of faith fades in the
eyes of a recently redundant labourer –
but do we honestly give the tiniest flake of shit?
We drive on, take gospel from KCRW,
turn onto Hollywood Boulevard where the
flashing lights of gathered police cars blind
those exiting the metro.
Further along and chicken wire, twisted and
severed, keeps nobody from the vacant lot waiting to be
dreamt about by jittery first-time buyers.
There are angels under the bridges in damp
sleeping bags, crestfallen as broken but once imposing
statues, dreaming on three cheers for tomorrow.
And I can’t help but think back to my beach
where not even the dogs with the discernible ribcages
sniffed at the carcasses of those seagulls encrusted in oil.
I saw their frenzied flapping slow to a
surrender, wondered if their sacrifice made any sense
inside their tiny sticky skulls.

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