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Three Poems by Niall McDevitt (1967-2022)

Updated: Feb 29

Niall McDevitt (1967-2022) was an Irish poet who spent much of his life in West London. He is the author of three previous collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo (International Times, 2013), and Firing Slits, Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016), and LONDON NATION (New River Press 2023)He was poetry editor of International Times. His work is published widely, including in The London Magazine, Agenda, Boiler House Press, Love Love magazine, Ragged Lion Journal, History Today, The OSP Review, Blackwell’s Poetry, The Idler, and The Palestine Chronicle. He is well known for his ‘poetopographical’ walks on Blake, Rimbaud, Chaucer, Emilia Lanyer, and many others. In 2013, he read at Yoko Ono's Meltdown. In 2016, he performed his poetry in Iraq at the Babylon Festival. In 2020, he was commissioned to write new work for The Bard, a multi-media tribute to Blake at Flat Time House, Peckham. He collaborated with acclaimed Irish documentary filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle on works including The Battle of Blythe Road, James Joyce - Reluctant Groom, and a series of five films on William Blake and London. His blogs are available at



the cat doctors crouch on my torso, silent, listening for aberrations


within me, ears finer than stethoscopes, fishing deeper for sounds


of illness or trauma or struggle. even if they purr, it's like the hum 


of monitors, disturbing no one's focus. they work for hours, unphased.


one of the tricks of the black-furred shamans is to coax you


into paralysis, ripping you from the money marathon of human affairs


-  the jogger's virtual goldrush - easing you into a feline lucid-dream.


'cat's cognisance is the stone!' I cry, swimming dry with my medics.


sometimes they lift both forelegs and press them onto my frame


- one by one, again and again - to test for steadiness, then sit.


this claw massage clears channels to ping messages into the interior


for warding off malaise, a magic more potent than coated pills.


thus the cat physicians check my blood, lymph, gut and pulse


unworried they won't survive me on their own route to Egypt



a cigarette veils the street with the perfume of youth and death


as the thin smokeress goes upwind. I glare, nausea tumbling.


'youth' because I used to smoke myself; 'death' because I think 


of two poets I knew who suffered COPD, Heathcote Williams


and Tom Leonard. a cigarette veils the polis with nicotine hues


as the smokeress lifts off on bat-wings, flying her gross shade


along the ripe skyline, emitting decay and deterioration


                                                                                north, south,


                                                                                  east, west




home, I think of another poet friend who has had bad news


on the physical front, and a worse reaction on the mental front. 


it's really not easy to pray or meditate or dream, but I look up


to the white mask of Blake hanging from my living-room wall


and ask benedictions for the mind and body of a fallen mage


too pure to taint. 


                         silent, the veils of Maya spin in washing-machined


for Julie 



I believe in the white blossom of west London

more than in eating the rich


I observe the white blossom of west London

overhanging the curly bridge


I inhale the white blossom of west London

and at the risk of seeming kitsch 


I thank the white blossom of west London

for scratching my religious itch


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