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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 poetopography.wordpress.com



SONNET FOR BLACK CATS

 

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



MAYA

  

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



WHITE BLOSSOM

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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