Poem introduction

In Britain when you make a phone call and hesitate before dialling a recorded voice comes on and says, 'Please hang up and try again.'

The Excuse

The Excuse

Please hang up... I try again
"My father's sudden death has shocked us all"
Even me, and I've just made it up,
Like the puncture, the cheque in the post,
Or my realistic cough. As I'm believed,
I'm off the hook. But something snags and holds.

My people were magicians. Home from school,
I followed a wire beneath the table to
A doorbell. I rang it. My father looked up.

Son, when your uncle gets me on the phone
He won't let go. I had to rig up something.

Midnight. I pick up and there's no one there,
No one, invoked, beyond that drone. But if
I had to rig up something, and I do,
Let my excuse be this, and this is true:
I fear for him and grieve him more than any,
This most deceiving and deceived of men...
Please hang up and try again.


from Conjure (Picador, 2000), copyright © Michael Donaghy 2000, used by permission of the author's estate and the publisher

Recordings

Michael Donaghy Reading from His Poems

1Caliban's Books

2Our Life Stories

3Irena of Alexandria

4The Tragedies

5Not Knowing the Words

6The Excuse

7Resolution

8Tears

9The River in Spate

10The Drop

11Black Ice and Rain

12Reprimands

13My Flu

14Haunts

15The Hunter's Purse

16A Repertoire

17A Reprieve

18Down

19City of God

20Liverpool

21The Brother

22Held

23Reliquary

24Machines

25Pentecost

26Shibboleth

27The Present

28Southwesternmost

29Alas, Alice

30Refusals

31Acts of Contrition

32Cruising Byzantium

33'Smith'

34Annie

35Local 32B

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