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

Michael Donaghy Reading from His Poems

1Caliban's Books

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2Our Life Stories

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3Irena of Alexandria

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4The Tragedies

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5Not Knowing the Words

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6The Excuse

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7Resolution

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8Tears

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9The River in Spate

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10The Drop

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11Black Ice and Rain

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12Reprimands

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13My Flu

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14Haunts

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15The Hunter's Purse

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16A Repertoire

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17A Reprieve

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18Down

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19City of God

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20Liverpool

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21The Brother

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22Held

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23Reliquary

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24Machines

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25Pentecost

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26Shibboleth

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27The Present

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28Southwesternmost

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29Alas, Alice

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30Refusals

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31Acts of Contrition

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32Cruising Byzantium

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33'Smith'

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34Annie

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35Local 32B

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Books by Michael Donaghy