Poem of the week: Triad for Shane MacGowan by Derek Mahon

A Rainy Night in Soho, Fairytale of New York and Brought Up to Agitate

1 A Rainy Night in Soho
A film crew have been working on a sordid
story of rape and murder in the brick lane
behind Ingestre Court, but pouring rain
has forced them to leave off and now it pours
on empty pavements and on blistered doors
unpainted since the Pogues first recorded
'A Rainy Night in Soho'. Two disorientated
drinkers, shoulders hunched against the wind,
head down uncertainly to Leicester Square
past sleeping shapes in corners of Greek St.
Tonight it's dismal even in the West End;
the squat's unheated and the cupboard bare.

2 Fairytale of New York
The drying-out clinics fill up in December;
once more it's that traumatic time of year.
The drugs are handed out in strict rotation
and the jakes locked except for diarrhoea.
She fell in love there, does she still remember,
and watched the snow on Seventh Avenue,
thrown up by buses, change to hail and rain
like bright tears on a grimy windowpane.
She soon checked out but what were we to do?
Steam drifted from underground and lights
danced in the river. We were hungry then
but happy too in the dark days and nights.

3 Brought Up to Agitate
Kirsty, 'brought up to agitate', sang along
with your now thirty-year-old punk Christmas song
for the last-minute shoppers splashing round
the supermarkets of some dirty old town.
A guy in the chipper swearing he was Elvis,
the girl in the video section, indeed all of us,
remembered her tough glamour in the eighties,
her pre-electric sound and brisk asperities,
when that Gonzalez' vicious speedboat ran
her down in the warm waters off Yucatán.
Her trenchant style is what we most recall
together with the names Seeger and MacColl.

  • from Against the Clock by Derek Mahon (The Gallery Press, August 2018)