Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010

Departure Gate

by Ian Donaldson

Nobody pushes from behind,
At the terminal check-out,
Wearily pace reluctant feet,
From a lifetime full of doubt,
Common prayers are lowly chanted,
Holy books are being read,
There’s no Lonely Planet or Rough Guide,
To the Country of the Dead
Few words exchanged with strangers,
No-one cares to break the ice,
Little in common, for us today,
But a losing throw of dice,
What to say to a dying friend,
For the practised only, slips off the tongue,
‘I’ll see you on the other side,
Sorry about your lung’,
So, unto the man in front,
What could I dare to say?
‘Have you been around for long?’
‘What brings you here today?
That Buddhist seems more composed than me,
All serenity, on the exterior,
If I had martial artistry,
I’d kick his plump posterior,
The whey-faced man behind me,
Has a gait and stance unsteady,
I’m afraid to ask, if he’s all right,
In case he’s dead already,
Regrets are spoken, or chewed upon,
Nobody sings ‘My Way’,
‘I wish I’d put my seatbelt on’,
‘Or stayed at home today’,
A faded poster on the wall,
Lists things we cannot take,
Loved ones, pets and mobile phones,
And whisky from the wake,

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs enhance,
Diversity of experience,
My kin, who here preceded me
Were all Free Presbyterians.

Added: 23.04.2010

Judges' comments on this poem


The over-arching metaphor is effective and pleasing...