Category Archives: Dan McGill Author

The Handyside Arcade


At weekends she worked
The Handyside Arcade.
Selling postcards and badges,
saying: right-on and peace and love.

And she smelt of magic,
that we came to imagine.
Like a place in Morocco,
but what did we know.

Oh she would pout like Bardot
I mean Bridget Bardot.
All French girl
transplanted to English.

So on weekends and whenever days,
whenever she was there.
We took turns to
visit her counter.

And that’s how it was
until one day she went.
Taking with her a piece
of our boyhoods.

But in truth I believe,
through manhood and middle years.
She inhabits our dreams,
at weekends through to whenever.

The Handyside Arcade in Newcastle
was the haunt of Hippies, then Punks.
It was demolished  in 81 to make way,
for a big nothing.

Original photo by kind permission of Skida

Hand Grenade

It settles at our table,
a metal and porcupine thing.
While pleasantries hug the shoreline
and brittleness is held at bay.

You’ve shared with me a morsel:
A piece of broken bread.
A sweet slice of your existence.
A moment in your head.

Nothing will take away…… you say,
As he lunges for the pin.
Nothing absolutely nothing.
Not a hand grenade, or him.

in excelsis Deo


Yesterday I spotted a news story bubbling in my twitter feed: Patti Smith (Godmother to Iggy Pops Godfather of Punk Rock) is planning to perform for Pope Francis. The story turned on an old lyric of hers –
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

Her augmentation of Van Morrison’s Gloria; a garage  rock and guitar student favourite. But if you substitute Gladys or Glenda with Gloria, the song ceases to be a minimalist classic. Gloria is not simply a name, it’s an allusion to a most glorious being. Something like a god. And the way that name is spelled out G-L-O-R-I-A in the song, just takes you straight to the Christmas Carol Angels We Have Heard On High. Patti even references the chorus: Gloria, in excelsis Deo , on her record sleeve.

Van Morrison hails from Belfast, a place steeped-in and divided by Christian beliefs. Patti was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. They grew-up in a time when the secular society only existed for those on the fringes: the privileged, the political, the marginalised. On Sundays people went to church. They got biblical references. If they were Catholic, they fasted during Lent. If they were Jehovah’s Witness’s they ditched the smoke and mirrors of  High Mass.

You see the focus on the controversial lyric misses the point of performers like Patti Smith and Van Morrison. Contained within their music is their experience. Both make emotional music. Music for the soul. Music that is from the soul. Modern devotional music. So whoever’s booked her to play the Vatican, gets that too.



The last gasp of an enlightened age.
The final scrawl on the wall of reason.
From now-on ridiculous self interest  rules.
And you will seem such a fool.
With your enlightened ideas.
Keep your mouth shut.
Keep it shut.

To Whom It May Concern:

The days are dry and brittle,
lacking in purpose.
Parchment Thin.
Raw around the edges.
In the evenings there are distractions;
filaments draped about old wounds.
Consumed at night,
a slow upside-down sort of life.
Then an endless night.

Map of the Soul

There is a road,
in this country.
That leads to where
you want to go.

A lonely road,
seldom bothered.
A place missed-off
every single map.

And don’t you know,
most never find it.
The road, the country,
this unforgotten place.

It’s a fact of life,
a clear blue moment.
A song that comes
from deep within the soul.

So say a prayer
for the lonesome traveller.
For the seeker,
heading-out without a map.

Because there’s a road,
in this country.
A place
they’ll never ever map.

Writers Day


Described by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, in an interview with The Paris Review as a Prayer for Writers. This verse by Samuel Johnson appears in his Prayers and Meditations. Vonnegut also went on to suggested April the third (its date of composition) as a likey candidate for “Writers’ Day”. So here it goes :

O God, who hast hitherto supported me,
enable me to proceed in this labor,
and in the whole task of my present state;
that when I shall render up, at the last day,
an account of the talent committed to me,
I may receive pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Samuel Johnson (April 3, 1753)