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Hats by Patrick Cotter

The donkey obsessed with hats rooted

himself to the pavement outside Vignoles,

the town milliner, who had adopted

the grape variety name as a nom de

plume in recognition off all the wine

-coloured feathers he had imported

from an Oceanic speck noted for its birds

of paradise. The donkey had no particular

interest in feathers, although he welcomed

now and again pigeons alighting on his brow

or between his ears, assuming the role of headcover.

Once, when his turfcart was unloaded

of its haul outside McCooney’s Bar

he raced to the town’s outskirts, past

the sign saying Welcome to Ballycarraig,

onto Jack Kerr’s turnip field, dragging

the cart behind as he galloped, ploughing

up the newly broadcast seed with hoof

gashes and wheel ruts, all to reach the scare

-crow at the field’s centre, or rather, to grab

with a backlegs-powered leap, the hat of straw

atop the crown of the man of straw, he of faded

70’s fashion cast-offs. Previously, the donkey

had been owned by a big-city street performer

who had trained him to climb a step ladder,

to balance on his hind hoofs, with a rugby

ball atop his muzzle, held in place by the nimble

manoeuvrings of his tongue. The donkey knew

the ball was not a hat, but still took note of the smiles

and laughing, the claps and yelling a foreign object

on his head provoked. There was many the goat

trained to do this trick, but he had been the only donkey.


Patrick Cotter’s poems have appeared in the Financial Times, London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and elsewhere. Sonic White Poise, his third collection appeared from Dedalus (Dublin) in 2021. More at


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