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Matthew Graham


Two Small American Verses



Ship yards, stock yards, transfer yards,

lumber yards, coal yards, brick yards,

salvage yards, junk yards, freight yards,

and the gas works, iron works, water works,

steel works, oil works, vinegar works—


Remember always

thy metal lunch pail, its thermos of coffee,

and blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in,

and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.




Bail bonds, title loans, checks cashed, prepay before you pump,

no bills over 20, Adult Video, Fast Cash, Discount Liquor, O.T.B.

Scratch-N-Dent, Quick Mart, Trailways,


Down this lane you’ve relived

your sorry way more than once.

Yet to repeat is to forgive

forever in your thankful brain,

this stretch of street etched with rain.


An Irish Ghazal


Near the unmarked post office recipes for revolution

were studied in amber pub light.


Smoked salmon with watercress.  The millstream and moss.

The ruined monastery in the mist.  And the falling light.


On the Blanket Islands we eat soda bread with sharp cheddar cheese.

In the sand a sheep’s skull is bleached communion-wafer white.


My grandfather, dead these thirty years, wheels his bicycle

down a shaded lane speckled in sea light.


“Trees that go black against the sky

and then— how soon the night!”


There is a loneliness only love knows.  You stand on the deck in the wind,

watching the coast slip into the night.


Beneath a painting of St. Matthew, a table of cold cabbage

and gray ham is blessed with candlelight.



               -for Robert Wrigley


My father stands on the back stoop,

smokes half a cigarette, butts it out

and pockets what’s left.  He’s done this

for as long as I can remember,

out of economy or some weird sense of health.

He coughs, spits, puts down a plate

of scraps for the runaway neighborhood cats—

Homeless cats he calls them.

I finish the dishes and watch

from the kitchen window.  My mother has cancer

and lies on the couch in the den

doing crossword puzzles. My father

tries to put on a good front for my visit

but the whole house stiffens with her news.

“I’m so old I don’t even buy green bananas,”

he used to say, but not anymore.

My old man, who never asked for anything,

shoulders something new now that’s too heavy

to move, too fragile to set down.

and what can I do but be here for awhile—

help stack firewood, put away

the deck furniture

as I wasn’t after ancient battles

over the length of my hair, the character

of my friends and that war

spreading toward us like a disease.

(I still think of young Sparky

dropped in his tracks along the Perfume River.)

And I’m not sure how we survived

those stupid days.  Unbelievably

my mother calls from the den

for an eight-letter word meaning

point of departure or arrival.

I drain the sink, flick off the kitchen light

and for a moment all I see from the window

are a few stars tucked into the long night.

And then my father comes inside slapping his arms.

“It’s going to be a cold one,” he says.


                   -from A World Without End