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—
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
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
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
and pockets what’s left. He’s done this
for as long as I can remember,
out of economy or some weird sense
He coughs, spits, puts down a plate
of scraps for the runaway neighborhood cats—
he calls them.
I finish the dishes and watch
the kitchen window. My mother has cancer
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
shoulders something new now that’s
to move, too fragile to set down.
and what can I do but be here for awhile—
help stack firewood,
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
And I’m not sure how we survived
those stupid days. Unbelievably
calls from the den
for an eight-letter word meaning
point of departure or arrival.
I drain the sink, flick off the kitchen
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,”