What Child

The car door clatters open
with rushing tunnel sounds
and before it can close, he’s begun,
the subway violin Greensleeves man.

He starts the same as every year,
arcs his way up those first four notes
sweetly enough, sweeps the trapped
passengers to his purpose: What child is this—

but, as always, he holds that this,
a menacing fermata: it sours
in ragged crescendo before the flip
as he drives back down the scale

The Church of Santa Claus

The Church of Santa Claus—St. Nicholas—
in Galway’s Latin Quarter was once used
by Cromwell’s men, in 1652
to stable their horses after the siege
that brought the Catholics low and drove the tribes,
the mighty O’Loinsighs, neither last nor least
among them, from power and high stations,
in what was called the Eleven Years’ War.
Of course, papists understood privations,
the grueling journey, no room in the inn,
the foul breath of mammals and manger scenes,
poverty, inauspicious beginnings

Little Bridges

                 for Mary Szybist, and after Rilke

God is in the space at the hub of the wheel,
but God is not only there.

I think the spokes are like the little bridges
we have built into God’s domain,

spun of almost nothing so they float,
thinner than thought, among canyons

and mountains, oceans and creatures,
worlds and stars and galaxies without bound.

Those who feel their way along these bridges
cannot go very far, and once they have tried


I watch my father lean hard across the ski boat’s wake, slow
beyond the furrow, absorb the rope’s slack, pause, then
torpedo back toward the low sun and the western bank.
At last I see what this mingling of water, oil, throttle means.
Engine bawling, he skims across the spray.

Once, so young I didn’t think to be afraid, he and Mom roused me
before dawn to feel the tug: The water will be like glass!
Your feet go on my feet; hang on between my hands—
take a deep breath and hold it till we’re up . . .


Every night you scan the news,
the black and white, the red, the bruise

that cannot lighten when backlit.
The battery does not relent.

You made your bed, now this mistake—
device does not a vice unmake.

It spews the day’s vicissitudes. 
It vies. It lets bad visions through.

Your feed has made a wound afresh
and tender now, as words make flesh.

Starved, you stuff the open sore
with more of what you read. And more.

The hours pass. You look around.
Or die for lack of what is found.