Anniversary; At the Moriarty Library, Lesley University; Bolinas; Neighborhood, Thursday Morning, Snow Flurries; Portrait d’une Femme


If your death were human,
it would have turned adult
yesterday, and I missed
the occasion. Downwind
from your memory,
I revoke the small sentiments
that flatter and stamp
my estimation of you.

Still, you smolder
under the cablehouse
of my dreams—that aw shucks
cornballing oiled with sadness,
those freckles almost hot
to the touch, that kind
aversion to obligation,
that exhaust valve
for wavering vows.

Where are you now?
Bitten between the molars
of flares rocketing off the sun?
Are you soaking
in the old ditches outside
Reno where you rehearsed
your indulgences? Where you handed
me a coin and watched
the machine spew out
a century of quarters?

Hey, old man, we’re over
each other now, out
of the way of pre-emptive
skirmishes, of a sink
full of soap bubbles
which sprinkled our cheeks
with their brittle collapse.

But the commotion of your love
has dug in like a pair
of unsharpened claws,
fiercer and more tender
than all your forgotten
winks or your
discarded anniversaries
circling the sun
in a knuckleful of jeers.

At the Moriarty Library, Lesley University

Sleep is a pair of skeletons
in an old church that has been

converted into a library.
Through the stained glass windows,

the weather has been obscured
but the memorial names

of the major donors still glisten
in their gold and blackletter

serifs. The architects have consigned
the baptismal font to some antique

dealer’s sub-basement
where it is safe now from the eroding waters

of a promise none of the christened
have returned to confirm.

Their own skeletons have been moved
too far away to be shaken

by the earnest muffle of the students
who queue for advantage with their clicks

and their wireless mice on the upper level.
Sleep is braced and wired

and hung from a rod
but not permitted to dangle

in the currents of air that slide
through the library shelves.

Sleep resists the platitudes about
toothy grins. Its bones have grown

into a dun and undistinguished warmth.
The students ignore sleep

after a while, preferring to rehearse
for fame by pretending it has

no shelf life. Sleep only startles the patrons
when various panics have shed

their gums, when all that is left
is the dull glitter of socket and flange.

for Renée

After the profusion, the eucalyptus
riddles the shark fins

with its medicinal shout.
After the rain that felt like London,

the calla lilies grip the yard
with their rangy pollen

and their ghost-sheet whites.
The moon ratifies the trailers

lining the road to the beach
where the waves, gently incessant,

ferry in the surfers, black-clad marionettes
paddling, far off and succinct.

The house next to the church
owns a hedge of rosemary,

slightly ratty, brimming
with blessings of tiny

blue flowers nodding off
in the sunset. Your disappointment

is the stepchild of your turbulence,
your attachments pungent

as the mist that sustains the forests
where they stiffen against the drought

with every passing equinox
and every commute home.

Neighborhood, Thursday Morning, Snow Flurries

The spayed puffballs, the sandpiles
and orange plastic fencing

the shade trees with a hot grid,
a defense against landmovers

or the new crop of hedge funders
losing their tinsel frowns

in the topiary. The green shoe
polish on the hollies

sugared with the white yes
of flurries pulled down

from Quebec by the Polar
Hector. Too cold to remove

the gloves labeled Weatherproof.
And yet fingers numbed

pressing the smart phone buttons,
stubby with the first blush

of arthritis. All of the fence posts
on this street charmed by rot

and the ghosts of charnel house
color schemes, paint chips

moored between splinters.
On the slopes of the sand pile,

the wreckage of clouds, natty
crystals that survived

the long fall. Hades has frozen,
roving with a kind of Zen

impertinence, mindful of neither
destruction nor work.

Portrait d’une Femme

Shall we say she is nicked
by the confetti

of her knee-knocking heart?
That her aura, fledged

from hair dye and boar bristle,
counts itself more as tinsel

than sleep mask? Her imagination
rustles but seldom rambles.

And what are we to take
from her aversion to ferment,

her isolato bravura,
her impenetrable sneak?

{Photography credit: Jason Rice}

Tom Daley’s poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere. Recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry and the Charles and Fanny Fay Wood Prize from the Academy of American Poets, he is the author of two plays, Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants and In His Ecstasy—The Passion of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which he performs as one-man shows. FutureCycle Press published his first-full length collection of poetry, House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems, in the summer of 2015. He leads writing workshops in the Boston area and online for poets and writers working in creative prose.