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Terence Winch

The Irish Riviera

I wish I could remember the names
of these two old guys I used to see
when I was a kid and spent my summers
in Rockaway which was known as The Irish Riviera
one of them played the fiddle the other played
the accordion and I think one of them wore
a top hat they just wandered in and out of bars
playing for drinks they were like bums
but I still remember how fine they sounded

[from Irish Musicians/American Friends, Coffee House Press, 1985]
http://www.terencewinch.com

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Diagnosis

for David Lehman


I woke up this morning feeling
incredibly Gorky. So I made an appointment
to see my Doctorow. He said my Hemingways
looked a little swollen and sent me to
get an M.R. James and a complete Shakespeare.
By that time, I began feeling a slight Trilling
in my Dickinsons and some minor Kipling
in my left Auden. The entire experience
was extremely Dickey.

I was referred to an H.D., who asked
about my cummings. She detected traces
of Plath in my Sextons and suggested
I might also have some Updike
trapped in my Yeatsian system.
She recommended that to keep Orwell
and prevent inflammation to my Balzac,

[...] Read more

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Mission Statement

When I die I promise to haunt
all my surviving enemies,
may they be few if any at that point,
because I hope to outlive them all.
But if any of them are left
I'll keep them awake at night with weird noises.
I'll whisper words in their ears while they sleep
to encourage feelings of low self-esteem when they awake.

Actually, I'll never let them sleep.
I'll kick them out of bed
just as they're falling
into deep slumber.

Or maybe I'll just let them be.
Enemies are such a responsibility,
and eat up so much time.

Perhaps I'll just travel,
which I didn't really enjoy

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Sleep Waltz

for MCW

Get old enough so you won't have much to fear.
By then, the music plays inside your head
and everything beautiful must be learned by ear.

In the bathroom mirror I behold my wear and tear.
In our bedroom I try to levitate in bed.
Get old enough so you won't have much to fear.

Meanwhile, my son at six wants to keep me near
and we sing together every night head to head.
So everything beautiful must be learned by ear.

His father's tunes, though, will one day disappear
beyond today's routines and daily bread.
But get old enough so you won't have much to fear.

Remembering my mother was my first career
and the songs surrounding her on which I fed,

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Mysteries

All last night I kept speaking in this
archaic language, because I had been reading
Poe and thinking about him. I read 'The Murders
in the Rue Morgue' which is supposedly the first
detective story. Who dun it? I wondered.
It turns out an orangutan was the murderer.
It looks to me like the detective story genre got off
to a pretty ridiculous start. I used to visit
Poe's house in the Bronx. I used to think,
God, Poe must have been a midget. Everything
is so small. Poe died in Baltimore and I can see why.
In Baltimore, all the people are very big and sincere.
During dinner last night, I told Doug and Susan
about 'Murders in the Rue Morgue.' I said I hadn't
finished it yet, but it looked like the murderer
was going to turn out to be an orangutan, unless
the plot took a surprising new twist. Then Doug
suggested that he and I collaborate
on a series of detective stories in which
the murderer is always an orangutan.

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Social Security

No one is safe. The streets are unsafe.
even in the safety zones, it's not safe.
Even safe sex is not safe.
Even things you lock in a safe
are not safe. Never deposit anything
in a safety deposit box, because it
won't be safe there. Nobody is safe
at home during baseball games anymore.

At night I go around in the dark
locking everything, returning
a few minutes later
to make sure I locked
everything. It's not safe here.
It's not safe and they know it.
People get hurt using safety pins.

It was not always this way.
Long ago, everyone felt safe. Aristotle
never felt danger. Herodotus felt danger

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My Friends

for Doug Lang

They came here first in a car shaped like a heart
and now they depart as brilliant jazz musicians.
They arrived in full costume, rolling north
through a winter of neon.
Now I watch them leaving me
in a moonlight of falsettos.

They are singing goodbye to me in the echo chamber
and I am smiling at them from my king-size window.
You get the idea.

I was always making way for the others.
Now, like an intake of breath, I am beside myself.

They tell me that God is inside us and I tell them
our fathers' teeth were white with fear. The streets
that I used to see from my window have faded away.
The birds I used to hear in the trees have fallen

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Non-Possession is One-Tenth of the Law

Do not travel over vast distances.
Stay home and contemplate your neighbor,
the old woman who roams up and down the street.
She can never remember who you are
or who she is, for that matter.
This way, you will protect
your precarious sense of self.

Ruin your appetite before dinner.
This will ensure that you'll never feel hunger.
Play the same tune over and over,
driving everyone else crazy.
This protects you from unpredictability.

Find large articles of clothing
and wrap them around the trees,
so you will be as one with nature.
Fill your shoes with rocks
to ensure a suitable measure of gravitas.

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