Terence Winch


I went to Ireland on a ferry from France
and rocked and tossed upon a sea with all
the people puking in the bathrooms, unaffected myself
by the lurch and heave of the boat. Cousins came
and met me and the staggering continued day and night,
the rocky reels, risqué songs about drunks and infidelity,
and motoring madly on the wrong side of the wrong road
spinning down the winding darkness to our destination.

Later I flew in wearing my only summer suit,
sporting my first mustache, raving about money
and fish and the high cost of cabs. We wiped ourselves
with the Sunday funnies and ventured out
for freebies at the Guinness factory, looking for love,
lost in lust as always, winding up forever with the wrong
sort in the wrong place, where your knees are locked
so tight you could sleep standing up like a horse.

Back in West Farms, no home like it ever came so close
again, with its giant Rusty burgers and fifteen-cent beers,
we were its only citizens, phony proof our passport
to the wicked ways of the world as we knew it, the old men
wandering bar to bar, spit on their lips, their thoughts a pack
of old pictures of home, their urges now strictly knee-jerk. 
Harry the Queer, Horseface the Whore, Tony the Hood, 
wasted, dribbling, wrong-headed—we would never be them. 

Danced all night in drunken splendor amid doobie clouds
of revolution, Janis Joplin right there on stage, Van the Man
patrolling the upper deck of soul, and nothing but scary excursions 
from the group house to the local thrift stores in full paranoid, 
double-life terror of discovery could dislodge us, send us off 
again in the wrong direction to the all-night fiesta of food and drink,
knee-capped in the dead-battery ambitions of our other life.

Once I could tell you where to put your fingers, how to push
your luck, when to turn it on, when to turn it off. My friends
would drink and eat Chinese, smoke Hawaiian, reshape the spirit
so the body could suck in what it needed on its knees, then shoot
the breeze for however long it took to do it in. Our fortunes 
were always good: you are never wrong, you will never die,
money will come to you. When we got to the terminal we saw things
as they really are. The snap in the judgments, the rude awakenings,
that feeling you get falling out of bed in a room with no floor


Your hangover is my hangover.
The red cap waiting for you in Union Station
waits for me, too.  When you call, I answer.
When you shout out, “Be mine!,” I shout
back, “Any time!”  You rip my gifts open
as I unzip your manifesto.  They are digging 
a deep hole in the Amazon, searching for gold. 
They dump a billion tons of poison into the 
pristine water. I am digging the music I hear
coming through the walls, waiting for you to wake up.  
Door slams shut somewhere.  Dogs bark.  The day 
reaches beyond me again, just out of grasp.
I was so close this time, so sure they would 
pick up.  But due to heavy call volume,
I must try again some other time.  
We had baked alaska at the Golden Parrot 
a long time ago, and looked deep into each 
other’s eyes and thought: this person is crazy.


Whereas time has caught up with me and the boiler 
broken down again, and day after day it snows and snows
and there I am, with my shovel, in the dark
cold night waiting for day, and wishing I was in New Jersey

with Ethel and P.J. & Marion having a drink and taking in a play.
Maybe later eating oysters at the Oyster Bar
and dancing until four at the United Irish Counties Ball

Whereas I am now sixty years old and don’t feel so good
much of the time, like right now, while fat Father Hammer
just turned fifty and I know is getting set to fire me
but I’ve been here for fifteen years and am ready to go

my own way, into the secret America I never knew before.
The banjo-playing lesbians, the depressed school teachers
who tell me Paddy, Paddy, Paddy, you’re our man

Whereas I feel it all coming apart, the hard years
in this country, the loves gained and lost, the tough jobs
the gigs, the booze, the dearly departed friends
the wife whose absence never ends

while I never mend, always sensing the ghosts so near.
The thing you most fear in life all boils down
to your own future invisibility, there for all to see.

Therefore be it resolved that tomorrow will be eighty
degrees and sunny.  My children will visit me.  My grandchildren
will sing me songs.  The Bronx will float on the clean, sweet air
of paradise.  I will feed a basement full of cats.
The future sprawls out like a drunk on a bed.