Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Always a river’ and other poems

By: Tom Driscoll

Always a river

There is always a river,
always a river
taking, delivering sending
signals through the stony flesh
watershed expression,
writhed, veined, turning inland,
as if a sensate creature.

Always a river and where
rogue generals encamped by
a level place, the gritty banks
beside the ancient bridge
and outside the useless city walls.

There is always a river
and, weary of the journey here,
great antlered beings amble past
ignoring our presence or blind,
they breach what had seemed
a boundary
and drink the clear water.


One Clark’s Hill Road

These latter days of March are said to be kinder
but this only by comparison. We still search
bare branches for buds, the wind insisting
that its earlier, even colder career be recollected.

Too soon, we’ve gone to lighter clothing, circling
One Clark’s Hill Road, as we have weekday
mornings for a year now, four dutiful orbits at a time,
that length of access road so steep it takes my breath—

I worry about this body, just now I startled at an ache
in my chest, even knowing it not on the side my heart would be.
This building on the gray, windy hill once housed
some administrative function of government, now handled

differently somehow. Vast parking lots, one each side
of the structure as it scribes the hillside, are now empty,
our broad, gridded walking paths. Different places, I stop, see
In the windows, the long hallways seeming filled strangely,
a dark like sorrow or smoke.


Mistranslated Spanish Poem

Forget the island of flowers.
This tangled life has darkened us.

Labyrinthine passages
by light lost long ago it seems;
years we can’t quite remember.

Ask this disquiet its fugitive name
or that rain not rain,
sky should ever turn its back.

Nothing slakes the thirst
or feeds us.
Our lives can be mistaken
so easily, completely

We return from blank sleep
to that doorway of first light

with all our impossible secrets
one solemn promise
to be redeemed

in the glint of a green eye.



Michael wasn’t real,

just a character in a novel
and this bothered him.

He smoked a pipe, was never allowed to say
very much. He worked at a bakery,
kept those difficult hours.

Early mornings he’d stagger off, wake already working
caraway seed into damp, paste-like dough,
press it dreaming of pale flesh, unshaven legs,
his beloved.
She worked the next station
to his, time to time offered him
tastes of sweet frosting.
The tattoo —was it on her arm
or down the back of her leg—
it simply read

This was supposed to be poignant,
not a joke about unrequited affection.

There was one chapter where Michael recalled
a hunting trip with his father. I had it
that it rained the long, awkward trip home.
Blood seeped from the kill
across the rear window glass
as he watched the mountains off
into the distance.

Blood in the rain. Michael should have
described some scar on his soul.

Instead he laughs, grunts,
takes a gurgling toke on his pipe.

He is sour, sore, not given more
—a richer inner life.
It’s a terrible prison, this imagined
sorrow, sweetness, wounded serenity, the ask
to represent some magic or grace.

For a small man, to carry such a lot,
it soured his disposition at last, scarred him alright.
The marks of fiction, that aspect of history written
disingenuously by supposed victors.

Whatever happened to that kingdom
promised to the meek?


Sweet Fiction

That they found me in the car
I’d been living out of for a while,
that much you already know.

We can leave it there,
you and I, we were never so close
I should need to share more.

And weren’t we both so fond
back in the day
of that Lucinda Williams song—
remember, where angels come
something soothing
as someone dies.

I’ll tell you nothing now
to negate that pretty possibility.

Sing it like you did
only sad my guitar isn’t there,
those fills that always helped the tune along.

It was after my death
you chose to listen to my last songs,
to the first one that you’d forgotten about;
shared them in a show
of delicate grief
to your social media account.

Touching tribute
it was though you were absent
when friends gathered to remember me

sweetly at my mother’s house.
Telling stories.
It didn’t matter if they were true.

Remember that’s what you told me,
that to say a story
is only a story
is to say you don’t

My brother, my brother,
Thomas —my twin—

I’m not here as one of those visiting spirits
sent to set you straight;

only to ask you where you were
when I was calling,

Ah —not that I needed rescue.
I am only curious.

Where were you when all they wanted
was to remember me?

Were you ashamed of what you’d told me
to believe and not believe?

As if strange faith was the drug that killed me.
As if I couldn’t make my own mistakes.

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