ISSUE NINE
November 1999

Brendan Galvin

Brendan Galvin Brendan Galvin recent books are The Strength of a Named Thing and Sky and Island Light, both from Louisiana State University Press, and the narrative poem Hotel Malabar, winner of the 1997 Iowa Poetry Prize (University of Iowa Press, 1998).  He lives in Truro, Massachusetts.

Reading My Poems of Forty Years Ago    Click to hear in real audio


Way down the railing,
as though testing its surface
with a little chicken scratch,
the nuthatch begins its dance,

wings akimbo, dipping
and rising in steps
the Navaho and Hopi
appear to have borrowed,

and screams its version of
Gangway! No other bird
is there, the runway's clear
to the sunflower seeds

and it looks like success.
Then panic: the threat
of its own shadow?
Self-consciousness?

It sails off into the trees,
a failure to follow through,
though you hear it in there
somewhere on a branch

talking itself back up, OK
next time, next time
.

 

 

Furnishing Heaven    Click to hear in real audio


For you it meant a library
where you'd read every book
in its own language and understand,
you said, and left the room.
Then a crow lit on a branch outside
and practiced a repertoire of yawks
and clicks, yelps and carrocks,
maybe telling the whole story
to the little creek and its dogwoods
before he tried it on his kind.
You'd have the original Mabinogion
in your heaven, if I could choose,
but I'd want that crow, too,
and the trout we ate one evening
in a mountain kitchen. I'd swap
you that for the Kalevala,
and the Book of Ballymote for another
moment in that yellowing field
when the sun struck the wild
mustard and the breeze filled suddenly
with that weed's perfume.
If I could I'd see that Yenji's Saga-
all twelve volumes—would be there
for you, and lost anonymous masterworks,
the Blue Jewel Papyrus, say,
and the Benvali Codex. We would read
them together, but I'd have to insist
on at least one mockingbird
polishing up what a wren just jaggedly
sang, and a mule or two, with whatever
else you'd like. And you.

 

 

Yellow Shoe Poet    Click to hear in real audio


Right on time, a window open,
the pine table-top begins to release
memories like radium, glowing
to outgild anything that ever sang
in its branches awhile.

First week of June and pine pollen
is everywhere. It spins
a panhandler's dream around
the porchlight, and our cat
Blackie comes home 
through the dark golden.

Once I thought I was here
to pass my kind on, a link
in the human trek, or to witness
and report the wren's arrival
across Homeric distances,

its tail-up verve around
the nesting box, how it chucks
last year's stuffing out
like a rout of fledglings—but
is this what I'm good for, to go
flatfooted through the pineys,
kicking up their ferocious yellow dust?

 

 

Brendan Galvin: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue NineThe Cortland Review