Martin Galvin


A man who giggles like a luckless spigot
Has come to our streets from the war.

He has a cup that gathers air
That he drinks, for a man must drink

And comb his hair who has been to war.
Sometimes the cup holds a plastic flag

That someone has offered as a joke.
He chews on the flag, for he still has teeth,

Though they ache with the thought of guns
For teeth can think who have been to war.

We pass and we nod, hands jammed in pockets
That have nothing in them that the man can use

Who has a brain that repeats and repeats
What he did, what his fingers did, what his eyes

Had to see, what he heard, what he smelled
Who remembered hay and chalk and a rosy girl.

He makes our children laugh at his giggles.
They think maybe he is a clown, escaped.

They think a swallow should come to live with him,
Teach him again how to sing, how to fly,

So he could take his giggles from our streets
And hide them high in a flowering chestnut tree.

for Emily Dickinson

The daring girl on the flying trapeze who touches
in her derring-do and sheered momentum either stand
and stays for none, not the sweet sanity of the platform

which edges on the sky nor yet the unsubstantial rope
that's ground enough for most of us, suspended as it is
in a guy of clever weft and warp. Here's compendium:

Willing everything each time, she swings out to cap-
tivate by death-provoking arcs and spins mere OOOh--ing us

who every time hold on at last to nothing but our seats
and then on the backward swing reach for the bar
and sometimes on the downward rush exult at nothing

we can see will save us and always on the upward swing
the small despair that's our only certainty of gain
and then the momentary stop, the view that tops

the other side
and then again the fall
toward, away from, what we love and fear.

Martin Galvin
Martin Galvin has had poems in The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The New Republic, JAMA, Commonweal, The Christian Science Monitor, Midwest Review, OntheBus and many others. His book Wild Card won the Columbia Award (1989) judged by Howard Nemerov.



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