Martin Galvin


The girl with a memory as long
as her finger dials L.A. by mistake.
The man on the other end of the line,
a man with murder on his mind,
blood on his tongue, wants to make

a date. His voice sharpens in her ear
as if he means to pick her clean,
reminds her of something she does not want
to want to do. As absentminded as tomorrow,
she agrees to meet him, makes promises,

gives him the name she's always wished
she had been named instead of Maude,
and an address someplace in Encino.
She's never been there but she loves the hiss
of it. She hangs up quickly, soon

is sad she didn't get his name and number,
being almost as ready as she has ever been
to recall what's past, even the warning tone
of her mother's voice telling her things
she is sure to forget as long as she lives.


The girl who is ten and about to dance with her Da
is besieged by a shamble of boy who would like her
to know what he cannot say so he says what he can.

She swears that she is sick to dying of the boy's
impertinent face, that she couldn't care if he danced
to the moon with Mary O'Rourke, the pimply thing,

and why, after all, didn't he get himself
out of her sight. Her father has stepped
beyond her in that careless way that fathers have.

He will not know what losses she has gained tonight,
how she has guarded what is left of him with a scowl,
the ways she will forget this dance before it's done.


Let's hear it for the Bugs.
Bugs Bunny. There's a man we could elect,
his wonderfully straightforward teeth
dropping toward the carrot, in certain fact
becoming the carrot he will become.
An everyman, that Bugs. An everything
we all would like to be in one becoming
or another. His resume, his list of haves
is quintessential, pure American:
For starters, the friendly impertinence
of "What's up, Doc? the democratic urge
to know what's going on. He dons the gray
and white suit as well as any bridegroom
in the land, reveals a friendly nakedness
that says to his bride there's nothing here to hide.

Bugs is the world's good guy. A Lincoln
for our time. a ready hand for practical jokes,
some slapstick, the legerdemain
to pluck a carrot out of air,
a stammer that hides the wiseman.
He keeps the ever-ready fall guy by his side
ready to fool, old Elmer Fudd, but love too,
love for being such a perfect flub and bald and fat
and short. A pal we all would like to have.

So when old Bugs says "That's all, folks,"
with his wink, we know he only means
that's all for now
but he'll be surely back with Clark Kent,
Wonder Woman, Batman, Elmer in his cabinet.


I had just finished writing an introduction to a Fred Astaire concert, when out of the solid block of wood emerged a cat—supple, lithe, friendly, gray, Egyptian in his regality—the artist walked over and slit an eye in the eyeless head and gave this feline perfection life. He stalked and curled, posed and postured as cats do, then, someone decided he should return to the block of wood—he curled back into the part left vacant by his recent emergence, took a while to position himself with head on front paws, then merged back into the wood like a disappearing fog on a landscape.

You know as well as I the ways dreams happen,
Your student had just finished writing an introduction
To a Fred Astaire concert, when out of the solid block of wood
Emerged a cat—supple, lithe, friendly, gray,
Egyptian in his regality, whistling Dixie.

The sculptor walked over and slit an eye in the anvilled head
And gave, as if he gave nothing, perfection to his work.
He stalked and curled, posed and postured as cats do,
Then deciding he should return to the block of wood.
He curled back into the part left vacant by the artist,

Took a while to position himself, the way cats will,
Head on front paws, haunches raised at rest,
Eyes purring about himself, how right he is,
Then merged back into the wood
Like a disappearing fog on a morning shore.

Once, an Irishman in Kinvarra walked toward me
In soft rain. "A gentle day," he nodded, and went on.
That stolid man, as solid as a farm, real as a clenched pipe,
I've heard mutter his benediction to my stranger self
These many years, the two of us for a moment found.

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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