Martin Galvin

Gallery at the Tate


after Munch’s Sick Child, 1907

Such scenes are posed, of course,
The twenty-eight children perched
On campstools in front of Munch’s
Fire, the teacher tribing them
About the sick child Munch has caught
Who must herself one time have posed
At being well but now is stuck for good
In bed, a study drawn from life.

Munch has got it right, they see.
The lie of being young and sick at once,
The lie of being made to stay in bed
Is something that they know as well
As their skin, a lucid parchment the girl
Who lies before them cannot mend or hide.

That Munch pretends to keep her alive
Is something that hurts them to attention.
She has their sympathy, but chooses rather
To look away, over her mother’s shoulder,
Beyond her mother’s bowed head. She does
Not want to see the way her mother’s hand
Has reddened with a mother’s shame

Exactly to the shade of her child’s hair,
To the rusted color of blood. She does
Not want to see the children unfold their
Legs to follow their teacher, to find
Their beds, to find the studios and sick
Rooms that will make them real and her.



Martin Galvin (February 21, 1937 - August 6, 2018) is the author of six books of poems: Away to Home… (Poets Choice Publishing, 2017); Sounding the Atlantic (Broadkill River Press, 2010); Circling Out (Finishing Line Press, 2007); the chapbook Appetites (Bogg Publications, 2000); Making Beds (Sedgewick House, 1989); and Wild Card (Washington Writers Pub House 1989), winner of the 1989 Columbia Prize for Poetry. His poetry, fiction and essays appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Best American Poetry 1997, Delaware Poetry Review, Orion, Poetry, and The New Republic. Galvin moved to the DC area in the 1970s. He taught at St. Joseph’s College, Walt Whitman High School, and the Writer’s Center. Galvin was born in Mt. Airy, PA and served in the U.S. Navy. He earned a BA from Villanova University, and an MA and PhD from the University of Maryland. Galvin was married and the father of two daughters. He is interred in a columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. To read more by this author: "Old Driver's Ed Film of Washington,"Evolving City Issue, Vol. 8:4, Fall 2007; "The Burgers of Calais,"DC Places Issue, Vol. 7:3, Summer 2006.