I told the old people at the party
I wouldn’t go with them
on a long ocean voyage
to meet the deities
of the ancient world.
They said unto me,
nobody even asked you, pal.
They didn’t have to be rude,
but that’s the kind
of old people they were.
I knew they were in search
of eternity, which I also knew
would find them soon enough.
My friend gave me a rock. The rock
is white and beautiful. I think it may
contain a spirit of some kind. I think
it may be a talisman or a harbinger,
both of which I am always on the lookout for.
I also like shells. Their emptiness,
their acceptance of abandonment
greatly appeal to me. I would like
to wash up out of the ocean like them
someday, bleached white, upturned
like a cupped palm beseeching alms.
At the Museum
They keep the 14th century
on the lower level. Then they work
their way back up through slavery
all the way to 2017.
Elevator time travel
wears you down.
I go in the opposite direction, up where
they keep the old suits and guitars,
the sit-com scenes, the miraculous
blasphemies that inspire us all.
But pretty soon I’ve had as much as I
can take of all this anguish and heartache.
I walk to 14th Street. I crave pizza so bad.
I wonder if the pizza place I used to go to
years ago is still there in the food court.
Then I am reading the New York Times
and eating my slice. The news is bad.
The pizza is great. All travel is time travel.
I’m leaving town on Thursday. But I’m
returning in the future, which is now,
o you who are reading this.
Neighborhood Holiday Party
I forget what you just said.
Maybe you proposed a toast
to the memory of your dead dog.
No, wait, I remember now: your
girlfriend got the dog in a custody
agreement. For all you know,
maybe the dog is long dead.
Not everything is about sex.
People drive here from all
corners of the planet just to sing
the old songs about real estate
and how to prepare an effective
resume. Not all of us can hit
the high notes, but the low
notes are no problem.
If you have a white car,
paint it red. That is what
the witch doctor said.
The next stop is Tennessee,
where the devil hides in the trees,
his little fingers inserting themselves
into every available orifice.
Terence Winch is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Known Universe (2018). A Columbia Book Award and American Book Award winner, he has also written a young adult novel called Seeing-Eye Boy and two story collections, Contenders and That Special Place, the latter drawing on his life as a traditional Irish musician. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, among them the Oxford Book of American Poetry, Poetry 180, and 5 editions of Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing, among other honors. Terence Winch edits the “Pick of the Week” feature on the Best American Poetry site.