Terence Winch

Two Poems


The people in the songs want out.
They will not be your baby anymore.
You cannot call them sweetheart.
You must stop telling them how
lovesick you are, how you can’t get
by without them. How you cry, smoke,
walk the floor. How you can’t stop
loving them. They don’t want to hear
about your dumb hurt, your feelings
about rain and moonlight, how much
you miss their kisses. How you want
to hold their hand. What you think
about their lips and eyes. They’re done.
Your desperate love has stolen all their fun.

Marker installed in front of the Sterling A. Brown house. Designed by Lou Stovall and installed May 2001. Photo by Margaret Corum.

We Have Always Made Mistakes

You come to town bringing the 1940s with you.
Factory girls banging garbage can lids against the stoop.
Big red cars with running boards.
Hair reaching into the sky. Music on the rooftops.
Saxophones, trumpets, endless crooning.
It’s going fast, baby. Sex is always fully dressed.
Religion is as close to us as paint to a wall.
The world goes around in circles. Nobody dies.

The 1950s step in, wearing big hats and brown suits.
One person dies. Girls acquire breasts.
Amoebas and parameciums crawl all over your desk.
Professional wrestling glows in the tenement dark.
The Pope never cracks a smile.
Jesus and Brigitte Bardot also glow in the tenement dark.

The ’60s are very happy to see you.
They march into the ghetto and teach
everyone the rules of grammar.
Speeches rage in the burning night.
At high noon, three people die in the street,
two more in their beds. Music grows hair.
The world ends abruptly, starts up again, only different.
You can now take off your clothes.

The 1970s: You can drift now all you like.
Cats are soon everywhere.  There’s always one on your lap.
But the dogs have vanished.
There are only two cowboy movies left.
The rent goes up on everything for everyone.
The tenants are junkies. Nobody dies.

In the 1980s, the president taxes everyone’s patience.
Interest in the interest rate plummets. People go to the gym.
Hundreds die.  Containment takes over.
A new cure for sex is invented.
Dogs begin to turn up everywhere.

The 1990s: Long train rides are disallowed. Forget about them.
The oceans howl at night like banshees.
The earth spins twice as fast.
Mommies and daddies cry inconsolably in Disney World.
Priests have erections lasting longer than four hours.
The Virgin Mary appears for one night only.
Nobody knows how many days are left in the week.

Enter the 2000s. Garages fill up. Basements are flooded.
The dead come back to life. Oh, wait. Not true.
Screens light up with visions of God as a big eye frying on a frying pan.
Peoples’ heads can now live on after they die.
Big plastic bags of old clothes are left on the porch for God, who is naked.

The 2010s. Please take off your glasses.
Memory is very forgettable.
The prisons are now filled with cats, dogs, priests, dead bodies.
Music is dressed in fur coats and wrapped in Pendleton blankets.
Voices call out into the empty streets.


Terence Patrick Winch has published eight full-length books of poems, numerous chapbooks, one book of nonfiction on his experiences playing traditional Irish music, and one collection of short stories. Some of his books include: The Known Universe (Hanging Loose, 2017), This Way Out (Hanging Loose, 2014), The Drift of Things (The Figures, 2001), and The Great Indoors (Story Line Press, 1989). His first book, Boning Up, was published by Some Of Us Press in 1972. Winch is the winner of an American Book Award, a Columbia Book Award, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. He has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” radio program, and was the subject of a profile on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Winch is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the DC Commission on the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Fund for Poetry. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry and five Best of American Poetry collections. Winch has also written for The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, The Village Voice, The Wilson Quarterly, The Dictionary of Irish Literature, and The Oxford Companion to American Poetry. In the early 1970s, Winch was one of the organizers of the Mass Transit poets, a group that organized poetry readings and published a literary journal. He is one of the co-founders of Some Of Us Press. He has also been closely associated with the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in lower Manhattan. Born in the Bronx to Irish immigrants, Winch has also played traditional Irish music all his life. In 1977, he started a band with his brother Jesse Winch called Celtic Thunder, and recorded three albums with the group. His new CD is This Day Too: Music from Irish America (Celtic Thunder Music, 2017). The band won an INDIE Award for Best Celtic Album, and in 1992, Winch was named by Irish America Magazine as one of its “Top 100 Irish Americans.” To read more by this author: Terence Winch: Winter 2002 Terence Winch: DC Places Issue