Thursday Poem

“Maybe the greatest miracle is memory” – Brian Doyle

Father Joe

The holiest moments
were those curse words
Father Joe muttered under
his breath when some asshole
walked down the aisle or when, shit,
the choir started in too early. I always
volunteered to sit on his right so I could
hold the Bible open leaned in against my
sternum, Jesus Christ, as he read the Liturgy of the Word.
He’d gently, damnit, slide the long tassels across the pages
like a blessing. I still follow his eyes as he reads, arms
bent up from his elbows tucked into his side, palms up
Glory Be to the Highest, sonofabitch, listening
for those curse words in that sacred syntax.

by Michael Garrigan
The Echotheo Review

Bad Dream


“(American) President Donald Trump accused schools of teaching students “hateful lies about this country” and said he would be taking steps to “restore patriotic education” as he continued his opposition to efforts to raise awareness about racial inequalities.” —NBC News

thicker into fascist weeds,
entering brambles,
thorns, tangles
of choking vines,
thicker and darker
we go—

see cadres and lines
of Trumpen Youth
see ecstatic smiles,
programmed minds,
fresh, mad eyes,

Jim Culleny

Thursday Poem

Bent to the Earth

They had hit Ruben
with the high beams, had blinded
him so that the van
he was driving, full of Mexicans
going to pick tomatoes,
would have to stop. Ruben spun

the van into an irrigation ditch,
spun the five-year-old me awake
to immigration officers,
their batons already out,
already looking for the soft spots on the body,
to my mother being handcuffed
and dragged to a van, to my father
trying to show them our green cards.

They let us go. But Alvaro
was going back.
So was his brother Fernando.
So was their sister Sonia. Their mother
did not escape,
and so was going back. Their father
was somewhere in the field,
and was free. There were no great truths

revealed to me then. No wisdom
given to me by anyone. I was a child
who had seen what a piece of polished wood
could do to a face, who had seen his father
about to lose the one he loved, who had lost
some friends who would never return,
who, later that morning, bent
to the earth and went to work.

by Blas Manuel De Luna.
from Bent to the Earth
Carnegie Mellon University Press

Gull on a Spar

Gull on spar 3
I’m a gull on a spar —so much sea

but much less far

this perch is so unsteady
I wonder what my bearings are

the roll and sway and pitch,
the other gull-calls I am hearing

the yaw as ship slides into ditch of trough,
this captain must be drunk the way he’s steering

or the helmsman is asleep, his compass eye is off,
the sluggish rudder’s answer is as drawn-out as a stutter

and I’m clinging to this spar like a baby to its mother
as the sun is going down wind whistles or is singing

the moon is coming up —but the image in that mirror,
is that me or is that other?

Jim Culleny


Not Listening

—on a presidential innauguration 2017
I am not buying
a speech sure to smother much with nothing
I am not buying
proceedings that ooze mendacity
I am not buying
sure and certain doublespeak
I am not buying
the oral gymnastics of a chameleon
I am not buying
the patchwork concoction of a chimera
I am not buying
the vacant promise of a narcissist
I am not watching
an actor’s forked tongue dance as if his past had not been taped
I am not watching
the installation of a wretch who’s speech reeks “fake”
I am not watching
when what should raise hope says. nope
I am not watching
Law being choked in the deals of a user
I am not watching
a flag being placed in the mitts of an abuser
I am not swallowing
the pitch of this prince of shades
I am not slurping
inaugural brews of a deadhearted renegade
I am not marching
in that parade
Jim Culleny

April’s Fools

April, you’re coming down the rails
like a runaway train this year
whose driver had a coronary at throttle

or is this God’s koan:
a surprise dump from the farm up the road
where in the dark of day or light of night
animals take care of business regardless,

or is this God’s reminder we’re all fools
who live upon the brink of
His Hers Its
mystic whim where divine will or not
is irrelevant in the thick of it

practical effect rules on April 1st
and throughout this spring month
as it does under every moon

—we live
by it …. upon it …. under it ….through it
with it …. in spite of it …. in, and beyond it
and, at least as far as history tells (so far)
no matter what, we skate  past it
in spite of ourselves, so April,
and the rest of you renegade months,

have mercy
and may we take heed in that event
of close calls


Social Distance


….. we’ll ever be able to pick up where we left off
doing the things we took for granted
….. simple, exquisite things such as to hug
….. or simply to be together in space
….. instead of scattered throughout it
….. over miles or kilometers constrained
….. to express our love in bits and bytes
….. by means of a starker sort of electricity
….. of wire, circuit, wave
….. not as warm as that which sparks in rooms,
….. one to one to one, caroming mind to mind
….. in close quarters, in conversation
….. amicable, intense, generous, true
….. when we’ll be able
….. to breathe the same air
….. without fear of viral interlopers
….. which by some universal whim
….. have chosen us as their means
….. of sustenance and propagation,
….. is the natural question leading to
….. the other never-answered question


Jim Culleny



Grandpas Cup
this is how I most
remember her I’d have been
maybe nine I walk to her house
we have tea at her table
I ask for grandpa’s cup
which she brings from her pantry shelf
and sets it on the table
pours hot water into its metal
beige enameled bowl
with light green steam-blessed rim
adds a teabag a little sugar
I stir and sip as she
in Slovak-embellished English
asks about my day and life
to the background atmosphere
of chicken boiling in the soup
she made so well
and calls me
………… I have that cup

—when the house was sold long
after they’d gone we were gifted
with a last-chance tour
and there’s my grandfather’s cup
on the shelf where it had ever been
as was anciently told
I asked and it was given

Jim Culleny
© 6/7/19


1. The Adze

I’ve never been a mathematician
physicist or statistician
but, as a carpenter who aspires
to be a word magician,
I can fill you in on certain facz
such as the irrational condition
in which, at least from Mesolithic times,
the framer’s friend, the adze, subtracz

2. The Hammer

A hammer’s not a thing of glamor
unless you feel its weight
when you grip an Estwing’s shank
and swing it up to bring it down
to drive a nail into a plank
you realize its simple grace:
its elegant utility as whammer
and if your nail’s a driven flaw
you always have its graceful claw
to  dis-articulate your curse and stammer

3. The Spirit Level

A spirit level’s used to set things straight
with the plane of the horizon as in a beam
or plumb as with a stud to make sure
structure’s right by spirit
you breathe deep and easy and hold the level
so the spirit bubble floats in the small arc of a glass flask
dead center which if placed upon a joist would say,
this floor is level
being on the level
good way to be
Jim Culleny

Old Music

were filled with the gusts of it

floor boards
were rife with the dust of it

stuffed couches
cradled the lust of it

mom’s bread
was baked to the must of it

King Cole crooned through
the crust of it

time will never manage
the bust of it