Sean Thomas Dougherty
Reading the Masters still covered with smoke from playing pool late into the A.M, I awoke in my basement room and grabbed a pile of books and began reading Yannis Ritsos outloud—“to be locked up/ in the leper house. Dear God how alone they are…” Then Lucille Clifton, “say rather I withdrew to seek within myself some small assurance that tragedy while vast is bearable”— even when hell is close by— it always is—for people like us— but with each syllable we refuse— And even death has stopped work. Look over in the corner, he is sitting down to listen. It is he who is asking you to turn the page. Blues of the Working Poor Sister drooping her head, like the suffering of lilacs They tapped you on the shoulder, to give you the already answers. I want to suggest an alternate route, but I can’t remember whose face to punch. These blues are not just scored by failure but the need to shout it wasn’t and sharpen your razor. That shine. May you, my people, recall there is an anthem hidden in the quiet of the radiator when the landlord turns off the heat in winter. The dark rain don’t care. Your jive unanswered prayers. I am so poor I can’t afford to sign my name for nothing. Hear my life spoken of only in the third person as if I am incapable of a conscious decision. The endless chromatics of bitter? Talk all you want. What is freedom of speech but the burden of one’s lungs letting out air.Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of thirteen books including the forthcoming All I Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 (2014 BOA Editions) Scything Grace and Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (2010 BOA Editions). He tours regularly for his poems, teaches part-time when he can get it, and works at a pool hall in Erie, PA.