Three Poems

by Sean Thomas Dougherty


Take the Gypsy jetty off the last pier to arrive
in the Citizens Square, the banners of a Revolution

flapping wind-blown Kosovo
above a fake blind girl selling trinkets

her heavy nearly unseen labor
shawled black shawled

where did she go when she packed up
her cart, her brother who I saw sit down & transform

into a crippled bent child with a box for coins, then reappear hours
blooming as the plum trees—God

be merciful for the creative
act to bring them bread, such maquillage

deserves an Academy Award, a Nobel the Victorian
Nobelesse to beg to eat help me—I’m sorry,

I had to laugh— the sister had the hair
of an Indian God, & then I saw her Shiva

rising out of the gutters’ ash
both of them running home, hitting

each other with sticks & laughing


Through the sweatshop light, bored
under labor, fifteen minutes to smoke

before heavy drinking after shift,
the manager with the face like a Chinese Dog

what was his name. I expected him to beat us that day
I was singing, He wrote me up. All of us wanted

to escape, even the lines of immigrant girls from El Salvador

Sherbrook, Bahia, Lahore, Harlan, Bama their quick fingers turning

& ribbon, fitting the small plastic pieces to figurines
Some in their old countries were professionals, proof readers

teachers, dead

without air-conditioning or azaleas
a voice, and a guitar

we were refugees
when one day takes our lives in our arms and hurls it—


Secret City Conjugations

We speak unmapped
& in a language

from very far inside
we are the city hatching

nothing new unnamed—
The Pontiac, the Pontiff, the sparrows

meager wage & those loves
as well. There is a torch

that does not disappear
even if ashamed

a dialect as beautiful
as the ruined sky

we speak to shape
the shards sublime

& the meaning is
adorned in sound,

we are signifying

like a perfect Saturday night,
drunk & high

electric as a choir

upon our messed up lives:
Our faux dismissals.

Our honeysuckled failures.


My Darling from the Gallows

When you talk I hear trumpets & motorcycles

I see stitched more vividly your bad teeth & black boots

I don’t care where we’re going

except into our own exile

with a wind named Ohio, a rain named Indiana.

Chicago bound with coarse cloth, tethered to

the terrible chords of a bar band we

look up at the moon above the train tracks

we can drink all night beside this silo

& die on the highway with a sadness

we could never come home from anyways—

Photo credit

About Sean Thomas Dougherty

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of thirteen books including All You Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 (2014 BOA Editions), Scything Grace (2013 Etruscan Press) and Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (2010 BOA Editions). He is the recipient of two Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry, an appearance in Best American Poetry 2014, and a US Fulbright Lectureship to the Balkans. He currently works at a Gold Crown Billiards in Erie, PA, and tours for performances.

Sean Thomas Dougherty

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