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Sean Thomas Dougherty



Lately I find my poems “opening” more and more, moving into found textures, slippages of real conversation pressed against fragments of language, narrative memory. In “Lullaby” (which I want to spell “bye” because a lullaby has always felt elegiac to my ear) it is these spaces and juxtapositions of narrative fragments that most interest me in their ability to make meanings I would thereby neglect—or better yet, miss if I was more concerned with completeness or a more defined closure.

Collage has always fascinated me and I’ve begun to explore ways of “speaking collages” and this poem is one of these Spoken Collages, though Spoken Assemblages is perhaps better as Assemblage evokes three dimensional space and I think of this poem and my recent work as striving for three dimensions. I think of words Spoken as having three dimensions and this poem is only complete once the reader “reads it” out loud, translating the words into space, body, texture, tone, much as I want it to be heard, if not with my own tongue than with the reader’s tongue..

Of course as I write that I think that is not necessarily true, as reading for me also has a kind of interiority, where “spaces” open inside through language through the eye and inner ear.

And then after I write that I laugh at how hopelessly academic this all sounds.

When actually this poem is a very simple kind of love poem that hopes to be serious and playful and in the end sing my friend Matt who was drunk and protective of his girlfriend one night at our favorite bar, and how hopelessly endearing his actions were, and to my lover Shelly who is a superb modern dancer, and when she moves through space in performance pushes me to find new forms to be able to shape what I feel when I watch her fulfill each gesture to open the air.



Lullaby to my Friends Both Living and Dead  (for Shelly and Matt)


On a day of confetti’d rain:

                                         late spring,

bubblering above the stones.


                                After the 1 AM Vodka Martini

in Scotty’s Jazz Club

                              After a night with no Jazz

and that old guy Mark

                              hitting on Liz to “come


to my studio” and Matt

                                         “lost it” “Why hit an old guy”


I said, glancing          at the huge


bald headed white men at the bar biting


                                bottle caps.


                                “Now That’s competition,”

like the dead,

                     like O’Hara studying Verlaine,

riding shotgun on the subway


D said. Took a shot, her tattooed fist.


And I laughed and thought of us walking down the block.

like what Corey wrote about empty closed down hospitals

or the refinery smoke that snakes through these texts

or the dead fish that wash up along our shore every spring.

And the diners with the men slumped into their own hands.

And far away from any graduate degree or another poem,

riffing Heidegger “though I love that Waldrop book” and Matt

asks “what’s your project” and I turned “to write the choreography

of You—“


the cellophane burning


from the match. To uncouple the shackles to singe


the syntax “infinitive laced” “gerund” “runed” balleted


or ballistic?


Sound as pretentious as “scratch that” scratch

project are “the projects,” as if “Stein had to grow up


              on Government Cheese.”

                                      Until the end the martyrology


emerges no matter how swift the riffed

                                                      is stuttered

in memory of closed fist.

                                            Of stealing

apples in the Londenderry orchards

                                                       miles from the closed down shoe factories.


Buckets of stolen apples and leaving them on Babushkas


front steps.

                     Of beautiful witnessings.


                     Of sleeping and breathing in the dark

                                                               as the streetlights burn,

                     the awake sounds

                                                     of our neighbor Sheila

                     in the apartment above,



putting on her


listening to 50 Cent.



                      But then Dovenshenko (trans. Orlowsky) who wrote “the hanged


                      turned their eyes to the sky

                      from the menacing gallows.”


                      The “menacing gallows” inside


We all carry.


                      Or inside “an oared boat,”


                                 a “willow boat,” a river to row across?


“the dove she is a pretty



                      as you dance (your dead sister


             white shawled)


                      that longing

                                             that falls


between sense (nouns)


                      a door


in the middle of the air




                      to a room

                                            I step



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