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The Crosses

Eamonn Wall

ISBN: 1 903392 90 1

Page Count: 84

Publication Date: Saturday, January 01, 2000

Cover Artwork: Austin Carey. Design by Brenda Dermody

About this Book

The Crosses is a striking metaphor which embraces many of the themes that Eamonn Wall explores in his third collection. He takes stock of what we lose and gain as we negotiate paths through an unstable world. Here is a work of mature affirmation which celebrates the deep bonds which bind us to land, water, and the streets of the present and past. With verve and wit, Wall deftly crosses and re-draws the boundaries of the contemporary Irish and American worlds.

Author Biography

Eamonn Wall is a native of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, who now lives in Missouri. A Tour of Your Country is his fifth volume of poetry to be published by Salmon. His essays and articles are collected in From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills (University of Wisconsin Press). He teaches at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Read a sample from this book

The Crosses

We were driving back to Denver from
Don Martinez's funeral on an April day
under the clearest of skies,
the brightest of light.

Nights he read On the Road under lamplight
maps flattened under cold stars on lands
which could never know compromise,
whose quiet men towed his truck to
gas stations: full of dust. They could never register
Don Martinez's cadence, the soft lines of his face.

We sat together three of us on worn recliners,
drinking red wine on the porch,
under the western sky & above the boom-and-
bust Denver you despised. You watched
distant planes, flying low, lit for landing.
Your heroes: Janis Joplin, Joe Di Maggio.
Your worn face, impassive as cedar.

You underlined for me the desolation
of these highways: the mockery of
place names among great continuities:
rising to dryland, descending onto grass.
I was anxious to count the mugs on the
blue counter beside the sink, Marie's foot
hard on the pedal, passing faded shadings
of the Wild West, Wilco on the radio.

For Marie you came to Denver. From our bed
I heard your breaths from under jazz on the
radio station, as mellow late-night as your bodies,
as snow falling on parked cars on Decatur St.
Lightly touching my hands, Marie returned at
daylight, around us the blankets settling peacefully.

Under the crosses, you have joined the dry
ground. You passed time over reds & coffee
with waitresses as you crossed this earth
from Cody to Las Cruces slowed down by the
quiet humiliations of migrant life: gas station oil
changes in Pueblo, arrest in Walsenburg for
disorderly conduct, trumped up charge &
hefty fine. Desperate in East Texas, you beat time
with your sister on slot machines, her husband
working an Amoco rig on the Gulf of Mexico.

We were driving back to Denver from
Don Martinez's funeral on an April day
under the clearest of skies,
the brightest of light. Under the crosses
he has joined the dry ground.

Nebraska/Christmas Eve

Greetings. The Platte River crawls across yellow prairie
under concrete bridges to meet the brown Missouri.
Rolling darkly down from kingdoms we know as
South Dakota, Montana.

Greeted by neon towns where children are held in sleep
by crimson horizons at the end of the world, where
parents as they curl confirm majestic interiors of
sorghum and corn, at the end of the day.

Greetings. Rivers on great journeys, our plates of food
and sleep. We break bread under great skies. Our red
faces know so deeply our mothers' feet walking on
landings, like pouring water over stone. A summer
evening when we sat on rocks to await the
passing of the evening train.

Greetings for this season. It is snowing heavily under a
quarter moon so shingle and land groan, contentedly.
Under the tree, presents are wrapped in red. The bows
are white. As time rolls with the tree limbs, we arrive
at the continent's door.

We have greeted the stranger. He sat hands wrapped
around coffee cup before our open fire. The woman
of this house and her children are sleeping. The man
has cleaned the kitchen surfaces of crumbs and has
confronted the clever spaces of the dishwasher,
with his cups and glasses.

Hard to tell at this late hour the heart's direction,
Nebraska. A summer evening when we sat on
rocks to await the passing of the evening train.
The river moving because it can't be still, the man
greeting a white towel with his mother's hands.

The Road

To begin again

the white car
the motel

to have to
have faith enough

to pull
one door firmly
then walk away.

(Copyright Eamonn Wall 2000. All Rights Reserved.)


Praise for Eamonn Wall's Poetry:

Dyckman--200th Street

"In these extraordinary poems the exile tradition is rejuvenated, given a sharp, current edge. This book marks a significant crosscurrent in contemporary Irish/American literature."

Jack Morgan, Irish Literary Supplement

Iron Mountain Road

"His poems are charged with a thoroughly contemporary and a profoundly literary awareness of what it means to be Irish, and a writer, in America."

Kathleen McCracken, Poetry Ireland Review

In his second book, Wall's wry imagination bears witness to his astonishing ability to absorb what William Carlos Williams called "the American grain" without losing the intonations of his own idiom. Such double vision, or double-speak, defines the situation of the emigrant writer, and of this group Wall is among the best. An Irish poet living in America, he is equally adept at evoking the teeming cityscape of New York, the vast spaces of the American prairie, and the lush countryside of his native Wexford. Louis Simpson observed that American poetry must have a stomach that can "digest rubber, coal, uranium, moons, poems." Wall's work has already digested Hart Crane's Bridge, Omaha, Mount Rushmore, Lake Michigan and a good deal of junk food. These new poems reveal him as a daring and original poet with an interest in exploring how the surfaces of the present open windows into history.

The Boston Review
Copyright © 1996, Boston Review. All rights reserved.

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