POETRY MONDAY: October 5, 2020

Dropped on:October 5, 2020
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                                                                                         PHIL TIMPANE

Good morning, everyone!  It seems strange to say “good morning” when I’m writing this after dark, but everything seems strange in what Farhad Manjoo called “a present as nutty as ours” (NY Times, 9/24/20). But poetry, as always, will help us to survive.

Our poet today is an old friend to this column, as he was featured here in one of our earliest years.  Now here he is again, looking venerable and bardic, with new poems and details about his life, of the kind I always like to share with readers.

Phil Timpane works with his hands, his business mind and his ever-working philosophical mind.  By day he is a building contractor; the rest of his time, he says, he “designs and builds new poems.” This kind of day job is not unusual for serious artists in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.  I know two other contractors who are well-published poets, another who is an Equity actor and a third who runs a martial arts studio when she isn’t teaching Spanish and French to college students and writing poetry.

Born in Troy, New York, Phil Timpane grew up in Pittsfield and Stockbridge in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. He attended Boston College and graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in philosophy, a field of study that won’t surprise you when you read his poems.  He now lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, still in the Berkshires, with his wife, Sugar (yes, that’s her real name) and two wire-haired fox terriers. 

His poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Cortland Review, upstreet, and many other print and online journals.  In 2007 he was a winner of the Atlanta Review’s International Publication Award.

It’s my pleasure to re-introduce Phil Timpane with the three poems that follow.

                                                –Irene Willis
                                                 Poetry Editor


There are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground  

I know I must have mastered some of them
but back on my feet
that old feeling grows louder
a scar scratched across the heart
broken refrains enough
to dull any diamond insight
needling for a groove along the tracks
on the wrong side of a brain
still stuck on vinyl

So I sing to myself the taste of gravel
cool and clean and hard
press my feet against the beat
and try not to lose too much sleep
over how easy it is to dream
fall for lyrics that can drop you to your knees
grateful for whatever comes
between you and gravity
and strangely attracted
to the come-hither look
of the usually stony-faced ground


Are You Saying Your Prayers

It’s true you found me on my knees last night
just before bedtime
assuming the position
at the appointed hour
and it’s not as if I’m not in need
couldn’t use a little divine
intervention now and then
as if the world weren’t dire enough
begging for every prayer it can get
every bit of magic real or imagined
it can muster
its bulk being made up of believers

And why not
we’ve all been there before leaving
for parts unknown
run across those scriptures
published in The Times
the double blinds that verify
faster healing by the pre-prayed-for
recoveries mystifying those prone
to science of the flesh 

But I’m too selfish for faith
and too arrogant
to wish
more than willingness from the spirit
I’m not down here searching
for words or even forgiveness
though heaven knows I should
or might

If I weren’t so diligently seeking
the dog’s bright green squeaky-toy
from under the agnostic furniture
employ its worldly distraction
to stop the forsaken barking
canine lips
to a god’s floppy ears


To the God of Great Distance  
                                                        (for my dad)

I know it would be easy
to find them
the right scientists to explain
astronomers and astrophysicists to insist
it’s nowhere near
the same starry sky that visits us tonight
Orion and the seven sisters
as changed by history
as any matter
touched or not by human sight

They make it hard
to turn a blind eye
to the violence
of their dutifully described distant suns
make it easy to swallow
the absurd notion that somehow
this tomorrow is torched by fires
burned a billion yesterdays ago

A strange hope turned to
for solace
in the absence
of any noticeable heat

The neat paradox
of parallax views
as we take the measure of the night
for some constancy or truth
that says i loved him then
under this same vast roof
of galaxies and stars

Going so far at times
as daring to imagine
our tiny fates tied
to constellations
or the shifting light
of some long dead wishing star
resurrected now
right before our eyes
by the dark god
of great distance

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