Three Poems by Terence Winch

These three poems by Terence Winch have a radiating grade of dialectical energy in which opposing forces are synthesized, by the poems themselves…

by: Terence Winch ((Header art by sculptor Spencer Biles.))


We go to the beach and make coffee.
We put up flypaper. This year, there
was not a single sandpiper to be seen.

We address the ocean in the language
of water. Which can’t be translated
but is on the same wavelength as are we.

The bed is king-size. I wonder if Henry VIII
had a bed big as this. At night, I hear the ocean
cooing and keening to the darkness.

There is all the usual drinking, pill-taking,
eating. When we go to the supermarket
everything we buy is rich and forbidden.

You are mostly unseen, your presence
only suggested behind the door of the spare
room. White noise like an idling Greyhound bus.

The whole time, I worry about the absent
sandpipers. They are so comical, skittering
in perfect choreography along the shore.

I miss their fat little bodies. I ask around,
but no one knows where they’ve gone.
We have also never caught a single fly.


Old Life

In our old life, we ate ice cream and bread
pudding. We drank glass after glass of
Grand Marnier until it made us sick.
Our libido was a big as a billboard.
Our libido was larger than a drive-in
theater screen in the middle of nowhere
playing endless adolescent pornographic
classics. We had an appetite for appetite.
We poured melted lard all over our
popcorn which we then covered
with a snowstorm of salt. We smoked,
we snorted, we cavorted with people
who were best left alone. We talked
all fucking night on the phone. We read
Keats and Yeats and all the greats
day and night. We got into fights
in pubs. We drank sixteen cups
of coffee every day. We called in sick
and spent the day in mysteries, doubts,
uncertainties. We shirked our
responsibilities without a second
thought. We ate Chinese food
and pizza for breakfast. We rode
the bus to visit friends wherever
they might be. We stole books.
We cheated, we lied, we cried.
We danced all night in the living
room around the Christmas tree.

In our new life, we try to remember
the names of the people we think
we might have slept with. We haul
the bags of frozen broccoli out
of the freezer. We light a candle
to commemorate crossing
the great divide between
the green island of the young
and the songs in our bones
that have come unsung.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Wise men say don’t ask, don’t get.
You can’t win if you don’t play.
But that’s wisdom I haven’t learned yet.

I did win the raffle when we first met
on a boat ride one ancient August day
when wise men said don’t ask, don’t get.

For reasons unknown, on me you placed your bet.
You rolled the dice, baby, for come what may.
That reckless wisdom I haven’t learned yet.

I am cautious, full of regret.
When others rush right out, I tend to stay
put, though wise men say don’t ask, don’t get.

I seek but never find. I get lost. I forget
to take a breath. I’ve forgotten how to pray.
There’s much wisdom I haven’t learned yet.

My life’s goal has been to keep out of debt
but I wound up owing everyone for everything anyway.
Wise men say don’t ask, don’t get.
But that’s wisdom I haven’t learned yet.


Terence Winch, originally from the Bronx, is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Known Universe (Hanging Loose, 2018). A Columbia Book Award and American Book Award winner, he has also written two story collections, Contenders and That Special Place, the latter of which draws on his experiences as a founding member of the original Celtic Thunder, the acclaimed Irish band. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, among them the Oxford Book of American Poetry, Poetry 180, and 5 editions of Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in poetry, a Fund for Poetry grant, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing, among other honors.

11 replies on “Three Poems by Terence Winch”
  1. says: Arthur Rosch

    It’s unusual to find poetry that I don’t have to translate from English to English, poetry that’s not a struggle to understand.
    Sometimes you gotta go for the abstraction, it’s too compelling. But the plain words of Terence’s ideas are so refreshing, so easy to understand that they’re like cool breezes from the shore. Many of us lived that “Old Life” ; we get it. And now it’s time to grow up, cultivate a new kind of poetry. Don’t worry, the poetry doesn’t go away unless you’re dishonest and unfaithful. I want to thank Terence for his comprehensibility. I”m tired of “difficult” poetry, though I’ve made plenty of it myself.

  2. says: Howard Bass

    As they ever have, Terence’s poems move, puzzle, amuse, intrigue, fascinate, and satisfy. In his poems he poses questions that seem both obvious and obscure, and provides answers that are both clear and ambiguous. I don’t know how he does this time and again, except to say that he has the gift that keeps on giving. He owes me nothing that friendship cannot satisfy.

  3. I was startled by flypaper & like the return via “flies”; mesmerized by sandpipers and the wonderful flow of all these poems. “but I wound up owing everyone for everything anyway ….” Yes. Thank you for opening my little day so beautifully.

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