Minor Poet

By Bill Sweeney Bill Sweeney
His last composed poem, "Over My Head,"
    closes with the evening tide
coming in as the light fails over Brighton Beach.

In the years of The Great Plague,
    he lived with his mother and brother
and wrote the Elegies that remain unpublished,

under the eaves in an unfinished room above
    his mother's late-night television vigil.
He wrote to a ghostly laugh-track

in the night. Though he cut out and saved
    lurid, five-color magazine pictures
of The South Pacific, The Aegean; though

he hoped for a winter crossing by steamer
    until his final weakness set in,
underneath he was a city boy

whose poems drifted like a dinghy
    in small inlets—Gravesend, Rockaway—
out too far for safety, in sight of land.

Source: Poetry (April 2002).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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April 2002


Bill Sweeney attended Wesleyan, took his MFA at Columbia University, and worked on a doctorate at New York University. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Another Chicago Magazine, and the Atlanta Review, among other periodicals. A teacher at the Collegiate School in Manhattan, he is circulating a book manuscript, The Immaculate Thing, and a chapbook, Father and Son.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Poetry & Poets, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Nature, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Imagery, Simile

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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