Crossroads: A Collection of Poetry


by Thomas Michael McDade

Along route 25
slow burning mulleins
signal with dim
yellow flame
poor, compacted soil.
Consider also Queen Anne's
crotch-high lace
by butter and eggs
that wink like old neon.
Chicory caps the mood:
petals a blue
men never find
in hitchhikers' eyes
they are fool enough
to skid to stops for.
Sunrise shovels and picks
dig roadside earth:
suburban transplants
that never take
to the straight and narrow.

Sabbath Contraptions

by Thomas Michael McDade

Five and change
for a hundred
Sunday supplement tulip bulbs.
To sweeten the deal
six grape hyacinths.
I remember
a Sabbath contraption
that fit any wall socket:
made building or house
a grand TV antenna.
No more blizzards,
get all channels with ease.
It failed
and the bulbs seem too runty
to pack the thrust
to spear the ground
if they survive
squirrels and moles,
grace the earth
with spindly ears
like an old fashioned rabbit.
But if they do
likely they will
receive gangs of deer
as well as the fat bulbs
from fancy catalogs.

Easy Shrines

(For John Campbell)

by Thomas Michael McDade

John and I stayed
at Widow Murphy's place, summer '72.
Her husband had played football
for Notre Dame and one room was a shrine.
We paved asphalt for a living.
The foreman told Marine tales, drank Ballantine
Ale his brother said he couldn't handle.
Two Portuguese guys spoke no English
but were artists with asphalt rakes.
If they cut themselves they used old world
first aid: pissed on the wound.
They washed down lunch with beer
justifying the quarts we chugged.
We had no wheels so Maloney the owner
let us take the pickup home, bed rattling
with shovels, rakes, wheelbarrow, picks.
Sometimes the roller was in tow.
Vowing not to drive and drink we weakened.
Once hit every Post Road bar from Bridgeport
to Port Chester and talked a lot about a girl
whose breasts rode exceptionally high and
ached no doubt for calloused hands to certify
true latitude and longitude.
Intrigue us to the grave they will
and we pray they never sagged.
We almost performed classic
pebbles-on-window rousing at her place
but brought the foreman's brother a midnight
beer instead which pissed his wife so royally
we are likely part of family legend.
Nearly flipped the roller driving crazy.
Trailer hitch had to be welded
and we lost a day to drink and shooting pool
at the Wood's End Bar where we never imagined
Maloney dead in a bike wreck. Who knows what
became of the brothers or Portuguese rakers?
John and I got schooled out of manual labor.
By God, got our own transportation.
We think of Mrs. Murphy and her shrine,
shiny trophies, photos black and white.
We understand her better now
since the day the aroma of asphalt
struck us like some old sacred incense.
And how blessed we are that our nostalgia
is the stuff that streets are paved with.

The Combine Congregation

(For Bill Donnelly)

by Thomas Michael McDade

Clete Strong's green pickup
had an oversized bed and a sign
on a window that said CLERGY
but he never guoted Scripture.
The Reverend coached a project
team named the Combines after
a semi-pro nine he remembered.
He boasted to our mothers
what good kids and ballplayers we were.
He was grateful for any kind of sandwich.
He had a temper, threatened a couple of umps
but left his Buck Knife on the bench.
Flashed it for a junk dealer though.
We'd filled the truck with riverbank rocks
the Reverend said were pig iron that
would sell for scrap to buy uniforms.
The dealer laughed and we hustled
our Reverend off a step ahead of the law.
Shit, project kids didn't need sissy uniforms.
It got worse. A lifeguard at the city pool
told our shortstop the Reverend wasn't
clergy which got back to him.
He wiped his face with a red bandana,
talked about his shotgun but calmed down
enough to go out sandwich hunting.
Twelve gauge is as real as his church
the centerfielder said and most of us
agreed but hell he was our coach.
Two barrels blazed away weapon doubt:
Reverend Strong settled a domestic spat:
gunned the boyfriend down,
claimed he saved the woman's life.
He did time and the wounds healed.
Really was a church, a storefront.
I wasn't as good a ballplayer as
the Reverend bragged to my mother for Spam.
But I did go two-for-three with
a game-saving catch once that summer.
And if one of the gang that returned
to the project after that win, cheering
in the big bed of the green pickup
were to dispute that performance today
I wouldn't pull a gun I'd swear
pig iron were gold for a chance to
compare our Combine Scripture.

Albatrosses a.k.a Goony Birds

by Thomas Michael McDade

Sailors talk
to the goony bird
statue on Midway
and one named Fields
kissed it goodbye
before going AWOL.
He couldn't hack
Island drinking
and loneliness:
surrendered to San Diego
Navy rehab.
Another duty station
upon completion
because his Midway
mates whose work increased
might not treat sober Fields
like alcoholism was a disease.
Fields shipped out
on an old destroyer
and sometimes standing
watches he'd go on and on
about goony birds
being full of grace in the air
but klutzes on the ground.
Fields wrote a poem
in therapy about them
being wind swindlers
flying miles without a wing flap.
A kid from first division
who sat on the fantail
with a slingshot trying
to knock off sea birds
chasing garbage being dumped
into the wake loved that one.
He said he'd kill for a Midway tour.
Fields never told on himself
kissing the Midway statue
until he fell off the wagon
after visiting an aviary
in Barcelona.