Timothy Brennan


A maple whose roots enclose
a child's
two hundred-year-old gravestone

day after day in March

sap in fog and lengthening sun

like the tears and sweat from Mother's distaff:     her           heavy ashsoil--

house and husband and
and many children     living and dead--

her dreams
renewed only at night--
the bitter syrup
rid from her lips.

                            --When Grandfather held
the camera clicked
before I ran from the self--
                            trapped and shadowed--
                                                        world without end. He

moved electricity     through salt air

of the thin-soiled sharp-ridged

before I sensed that earth
quake from below.

All who've made me   have disappeared.
Left me alone to

turn to tree:   sucked through roots
        from the rough cliff
                                          to breathe
relentless, as rhythmic as waves--
in the planet's
every leafed-plant's gasp.


In a brief moment of intersection, our most physically intimate time since my earliest months when he changed and washed me, and his last when I returned the favor in part, my feet equaled his in size and I wore his shoes.

"Walked in his shoes"; "Followed in his footsteps": the metaphors don't fit. I inherited my mother's long feet and within a year had outsized and returned his beautiful shoes to the pale oak of the closet floor. He favored wing-tipped broughams- black or brown to go with the suit he wore that day. Made by "Bostonian", a name that resonated with his Massachusetts roots. It evoked his father's and grandfather's days as shoe cutters on the factory floors of Brockton. Hard, polished leather soles and heels punished our wooden floors as each heavy foot fell in turn, pounded down the stairs in the morning, crunched across the gravel drive, then disappeared behind the slam of his car door. There were wear-spots on the back right quadrant of the right heels from hours levering the Fairlane 500's gas pedal. In those days one's shoes could stay clear of the overflow slick from the gas pump. He'd pull in for "a buck's worth" and someone else's rubber soles would soak up grease propped onto their toes while he squeegeed the windshield.

He introduced me to the military spit-shine - how to work indelible black wax into pores of leather, brush into the cracks and let set to a dull haze before buffing; then employ "elbow grease" - a term I grew to despise from its constant invocation - and a little spit to work up the luster. Saturday nights before Perry Mason, preparing for Sunday Mass, six of us shared the polish and brush and buffing rags and finished with fingernails no scrubbing could unstain. In the morning our feet glowed darkly beneath the pews, while our prayer tips steepled, soiled, in the light of the chapel's filtering sun.

At The Party

At the party men crowd my wife
mutter foolish words
competing for her attention. They
bring her drinks
and hors d'oeuvres
tell absurd stories
and ask her to dance.
She throws her head back
and laughs like a school girl
as she smokes their cigarettes
her lipstick
shining brightly in the soft light
against blond hair, and pale eyes
while deep in the shadows
my blue eyes grow narrow
and dark and I hold
my jealous rage
like a thin glass bowl
trembling, and slightly
too large
for my arms.

About the Author

Timothy Brennan is a poet, painter and woodworker who has lived and worked in San Francisco, in Brooklyn, and now inNew Paltz, where he has been renovating his old house for over twenty years with no end in sight.

His poems have been published in Chronogram, Awosting Alchemy, and in the 2011 edition of the Wallkill Valley Writers' Anthology. Some new poems will be included in the 2014 edition of the WVW Anthology.

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