The National Poetry Review

Kevin Boyle


It’s hard to know exactly why Henry Howard
Was forced to lose his head, but he quartered
The arms (the attributed arms!) of King Edward
The Confessor, not Edward I, his ancestor,

Or Edward III, also kin, and by adding birds—
Five golden doves—to join his seven lions rampant,
And three passant, he was, sadly, considered
Treasonous, and Henry VIII sent him to The Tower

Along with, for some reason, his duke father.
Henry Howard, our father of blank verse
And the English sonnet, the noble Earl of Surrey,
Was beheaded, became acephalous, for the coat of arms

He borrowed. Most loved his borrowings from Petrarch,
But the birds with a cross suggested pride, and so the axe.



I hate to say no one ever told me
but as a paperboy I’d knock on
fifty doors a week, explaining
everything by saying, Collecting,
even in snow, even in scorch,
even as the Phillies gave way
to the Eagles, the Sixers playing
into early summer, I knew
those seasons because they were called
seasons, but when I was asked
to step in to the friendly Bambatch
home, I had no idea why anyone
would cover the mirrors in sheets
or blankets, the enormous mirror
in the living room, the small mirror
in the hall where I often looked
at my empty self when they went to find change
for a tip, the two daughters home
from college, though Christmas was still
two weeks away, and I remember
feeling so frightened of the white sheets—
they didn’t seem to be painting the walls—
and I remember not liking when
the older daughter—was it Miriam?—
touched my hand with the coins
and closed my hand with her hand.
She couldn’t look me in the eye
because I was looking at my feet,
but I felt what I didn’t like to feel,
like an intensity, a call from one person
to another so I said my piece—
Have a good weekend, since it was
Friday, and Thank you because I needed
to leave, to escape the ghosts
and she said, Our mother always liked you.
Thank you. No, thank you, I said,
knowing those coins were not pennies,
they were always good tippers,
and I carried my bag and four-barrel
coin changer out into the cold, only
slotting the quarters and extra dimes in
after I had left as I had been taught.
Mind your manners and don’t be
an eejit, my Irish father so often said.

KEVIN BOYLE’s poems have appeared widely in journals, including Alaska Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, Hollins Critic, North American Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Tar River Poetry, Terminus and Virginia Quarterly Review. His book, Astir, came out in 2015 (Jacar Press) and was a finalist for the 2016 Brockman-Campbell Prize (judge, Barbara Hamby). His first collection, A Home for Wayward Girls, won the New Issues Poetry Prize, judged by Rodney Jones, and his chapbook, The Lullaby of History, was selected by David Rivard for the Campbell Award. He lives in Burlington, North Carolina.

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