Tom Sexton & His Father’s Ghost

Tom Sexton sent a new poem from the coast of Maine where he’s wintering more easily than in the Alaskan icebox. He’s working on a new book of  poems. Lowell (and all that that contains) is the subject. Look for the new collection in the fall. In the meantime, mark your calendars for Tom’s poetry readings in Lowell on April 3 and April 4. I’ll post the details as we get closer to his Lowell visit.—PM


The Whistler House Museum
I step out of the house where James
McNeill Whistler was born into slanting
rain, the kind that falls in his etchings.
“I will be born where and when I want,
and I do not choose to be born in Lowell,”
he said. My father’s ghost is at my side.
“I was never in there when I was alive,”
he says. “I would have enjoyed it there
on a rainy day.” He wants to know if I have
ever seen stars reflected in the canals
late at night. He has the tongue he never
had when alive. Everything comes easy now.
We watch a slight woman, Vietnamese perhaps,
crossing one of the bridges over the canals
engineered by Whistler’s father to carry water
to the now decrepit mills where my father worked
when he was young, then we stop for a bowl of pho.
“Imagine a mackerel snapper eating noodles,”
he says and laughs. Later climbing the road
to the top of Fort Hill, we flush a cock pheasant.
He asks if I’ll be back again. I say I’m sure I will.
—Tom Sexton (c) 2011