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   Jacket 33 — July 2007        link Jacket 33 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

John Hennessy

Coney Island Pilgrims

Paul used to say that I should seek God
in the loneliest places. While the subway
ground along firing sparks, I lobbed

my school-tie behind me, St. Peter’s stone.
He said to watch the driver sway,
glide toe to heel, a holy piston

pumping the rail. I drank and crooned
into beer cans, inflated brown bags
in both hands, popped them like balloons.

We took the F train to the beach,
the Ferris wheel to heaven. I tagged
our cart with daisy crowns. God’s sheep

flocking below appeared to kneel —
joggers in ball caps, the dark, foreshortened
great coats, black hats of Hasidim, teal

track suits, gold slickers, silver-horned
boom-boxes, Kangols and bandanas,
clear plastic bonnets, old men in fedoras —

the whole slow Coney Island crowd, the last
come first, crept by on their knees, and each
direction drew its pilgrim’s compass.

Paul’s scrip — perverse black bag — hauled East
to east, beyond Golgotha’s squared-off teeth,
to some fermented eagle’s nest

hung above Seoul. He thanked me later
for Gateless Gate — and his folks blame me
but I gave the books to make him moderate.

The monastery keeps him quiet
now; I forget he hasn’t died. Is silence so
dramatic? No less than hazing tides

or lecturing a crowded beach,
but I prefer it here below,
beside the Ferris wheel’s iron sweep.

John Hennessey

John Hennessy’s poems appear in Fulcrum, Harvard Review, The New Republic, Salt, The Yale Review, and Best New Poets 2005. His first collection, Bridge and Tunnel, was published in February 2007 by Turning Point Books (Word Press). Next fall he will be the resident fellow at the Amy Clampitt House in Lenox, MA. He teaches atthe University of Massachusetts and lives in Amherst.