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Tom Daley
Finalist : 2010 Poetry Contest


Listen to Tom Daley read "The Woman in the Pamet River:"

The Woman in the Pamet River

The woman doused in marsh noise.
The woman perked by salt.
The woman suspended over mussel shells,
sidewheeling her legs in the crab river.
The woman besieged
and beseeched.
The woman in a dream of flood tide,
resplendent in river shoes, cork-buoyant,
tilting her toes
at the top of July.
The woman as thigh mistress of the riverbank.
Clean as porcelain,
she floats like rice
with the hollow straw.
Woman eddying and green:
starfish-spiked, curdling,
hunched in salt marsh air.



Listen to Tom Daley read "Overpass:"


After a photograph by James Nielsen
Agence France Presse,
The New York Times
September 2, 2005

A matte and wary sunlight nurses the water glints
that seeped, then spilled from the knee of the breached levee.
Outboard propellers thrum wind
through the cornrowed head of a floating woman.

Her long-sleeved nightdress clothespins
her buoyant black body to the sun.
It stalls her drooping, stalls her from shattering
like a cold front at the floor of the flooded streets.
She wheels near a woman feeding

a dog yoked to the edge of a bridge.  Wheels
unheard, unscented, neither derelict nor redeemed, 
now tipping, now tilting face-down
in the toxic outwash of the Pontchartrain.
Arms outstretched, she gives her shoulder blades
and buttocks to heaven.

Far from her drowned form, blocks
carved from human waste
pyramid in stadium stairwells.
Airborne Babylon bullhorns belated exile
to sodden limbs and parched esophagi.
Snipers like smoked bees
snarl with humid sleep.

The woman’s lungs have looted the fruit of phantom tidal gates,
of marshes starved of the beneficence of silt.
Her shroud, cotton, filmy, shin-length,
wads the sights of marksmen and moguls.
She glints, a freshly-minted coinage,
tossed to land, tail-up, at the front of the flood.



Listen to Tom Daley read "Theology:"


Like a host of hollowed out ideograms
that once fattened on fallow weeks,
theology swarms the hemispheres of the skull.

It congeals larvae into lures
flycast by triage teams.
Specimen hunters snare
its spotted nightmares.

Theology is fecundity’s Richter scale.
Mobs in the aftermath of an executioner’s carnival
bless its long reach. It’s a ragtag mariachi riot.
Exact and desperate,

it bears the scent of grapeshot,
turpentine, strychnine and kir.
It is pillaged from mortal aquifers.
It stampedes tin abattoirs

and forklift batteries alike.
It is beholden only to a fossilized physics.
Falling from enormous walls, it prevails against the sun.
Theology gilds and stills the tissue trained by neurons.

It is ample as calamity.
It greases the undercarriages of juggernauts,
drains to discrepancies,
is the provenance of gesture and ghost.



Tom Daley serves on the faculty of the Online School of Poetry and teaches poetry and memoir writing in the greater Boston area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Review, Fence, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. He is the author of a play, Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Servants, which he has adapted into a one-man show.
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