Sean Nevin


I’ve learned, has nothing
in common with the relentless
metronome of carpenter bees
ticking off the aluminum siding
like the steady hail of olive pits
spit through my open window
the summer I learned to shake
martinis without bruising the gin.
Nor does it exist in the imperfect
practice of swatting a strung racket
through the yard after the buzzing
shuttlecock bodies of bees.
This much I’ve pieced together
from experience, which should not be
mistaken for wisdom.
Wisdom is more
akin to the transformational,
that telephone pole of clarity
arriving from nowhere at 3 A.M.
like a telephone pole,
a kind of cosmic boom
lowered onto the head
of a drunken nineteen year old
behind the wheel of his father’s
cherry Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
Or in the curiously familiar
stench of my own eyebrows
on fire again,
as I lowered
the fresh Pall Mall
still pinched
in my puckering lips
into the blazing
patch of open flame
between the teriyaki salmon
and the marbled flank steak
the boss was busy grilling
at the company picnic.
Shit happens.
People get fired
and rehired all the time,
but these, these
are the doozies in life,
the real hallmarks
from which we grow
a little scar
or develop a tic
we carry quietly with us
for the rest of our lives
as a sort of charm,
a crooked little loadstone,
a scar-tissue medallion
worn on the bridge of the nose
or beneath the twitching eye,
whose sole purpose in our world
is to catch us off guard,
to grab us
as we stride past ourselves
in the mirrored window
of a bank,
to remind us
at the most unlikely of times
we are, all of us, lucky
to be alive.

Sean Nevin
“Wisdom” is from Oblivio Gate (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008).