Word was Mom’s pregnancy
hadn’t gone well, should not go full term.
My birth was to be a scheduled procedure.

Dad flew back home from his contract work
near the Arctic Circle — a radar installation
in service of the Cold War.

That he managed a flight was no small feat back then.
Years later, he gave me the necktie he’d borrowed,
kept from a friend — those days you didn’t fly without proper attire.

Just in time, so they thought, from airport
— to home — to hospital;
my brothers kept safe in a neighbor’s house.

Some key provision…

It was just the other day I went looking
for those aviator sunglasses
that once belonged to my father
and found myself thinking of his story
about washing out of flight school
— Army Air Corps, Waco, Texas, 1947 —
the flight test he failed on account
of one moment’s inattention — or was it
hesitation — some intricacy about throttle
and stick — a maneuver that required
this counterintuitive sequence
of power, flaps and trim, to induce a deliberate stall.

He’d mishandled for a second, then recovered.
How it crushed him when
in a glance to his mirrors he saw

‘John Prine Shrine’ in the author’s study, image by Mia Cross

I saw John Prine at Berkley Performance Center in Boston quite a few years back. It was his first tour after having survived a run-in with cancer (his first of two).

He was just learning a new voice, the new delivery necessary. His band was just a stripped down affair: himself on guitar and (damaged) vocal, a stand up bass, and a young man playing electric guitar leads (twangy country licks and fills mostly). His first set was a lot of new material off a latest album. He had records to sell. The vibe was “brave-and-bawdy-humor-from-the bloodied-but-unbowed.”

There was an…


April Fool’s Day

My mind wanders as I struggle
to read another difficult page.

I’ve not grasped design or intention,
only gathered a spirit
itself not quite decided on the meaning

of certain facts, the content
of a pants pocket, what
of the city is illuminated at dawn

tears, or I should say —emotive sounds
that could be allowing laughter,
spasm, mortality, bliss,
cruelty, affection.

I turn the page nevertheless
to the next

and find one irrefutably tender expression
and remember why I read
and am glad of

another year,
another season,
another day, even as it rains.


That day the war began
I was on a radio station soundstage.
It wasn’t just me. There were a bunch of us

there to put on some kind of show.
This was a station that actually played folk music.

I don’t remember the specifics of the broadcast —
the word ‘showcase’ vaguely comes to mind.

We were ‘on air’ — I think we were about to sing
some rousing chorus finale for a cause, a worthwhile cause.

The man who’d put it all together had some ‘in’
with the station. He had some sense…

I was asked to provide instruction,
told it didn’t matter on what;
this assignment was posed to me with the assumption
obvious that I am expert in something, anything
and it occurs to me that I am not.

Would it be useful if I were to explain to you
how I came to this conclusion? I think I can do that.
My father used tell me he would much rather
employ a clever lazy man
than an energetic numbskull. Given the choice. …

Tom Driscoll

Tom Driscoll, poet, essayist and opinion columnist lives/works in Framingham, Massachusetts. https://tomdriscollwriting.com/

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