poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Dan Maguire

The following is the title poem from the collection Finding the Words, published by Plan B in 2008. We got to know Dan during our time in Philadelphia. His tireless energy and willing to read anywhere appealed to us. Similar to the experience with Robert Miltner, the manuscript he sent us was different than the one we published. There was some tweaking involved. Donning my editor’s cap, I decided to remake the collection around the strongest poem which was "Finding the Words."
Modestly, I believe we did right by Dan Maguire. The book has been selling like hotcakes since it came out, just going into its fifth printing. For us that’s a major accomplishment.


for Gordon Stull

Sunset is the time for finding words.
The denouement of dusk is better than
the manic red of morning although
there is a moment when their faces are
the same, when time becomes a breath held-in.

Lights must now decide to stay off or go on,
fog, to gather or disperse. Within this
heartbeat window I seek the words for
mended songs to gods grown old,
speak with the usual ghosts.

A quarter-moon tonight, slightly worn,
a bit burned-out, it rises quickly, quickly
disappears, useless as lightning over oceans.

I stop beside a crop of rocks outside
the woods. Once, I heard the stones exchange
their secrets about the ravages of water,
some prophesied apocalypse, epoch of rain.

Tonight the monoliths are all close-mouthed,
the rocks and pebbles sleep, or merely wait for me
to leave. I walk into the leafy dark, surrounded by
the chant of insects, declarations of small animals,
small languages; more ominous, the silences between.

Beside the path, a patch of white; a cat's small skull.
Some never-noticed feral stray? More likely
someone's old companion, whose return is still
expected, a back door waiting, slightly open.
I throw it deep into the woods.
Let earth keep its secrets.

There are no words for me to find tonight
within these woods, among these rocks
that lie asleep beneath a sky prayed open
by a rosary of stars --another seeker,
another-where, has found them-- words
for giving voice to new-discovered bones.
Perhaps some animal that's just now gone
extinct, this very moment, its tracks
still visible, its sound still faintly heard.

Dan Maguire has twice received first prize for poetry at the Philadelphia Writer's Conference and been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. Poets Robert Bly and Gerald Stern have favorably reviewed his work. Maguire has read at the Library of Congress and has led poetry workshops through the Gloucester City (NJ) Adult Education Program. He also led one of the sessions at the first joint-workshop for disabled and non-disabled poets, held at Inglis House in Philadelphia, as well as presiding over a workshops at the National Convention of State Poetry Societies.


Published in Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 2010.