From December

I hear her stir the small jar
of paint she’s mixed and know
she’s found the quiet needed to work.

Snow hasn’t yet fallen this winter.
I pick at this.

That poem about the green tomato
was supposed to be the new start
I’d promised myself, to step away from the dark.

That poem about the green tomato
was supposed to change things,
loose my loving tongue on its voluptuous
surface—simple music—


To Hannah

To Hannah
                      after L. Cohen

It’s early in the morning, the last days
of April. I write you now that
the weather’s improving.
Spring’s seeming late this year,
the skies have been darker.
You’ll not come back here, I know.

Those songs I collected
that insulted California,
they were never intended
to change your mind.

I’m told that you wept last time you called.
Another courageous decision you made.
What can I tell you that you don’t already know?
Courage is rough on the brave.

I see you there with the flowers and light
that you’ve found, your drive across the desert
your lover beside you — what more could I wish for you?
— what more could I give?

I’m thinking of another song right now
born out of a more complicated love than mine.
It’s just that sometimes it’s easier
to misappropriate a line
even as it guesses wrong colors
how I — miss and — forgive you,
can confess of my faults,
how with that off my chest I could send this
without the slightest grain of salt.

Those songs I collected
that insulted California,
they were never intended
to change your mind.

your father.

“To Hannah” appears in April: 30 Poems


The Champion of Doubt


Driscoll’s lyrical ear, and dowser’s alertness to strong currents of feeling, as well as to meaning, provides deep pleasure in poem after poem.  A collection well-worth owning and returning to.
–Alan Feldman, Author of The Golden Coin

In the lead poem [Tom Driscoll] writes about birches, “sentries of the forest” and “their tendency towards light” as “delicate witnesses.” Tom is a birch, and this is a brave and wonderful book.

–Polly Brown, Author of Pebble Leaf Feather Knife

These are poems that move a reader to look deeply into their own mirror of loss and regret, hard lessons learned, and moments of pleasure and triumph that in spite of everything emerge like dandelions poking through the pavement. Filled with images and insights that seem both startling and inevitable…
–Charles Coe, Author of Momento Mori

In poignant, sensitive poems Tom Driscoll recalls instances that are like “flecks of gold in riverwash sand/ to catch the light of certain moments, so precious—”

–Miriam Levine, Author of Saving Daylight

  • Paperback: 90 pages [est]
  • Publisher: Finishing Line Press; First edition (July 28, 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 979-8-88838-206-6

Available in Pre-Sale at Finishing Line Press


That Day

That day

That day the river will be full again
—an ample cup to sip.
We’ll watch the heron make his careful way
along the banks
like he’s looking for a coin that fell from his pocket.
I will have perfected my prayers
and ask for nothing.



The young man is pleased with his haircut
and the new blue shirt bought special
for the day—its fabric smooth, heavy
for nearly summer. The collar folds
loose at the neck, even with the top button
buttoned. One shirttail turns out to show
          its thin white hem.
He’s clasped his hands behind his back
—composes himself swell-chested, proud.
Still, something of his smile is complicated
as if there wells in him an awareness
more than he can bear—where he has been
—where he is going —there is just too much
—too much —more than he can bear.


The dead

They can wander in forgetting, confused—
I suppose it’s me. I’m the one confused
—time folds so strangely.
Often the talk is of trivialities:

some household chore I ought to attend to,
sports or politics.
My father and I sit at that kitchen table as we did
and tell the same stories to each other

we always told, pretending them new each time.
Dad has that one about Carl Yastrzemski,
how after a bogus called third strike Yaz calmly bent down
and covered home plate with dirt and walked away,

never turning to acknowledge the enraged umpire
ejecting him from the game.
We laugh, smile sharing that moment again.
And then I try to tell him about 2004,

how I’d thought it might be the sweet gesture
when I brought the sports pages and an old Sox cap
to the graveside the morning after they’d finally won it all.

You’d have loved to see it, Dad.

I looked out across the cemetery hill. Hundreds of others
had done the same —baseball caps, pennants, mylar balloons,
catching the clear, tired light of October morning
—all so sweetly telling the dead.


Then and there

As the last poets ran long, I’d resigned
to not reading at all. Time was short.
Others needed the studio at a fixed time.

It’s in this confusion, perhaps, some aspect of my defense
left mistakenly and waited outside
in the parking lot, leaned against the car
smoking hand rolled cigarettes
—some such ghost, gone.
                                          And I did have my turn
at the microphone, camera light blinding me.
This other
spirit arrived to catch the words
in my throat.

I heard my own voice
sound that last warped note
you hear from a broken guitar string.

I did not weep.
I promise you that much, my brother,
but you were in that room.
And something so suddenly, achingly,
finally was said
then and there

though, I doubt I managed
an intelligible word.

‘Then and there’ appears in ‘The Champion of Doubt


Good King

You match his stride
as best you can—
your arms outstretched
for balance,

leaping slightly
from one footprint
in deep, damp snow
to the next.

It’s always been
that we place these
lamps in the yard,
light the house.

Viewed from the street
by passers-by,
It’s lovely still,
the quaint scene—

wreath on the door
scant glimpse of tree

One lamp bracket
breaks as he stabs
at hardened ground.
He stops, sighs.

He is hurried,
gone at all this
mind elsewhere.

You’re there to help
you remind him.
It starts raining—
cold, heavy.

He sends you in
—this last work his
—to finish it
this last time.

from April: 30 Poems


Absence singing

There in the touch of amber light
and its fluid color upon sentinel trees
at the wooded edge by still water and
an opening to the sky

—there stirring from among the moss
and fallen leaves
—stirring and setting out to disappear

—the mist glow of branches fallen soft, unharkened,
their disappointed limbs accepted into the earth
without notice, without mind or eye to witness

—still facts of being once.

With each such breath of imaginary song
there is this gorgeous and entire quiet

—your absence singing.

Absence singing.


Always love

And which of you comes to meet me
at that table by a window I imagined

having promised myself that person would be
a comfort to me? I would want the old friend

who was always a comfort to me. But then
I remember how that version would complain—

old bones, your past beauty, your sweetest days long gone.
You’d want to be that grinning girl instead, laughing

to realize her silly vanity in a cousin’s photograph
or the small, shy child who does not yet know

her brother’s suffering, who holds his hand,
obedient and adoring his handsome, undamaged face.

Or would you arrive in the company of your shining
son, Soldier Achilles never gone to his war?

I know you would want to be your father’s daughter
—you might finally have the breath to dance to his music.

What tune would turn your terrible, delicate heart?
Would you be the woman who took my father’s hand,

led him that day toward the house as it had begun to rain
falling so very hard upon the dry, bare earth?