Guest Poet Patrick McGonegal

A Thought in Passing

Crouched, he perches on my shoulder
and whispers, whispers, whispers. . . always whispering.  

When I was young, 
he was of no interest to me, 
his weight non-existent, 
his voice a distant murmur beyond the wind. 
Then, for years and years, 
he grew heavier and heavier, 
his mutterings louder and louder, 
raising a whirlwind of 
apprehension in my brain.  
I could not understand the hissing, 
blasting words, 
ranting and screeching into my ear; 
their hinted threatenings 
frightened me.

Now, my back is bent from his monstrous weight 
yet I am not overwhelmed. 
His leathern wings and iron claws 
sometimes grate, sometimes chafe, 
but I value more the companionship. 
He speaks incessantly, 
but now I hear the pattern in his lisping, jibing syllables; 
they speak of passage and explanation and understanding.
He sits, glassy eyes reflecting the mystery of namelessness,
chanting the memory of endlessness. 
His gnarled features are no longer ugly;
I see in them the concealed shape 
of my closest friend.

March, 1998

Patrick McGonegal's Questions:

1. Is the gargoyle-like metaphor to obscure?  I wanted it to be able to adapt to multiple interpretations but I don't want it to be so vague as to detract from the overall poem.  Am I successful in this venture?

2. I am still torn about the line "my closest friend" at the end of the poem.  It seems almost too cliche.  Is this just me, or does this line need to be amended.  I like the meaning, but I can't seem to find any other way to word it that will convey the same meaning.  Any suggestions?

Correspond with Patrick McGonegal at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop