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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

[Three Poems]

by Terence Winch

The Taking

My friend and I went for a visit to the art museum
and they wanted to sell us very expensive shoes
in the gift shop. The shoes were so expensive
because they had been made by the Devil himself,
which the store clerk thought was some kind of joke,
but which upset me for days afterward. In another
room the security guard put out several piles
of cigarette packs for us, all Marlboros. There must
have been 50 packs in all. He had thoughtfully
opened one for us already. So we lit up immediately
and began talking about art, how it makes you want 
to smoke and eat. The guard heard us and pointed
to another pile, this one of bags of Cheese Doodles, 
which were also for the taking. Art also makes
you horny, especially if you’re eating and smoking.
My friend started pining for his sex slave. I envied
him having a sex slave, but he was totally nonchalant
about the whole arrangement, as though everyone
who wasn’t a sex slave had one, which isn’t the case.
Then after all the smoking, eating, and talking,
we started drinking. After a while, we were shouting
at the big screen, yelling incoherent sentiments
about art, cigarettes, food, sex, and soccer.
And then we went home. I don’t know what he
did, but I sat in a dark room worrying that my wife 
was right when she told me you have to eat 
fifty spiders before you die, and not a pound of dirt, 
as I’d been previously led to believe.


Brightness, Whiteness, Incandescence

I showed up too late for the party.
The noisemakers were crushed and silent,
laying about on the floor. The banners had
all been taken down. The bartender
wouldn’t shut up, telling me his boring
life story.  Like that’s something I have
any interest in. Then you show up and start
defending all the sex offenders. I say
we should tear down their statues,
give them back their honorary awards,
burn their draft cards in front of the student
union. Permission to treat all the witnesses 
as hostile, from now on, your honor. 
I don’t have jumper cables. Sorry about that.
I don’t have any letters from famous 
people to sell to the archivist. I wear 
orthotics in my shoes. Do you even
know what the fuck orthotics are, my friend?
No, you do not. The bartender drones
on. He recites the Constitution with
great elocution because, you see, he is
a solid man. Our sons are out there
somewhere in the night, fighting addiction,
driving without a license, taunting the cops
to tazer them in their makeshift tents.
We try to walk at least twenty minutes
a day. But then we don’t know what
to do about the other 1,420 minutes.
The bartender won’t shut up about 
his stupid life. Motion to suppress, 
your honor. I am now officially weary. 
I have sung your praises long enough: 
you are the bard of pain and longing. 
I am the master of the different 
kinds of energy-saving light bulbs. 
Go on: ask me anything about them.


How I Lost My Virginity

I cannot tell you how I lost my virginity.
It’s a secret that to some extent depends
upon the meaning of virginity. When I go out
at night, as I did tonight, and I wander these
beautiful 19th-century rooms, which is what
I did, and I speak to very smart people about
art and books, and who might run for president
next time around, I do not tell any of them how
I lost my virginity. No. Instead, I tell them one
of my many pig jokes, and they are very amused,
as they should be, for these jokes of mine about
pigs are very funny and I’m pretty good at
delivering the punch line. 

Later, in the car on the way home, I sit 
in the back and we have an intense discussion 
about some very serious fallings-out among 
our erstwhile friends. One of our old friends, 
it turns out, is a child molester, but a lot of people 
are unaware of that about him. Even I, for many
years, compartmentalized this information
and remained his friend until it slowly 
began to dawn on me: this guy’s a child 
molester. Until it happens to you with 
someone you care about, you won’t 
really understand what I’m talking about. 

So don’t judge. As for my virginity, I lost it
a thousand times, once in an apartment, 
and once outdoors at the beach, with a
full moon above, the two of us pretending
to be in love. And on one other occasion,
I never lost my virginity at all, 
as far as I can recall.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Terence Winch’s

most recent books are Lit from Below (Salmon Poetry [Ireland], 2013) and Falling Out of Bed in a Room with No Floor (Hanging Loose, 2011). His work appears in the Oxford Book of American Poetry, in four Best American Poetry collections, and in many other anthologies and journals. He has received a number of awards, including an NEA poetry grant and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing.

Also a traditional musician and songwriter, he released a CD anthology in 2007 of his Irish compositions called When New York Was Irish: Songs & Tunes by Terence Winch. For details, please visit his website:

[See also Verse Daily’s About Terence Winch, which includes a link-list of other poems of his on the web.]

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury