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Martin Galvin

Language Lessons

“Jumping Cripes on a cross,” the father’d say
when one of us spilled a glass of milk.

“Let’s just buy a gallon at a time and pour
it on the floor to save you the trouble,”

he’d say with the look of St. Francis
feeding the birds before a martyrdom

or two. That’s where we lads of his blood
and he himself practiced irony, that milk.

How we learned how to stay out of purgatory,
Those little slides of language. “And wipe that grin

Off your face or I’ll do it myself,” he’d say,
Getting into the fatherly spirit of rightful rage

At having to live his life with such a get.
The gentle art of metaphor we got

From threats he made we knew he knew
He wouldn’t really execute. The value

Of hyperbole. Heaney he could have been,
Or Yeats himself, he’d let us know,

Had he not been distracted all his days
With the horrible noises that we made,

The terrifical terrible hoot and howl
That drove him out of house and home.

Melodious alliterations he roared for,
Cacophonies of catastrophe, he got.

"Jumping Cripes on a cross," he’d say,
"Mother of Gar but you’re strange mutts."