Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Morning By Thomas Fitzgerald


By Thomas Fitzgerald

ISBN: 1-59924-807-7

Finishing Line Press

Georgetown, Kentucky

18 pages


Reviewed by Dennis Daly

I remember Sister Therese Immaculata, one of the more enlightened Sisters of Charity at my school, explaining the tortures awaiting many of us in Purgatory. She described this state of being to our fourth grade class as a downscaled version of hell without too much fire, but with a lot of heat, loneliness, and a dreadful emptiness. On the upside, it was only temporary.

Poet Thomas Fitzgerald in his chapbook, Morning, recounts much the same sufferings as those detailed by that almost mythical nun of my long ago childhood. In Please Do Not Seize, Fitzgerald’s persona, like a moth caught in prison of glass and screen, becomes desperate in his need to escape his inner torments. He must keep his head about him if he is to survive. Even as he confronts the ghosts of his past, he admonishes himself to “wait” and “give it time.” This first poem sets the tone for his subsequent pieces.

In Child Bug, old flaws and new ghosts populate the poem that predicates addiction,

I feel like getting drunk tonight.

Looking at the crack on the top step,

the one that speaks every time I press it,

at the hole in the ceiling

from the time I raised my hands too high,


Or that I saw an old friend perfectly dead

and breathing—

eyes moving across the world.

Waking, a poem, which follows the downward spiral of a lost human with what appears to be complete honesty, confronts abject despair,

that I would be drunk

again—but alive enough

to see a woman wipe tears

from her freckled chin. I should

have known she’d say, I think

its time that you be leaving…

At the heart of this chapbook is an impressive set of pieces entitled, The Institution Poems. Here pain is mulled, dignity put aside, and death considered. Still, in the end, there is a green ribbon of life affirmation threading through them all. In the first poem the institutionalized narrator avers,

I have the thought:

It is good

my heart is beating.

Life and reality is worth holding on to,

I grip the peach in my hand

feel the juices run over my fingers.

Getting through this ordeal is much like Odysseus, bound to the mast, struggling against the pull of the sirens. Only here the poet’s persona deals with the draw of death as a child would,

I remember autumn

on the school bus

with the other children.

I remember how we held

our breath while passing

by the graveyards so the dead

would not haunt us.

He withdraws from addiction and seeks the surface of a different experience, almost a new birth,

My own sweat sticks

To me, heart overthrown, deep breaths, recalibrate.

I attempt to rise

Fingers run through my wet hair.

The fields are wet

starched cotton.

There is a pretty funny, yet telling, metaphor in That Alcohol Thing. The third paragraph of this prose poem relates,

My great-grandfather had a friend who said if he died first he

would come back and tickle my great- grandfather’s feet at

night. My grandmother said after his friend died he wore

boots to bed for the rest of his life.

The poem, The Dark Water, Empty Again, ends with a very stark and well crafted image which touches on loneliness, addiction, and hope,

He walks past me without

hello and now I am truly alone.

The wind over my empty beer bottle

makes the sound of a ship headed home.

The Waiting Room is existential and quite sad. In this room doctors are mechanistic strangers, bureaucrats really,

Hour pass. Does anyone remember I’m here? Patients peer

through the locked windows to gawk at the new lunatic.

Doctors open the steel doors and pretend I do not exist.

Before redemption there must be penance and there is here,

… my mother crying. I remember that I

deserve this.

And also here in the poem, I Have To Sit On My Knees,

To no one, to everyone, to

the stranger on the street,

to the hawks, to the crows,

beer in hand I try

to say it out loud:

please forgive me.

Because There Is Light is the last poem in this collection and the most interesting. The images allude to religion and the saint who seems to be invoked is Saint Thomas—doubting Thomas. The poet desires to understand his vulnerability by reaching out to other good but flawed fellow travelers. He is wandering through the supermarket of life after the deli has closed. I’m thinking of Edward Hopper’s Nightlife perhaps, or even Van Gogh’s Night CafĂ©, for their after hour atmosphere. The poem ends this way,

And I wander still, aimless

from Frozen Dinners to First Aid,

desperate to reach out

to the next person who passes by.

To touch the wound of his life.

To stand quietly together

in the checkout line.

Well done!


  1. This is some powerful stuff. I recently moved down to North Carolina, but before that I lived in Eastern upstate New York, so I'd be in the Boston area fairly regularly. I wish I'd come across this site before I moved! I just released a new collection myself, so I know the effort and bittersweet feelings that go with it. Thanks for bringing these to light!

  2. Dennis, thank you very much for this kind review.