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Terence Degnan reads from I Can Wonder Anything


Earlier this summer, just as the pandemic was easing up, and we could gather in crowds, out in the open air again, there was a poetry reading in Gowanus that I went to, right by the canal, a beautiful spot, and I got to hear Terence Degnan read some of his poems. His wife and daughter were there under the shade of a tree, which made a lot of natural sense, because they are also in his poetry.

Once while he was driving, he told us, he heard his daughter say a sentence that struck him and stuck with him. “I can wonder anything,” she said. “That is the title for my new book,” he thought. His other two books have great titles too, and are both published by Sock Monkey Press, Still Something Rattles and The Small Plot Beside the Ventriloquist’s Grave. I’d be happy to give any of my books one of these titles, but they are already taken. If I am ever stuck for a title, Terence Degnan is the one I’ll be asking. Lucky the poet who has a daughter who is an oracle as well.

As Terence read, I knew I wanted to get him to read for the blog. It took a while, but we finally did it. His poems are funny and very much a part of the real world, what any of us will see around us, but the poet’s skill and love of words, adds a new dimension, bringing us to him, his language and connections; we are, indeed, all family, a part of his kind vision; his poems say, “Welcome.” As I read, I felt very much at home.

In the Vimeo below, Terence reads from I Can Wonder Anything. After the Vimeo, I’ve added the first three poems that are read, so you can, if you want, read along. Enjoy.



It’s My Beach

that’s my skyline
you’d have to be
occupying my math
to dilute the anomaly

that is me

that’s my breakup scene
for myriad reasons
that’s my favorite bar

not to mention 

my specific sum of heartbreaks
and broken-bone memories
swaying in the closet

with the skeletons 

that make up my lore

see that kid
on the closed-circuit TV
kissing a girl named Hillary
up against
Josh’s car
go and get your own
Hillary and Josh

hear that choppy jingle
from an old mattress commercial
in a shoddy dated mixtape
that’s my mistake
that’s my sum of butterflies
where, rotting in the attic 

of my synapses
I’m still halfway across the monkey bars
chasing my shadow

in a Catholic School uniform

to be fair, I can’t be 100% positive
that the sundials in our memories
obey modern orbits 

it could be chasing me

your Rochester
isn’t my hometown
even if we did 

share the same crib
we don’t have the same combinations
you can borrow my bike
all you like
but you’d have to adjust the aperture 
to occupy my glee
and the whole time
you’d be wearing me
you can Rochester all you want
but you’ll be defending a backwards flag 
when my bully comes through

and knocks the ghost out of you

for all I know
my paper tigers
could snap your bones
for all you know
your paper airplanes
have kinder trajectories
man, I’ve never had your arm


Did You Move the Coffee Pot

in your dream
and can you fall asleep
so we can have it back

did you float back up
from underwater
to the skin of your quilt

did you finish our argument
in your sleep
did you replace the milk, then

was there roadkill there
is it animated here
did you name the pets in Nod

do they come
when you call
in the cognizant now

is the language
still the same
on their tags

were there planes overhead
did it feel like a room
did the jets echo in there

which way did the toilets flush
did the food taste like itself
was it new

was the play
inside itself
a better reflection of you

did the spoons ripple
did the songs oscillate
and when you put your glasses down

could you still read
or hear someone on the other end
of the fancy telephone

when they called
are we them
are you able to speak


My Soul is Unfortunately a Bird

my childhood was a bar of gold
it’s a cliche, but my brother and I fight
like cats and dogs
and when it rains hammers
and nails
out back
in piles

we look out
from in between the drapes
and say it looks like it’s gonna storm
it sounds like a bowling alley
and when the cats and dogs
return to us as rain
we name them

I am
an Audubon
every bird my soul has ever been
contains its own multitudes
to hide its shame

every sparrow

has stood inside a novel 

bird’s shadow

when I search the reference books
for synonyms for
what my soul has always been
it always comes up
bird, bird, bird
I will never escape that designation
librarians have always shooed me outdoors
towards where they keep 

guidebooks for the birders 
in the bookcases within the branches
of the library trees

but contrary to the feral things
I’ve always been 

constrained by alphabets
and don’t think I haven’t asked
to be let in on their secret grammars
I’m always jealous of cicadas
whose cat calls
last for years, in ricochets
there are beasts whose childhoods
have never been 

battened down by metaphors
there are birds 

whose souls are hollow
or so I’ve heard 

I think, those lucky

little devils


You can check out more about Terence Degnan and his work here:



Still Something Rattles, published by Sock Monkey Press, 2016, is a concept publication, so it isn’t just words but art that you hold:



The Small Plot Beside the Ventriloquist’s Grave was published by Sock Monkey Press, 2012. You can check it out here:




You can check out Sock Monkey Press here:



Melanie and Terence Degnan



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