That Ship Has Sailed synthesizes the serious and comic to address sex, love, loss, death, belief, the afterlife, and the past. The poems are honest and direct without sacrificing “the uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts” that Keats singles out in his notion of “negative capability,” alluded to in the title poem. Amplified by the poet’s work as a traditional Irish musician and composer, language is the adhesive that brings the work together across the avant-garde to traditional forms and meters.
I am on my way to the car, part of the car pool, going to school,
and everybody else is standing in front of the open doors
of their cars, bent over, their heads resting on their arms,
listening to the news of the assassination. I think we cried.
We went to school and prayed and cried. It snowed in April
that year. That year, no one had yet committed any sex crimes.
No one was a junkie. Only a few of us had already died. This
was when men mistreated their wives and children, when men
spent their days digging ditches, drinking quart bottles of Miller High
Life, which was cold and golden. You could wear hats back
then. You could go out very late at night and walk the streets
smoking cigarettes, looking for love. You could stay until
the bars closed. You could sit on the stoop, blowing smoke
at the sky, wondering what would happen, you know, in
the future, which was like a far-off country you would
never get to visit, but whose laws you were forced to obey.