Shibboleth

Shibboleth

One didn't know the name of Tarzan's monkey.
Another couldn't strip the cellophane
From a GI's pack of cigarettes.
By such minutiae were the infiltrators detected.

By the second week of battle
We'd become obsessed with trivia.
At a sentry point, at midnight, in the rain,
An ignorance of baseball could be lethal.

The morning of the first snowfall, I was shaving,
Staring into a mirror nailed to a tree,
Intoning the Christian names of the Andrews Sisters.
'Maxine, Laverne, Patty.'


from Remembering Dances Learned Last Night (Picador, 2000), copyright © Michael Donaghy 2000, used by permission of the author's estate and the publisher.

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1Caliban's Books

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2Our Life Stories

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3Irena of Alexandria

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4The Tragedies

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5Not Knowing the Words

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6The Excuse

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7Resolution

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8Tears

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9The River in Spate

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10The Drop

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11Black Ice and Rain

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12Reprimands

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13My Flu

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14Haunts

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15The Hunter's Purse

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16A Repertoire

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17A Reprieve

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18Down

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19City of God

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20Liverpool

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21The Brother

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22Held

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23Reliquary

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24Machines

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25Pentecost

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26Shibboleth

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27The Present

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28Southwesternmost

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29Alas, Alice

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30Refusals

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31Acts of Contrition

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32Cruising Byzantium

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33'Smith'

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34Annie

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35Local 32B

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Books by Michael Donaghy