The cataloging and the quiet humor about mortality are devices familiar to Lynch’s readers. He has been reminding us of our tentative connections to life for thirty years now, and he continues to provide a useful antidote to our anxieties.
But there is something new in these later poems, written as Lynch moved toward and into his sixties. Always a poet to celebrate the little pleasures, he has learned a kind of gratitude for them, a humility before the smallest gifts. That gift might simply be the smells from “Monaghan’s Fish Market” in Kerrytown, which is the penultimate poem in Walking Papers, or a slightly more inclusive reflection, as in “Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets,” the final poem in the collection. Here, after realizing that there are only so many decades that could lie ahead of him, the poet reflects:
The future, thus confined to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The balding month, the grey week, the blue morning,