It may be difficult to discern which has had a greater influence on Lynch, his Irish ethnicity or his Michigan upbringing, but the result is a lyricism coupled with a locale of abundant natural beauty and an attachment to the offbeat characters who are its inhabitants.
Here’s a poem Thomas Lynch wrote after the Katrina catastrophe (first published on NPR.org):
Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or weather overwhelms or
The world as we have come to know it turns
Towards the eventual apocalypse
Long prefigured in all the holy books
The end times of floods and conflagrations
That bring us to the edge of our oblivions.
Still, maybe this is not the end at all,
Nor even the beginning of the end.
Rather, one more in a long list of sorrows,
To be added to the ones thus far endured,
Through what we have come to call our history:
Another in that bitter litany
That we will, if we survive it, have survived.
Lord, send us in our peril, local heroes,
Someone to listen, someone to watch,
Some one to search and wait and keep the careful count
Of the dead and missing, the dead and gone
But not forgotten. Sometimes all that can be done
Is to salvage one sadness from the mass of sadnesses,
To bear one body home, to lay the dead out
Among their people, organize the flowers
And casseroles, write the obits, meet the mourners at the door,
Drive the dark procession down through town
Toll the bell, dig the hole, tend the pyre.
It’s what we do. The daylong news is dire
Full of true believers and politicos
Old talk of race and blame and photo ops.
But here brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living tending to the dead.
They bring them home, the missing and adrift,
They give them back to let them go again.
Like politics, all funerals are local.