If life is pilgrimage, Walking Papers are the pages - the notes on the journey, news of the world, letters of introduction and dismissal - found in one's breast-pocket amongst one's effects. And Thomas Lynch, the celebrated poet-undertaker is our guide through a world that's painfully aware of its own mortality; as he says in the powerfully moving title poem: 'Listen - /something's going to get you in the end./The numbers are fairly convincing on this,/hovering, as they do, around a hundred/percent.We die.And more's the pity.'
In this, his fourth collection of poems - his first in the new century - Lynch attends to the flora and fauna and fellow pilgrims: dead poets and living masters, a former president and his factotums, a sin-eater and inseminator. Faux-bardic and mock-epic, deft at lament and lampoon, accusation and dispensation, fete and feint, Lynch's poems are powerful medicines, tonics for the long haul and home-going:
I say clean your plate and say your prayers,
go out for a long walk after supper
and listen for the voice that sounds like you
talking to yourself, you know the one:
contrapuntal, measured to footfall, true
to your own metabolism.Listen --
inspiration, expiration, it's all the same,
the sigh of creation and its ceasing --
whatever's going to happen's going to happen.