The Poetry of Denis Leary


If Denis Leary seems an unlikely host for Ploughshares' upcoming 40th anniversary fundraiser, take note: The comic, Rescue Me star, erstwhile MTV fixture and Emerson alum was published in Ploughshares as a tender youth. His poems "He weeds the clouds" and "the rabbits" appear in the fall 1977 issue alongside work from poetry titans Charles Simic and John Ashbery and a story from a then-unknown John Irving. 

The first poem, "He weeds the clouds," finds a young man reflecting on his father; the second recounts a horrific incident involving rabits and familial dysfunction. It should surprise nobody over the age of 25 that Leary's poems both talk about smoking. Please note the phrases "daddy smoke fantasy" and "flame sandwich."

He weeds the clouds

Dad screwed
another cigarette
into his lips
crossed his legs
folded his workman's arms
along his
weed-stained lap
(you can't speak now
not to him
he isn't here
just watch
watch him
climb over the shed
the chubby lawn
watch my daddy smoke fantasy.)
the rabbits
it didn't take long for papa to find his place. he sat down on the coffee table and pulled out his matches. the first one lit easily so he put it on the floor between his feet and the flame sandwich ate him up. mama came in screaming and running about like my rabbits in the backyard. they live in a cage. that's where I went when the policemen came. i went out to the rabbits. they knew, like me, that it was all mama's fault. she always told papa that he smelt like a bucket of gasoline when he got home from the station. someday you'll go up in flames she shouted. papa would just laugh and wink at me.
PLOUGHSHARES 40TH ANNIVERSARY FUNDRAISER | The Paramount Theater, 559 Washington St., Boston | November 15 @ 6:30pm | $50| 617.824.3757 or
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