May the Lord Jesus Christ bless the hemophiliac’s motorcycle, the smell of knobby tires . . . This long-lined incantation of a poem takes the reader from the motorcycle raceway to the Kanawha River to the "oak tops on the high hills beyond the lawns" and, finally, to the hospital wards and the writer’s elderly roommate, who reads his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah speech. Isn’t it dangerous for the hemophiliac to ride in motorcycle races when even "a mundane backward plunge on an iced sidewalk" can bring him to the hospital bed and the "splendor of fibrinogen and cryoprecipitate"? Of course, but why not do so anyway!

This poem is a psalm, a paean of praise and gratitude to God--gratitude for oaks, and hills, and catbirds, and star clusters. "I want to hymn and abide by, splendor of tissue, splendor of cartilage and bone." The poet is also listening--listening for the presence of God in the silence: "may He bless our listening and our homely tongues."


In this poem I hear the voice of the psalmist praising the God of Hemophiliacs, who, like the God of Israel, often seems to inflict a raw deal on His chosen people. At the same time, I hear the voice of the hemophiliac Walt Whitman singing the beauties of nature and his fellow man.

The inscription is taken from Christopher Smart’s poem "Jubilate Agno": "For the sin against the HOLY GHOST IS INGRATITUDE." Indeed, "The Hemophiliac’s Motorcycle" is a poetic bulwark against ingratitude. The poet blesses, praises, and sings that he is flooded with "gratitude that His informing breath was breathed into me." The poem transcends the ill wind that blows hemophilia, and the recklessness of risking trauma as a motorcycling hemophiliac teenager, and the mundane hospital images of the present, to achieve a kind of epiphany. In this case, of course, an epiphany placed in the past, but occurring in the poem’s present.


Random Symmetries includes a foreword by Charles Wright [265 pages].

Primary Source

Random Symmetries: The Collected Poems of Tom Andrews


Oberlin College Press

Place Published

Oberlin, Ohio



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