The Sin-Eater: A Breviary, Thomas Lynch’s fifth book of poems was launched at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, the collection gathers two dozen, twenty-four line poems — a book of hours — on the life and times of Argyle, the sin-eater and includes two dozen black and white photographic images by the author’s son, Michael Lynch, and a watercolor by his son, Sean. The poems and images are situated on the West Clare peninsula in Ireland where the author keeps an ancestral home in the townland of Moveen between the North Atlantic and the River Shannon estuary. The poems are prefaced by an “Introit” which examines the nature of religious experience, faith and doubt, communion and atonement.
Argyle eased the warm loaf right and left
and downed swift gulps of beer and venial sin
then lit into the bread now leavened with
the corpse’s cardinal mischiefs, then he said
“Six pence, I’m sorry.” And the widow paid him.
So opens the unsanctioned priesthood of The Sin-eater: A Breviary—Thomas Lynch’s collection of two dozen, twenty-four line poems—a book of hours in the odd life and times of Argyle, the sin-eater. Celtic and druidic, scapegoat and outlier, a fixture in the funerary landscape of former centuries, Argyle’s doubt-ridden witness seems entirely relevant to our difficult times. His “loaf and bowl,” consumed over corpses, become the elements of sacrament and sacrilege. By turns worshipful and irreverent, good-humored and grim, these poems examine the deeper meanings of Eucharist and grace, forgiveness and faith, atonement and reconciliation.