Tom Sheehan: Two Poems
Bar Harbor Passage | From Vinegar Hill, A Small Red Star for Me and My Father
Bar Harbor Passage
On this graveled morning wire
and wind are quick partners
in Down East melodies.
How violent the stretch
of their voices, the high
reach of their alphabet,
and one Eli hurled above
October's crackling grass.
Raw cries are ambivalent
in their coming outward
from thin fence wire, fixed
stiff as immovable idea,
and the wind moody as arias
or transient as hobos or gypsies
from the beginning of Time.
They touch me in the house
where mornings seep inward
the way forgiveness moves,
a slow mounting of steps,
a simple knock at my door.
Maine sun-ups need no intro-
duction to what they're about.
Placid as icebergs, slow and
enormous, they somehow fit
you dependable as old gloves
you've broken in, hunting jacket
hanging beside the back door,
a wallet pawed for year on year,
one hammer whose handle knows
your palm with unspoken intimacy.
Mornings whistle and become
covenants with outlandish trees,
quick rivers holding their breath,
and all along the hectic coast
blue stones, underfoot, trembling,
all day long, trembling.
From Vinegar Hill, A Small Red Star for Me and My Father
This appointment came when light tired, this arrangement, this syzygy
Of him and me and the still threat of a small red star standing
Some time away at my back, deeper than a grain of memory.
I am a quarter mile from him, hard upward on this rugged rock he could
Look up to if only his eyes would agree once more, and it's a trillion
Years behind my head or a parsec I can't begin to imagine,
They tell me even dead perhaps, that star. Can this be a true syzygy
If one is dead, if one is leaning to leave this line of sight
Regardless of age or love or density or how the last piece of light
Might be reflected, or refused, if one leaves this imposition? The windows
Of his room defer no light to this night, for it is always night there,
Blood and chemicals at warfare, nerve gone, the main one
Providing mirror and lethal lens, back of the eyeball no different
Than out front, but I climb this rock to line up with another rock and him
In the deep seizure of that stolen room, bare sepulcher,
That grotto of mind.
Today I bathed him, the chest like an old model, boned but collapsible,
Forgotten in a Detroit back room, a shelf, a deep closet, waiting
To be crushed at the final blow, skin of the organ but a veneer
Of fatigue, the arms pried as from a child's drawing, the one less formidable
Leg, the small testes hanging their forgotten-glove residuum
Which had begun this syzygy, the face closing down on bone
As if a promise had been made toward an immaculately thin retrieval,
And, at the other imaginable end of him, the one foot bloody
From his curse, soured yet holier in mimicry of the near-Christ
(From Golgotha brought down and put to bed, after god and my father
There are no divinities), toenails coming on a darkness no sky owned,
Foot bottom at its own blood bath, at war, at the final and resolute war
With no winner.
Oh, Christ, he's had such wars, outer and inner, that even my hand
In warmth must overcome, and he gums his gums and shakes his head
And says, sideways, mouth screwed into his outlandish grin,
As much a lie as any look, as devious, cold-fact true, "I used to do this for you,"
The dark eyes hungry to remember, to bring back one moment
Of all those times to this time; and I cannot feel his hand linger on me,
Not its calluses gone the way of flesh or its nails thicker now than they
Ever were meant to be, or skin flaking in the silence of its dust-borne battle,
Though we are both younger than the star that's behind us
And dead perhaps, as said; then, in a moment, and only for a moment,
As if all is ciphered for me and cut away, I know the failure
Of that small red star, its distillation and spend still undone,
Its yawn red as yet and here with us on the endless line only bent
By my imagination, the dead and dying taking up both ends of me,
Neither one a shadow yet but all shadows in one, perhaps
A sort of harmless violence sighting here across an endless known.
Tom Sheehan has had or will have poetry or short stories in ezines or print issues of 3AM Publishing, Electric Acorn, Eastoftheweb, Snowbound, Aileron, Fluid Ink Press, Melic Review, Kota Journal, 2River Review, Split Shot, and Comrades. His poetry books include Ah, Devon Unbowed, The Saugus Book, and Reflections from Vinegar Hill. He is a Co-editor of the sold-out 2000-copy issue of A Gathering of Memories, Saugus 1900 – 2000, a nostalgic look at his hometown in the last century. His committee borrowed 60K to get the book printed (452 pages, 508 pictures, cartoons & illustrations) and paid off the loan four weeks after receipt of books, doing their own warehousing, packaging, and mailing. It has been hailed as a masterpiece, an epic and "must-reading even for our carpetbaggers." They are now being pressured to do a second printing. He has nine novels captured in his computer, six of them mysteries, waiting to be freed by a publisher. He has been retired for ten years and recently met with four comrades from the Korean War he has not seen since 1951. He continues to celebrate his comrades in poetry and keeps looking to find two words together he never found together before.