October 18, 2014


Tom Sheehan has 24 Pushcart Prize nominations. 375 western stories on Rope and Wire Magazine.  His published books include: In the Garden of Long Shadows, From The Quickening, A Collection Of Friends, and The Nations, about Native Americans, all available from Pocol Press.

Poetry Features:  Sign On A Wall,  The Semaphore In Sunlight Flew,  Moongate Talisman (or the short-stop remembers one put-out)

 Sign on A Wall

The dough board, oblique,
worn to a frazzle, now hangs
in the cellar way. Knuckles
of love soft shoe across it.
Like a fallow field it lies,
twenty years since my mother
powdered and rolled dough
into its grain, beginning bread.
Her hands, white-knuckled,
went board to dough to fore-
head to the plain blue apron
smelling of rolls, haitch
© Tom Sheehan/Pocol Press
bones, sweat and anxiety.
She struggled great breads
out of its surface, morning
fried dough sizzling in oil,
a sure birthday cake three
tiers tall on special days,
and wrung from its granary
pains and aches and tired
bones, migraine’s soft thunder,
age, a shot at infirmity.
That old board, edges like
fingers, hangs awry on a nail
my father drove to catch a jacket;
if I bang it hard enough, fisted,
belligerent about recall, a small
cloud of powder floats her love.

The Semaphore in Sunlight Flew

All the darkness came at once, hooded
over us like a bird shadowing its wings
above shallow water snails, river’s
white meat in the lesser turbulence.
Brine trudged sure as a peddler
in the thick handfuls of August air,
a resolute plodding from point to point,
looking for a place to put down its head,
to call it quits for one more night.
On nights like this, me safe abed,
thought to be hidden from temptation,
my father slipped from the house to fish
off the moving sands of Plum Island,
seeking the dream fish, the gargantuan
striper in from the Banks, the Bass
Behemoth. I’d seen him go a hundred times
and never called his name, never dreamed
of entering his dream, content to hear
the clanking going out of the tackle box
and the music coming back, lead weights
shifting noisily, the handle cranky
in his hand, dark waders rubbing knees.
While he was off over the hill, red tail-
light faded like a cast cigarette, house
silent again down through the granite base,
sisters dreaming of that other torture,
brother building bridges, spans, in his head,
mother a soul at her honest sleep, I laid
his line out across the salty steeps,
drove his hook into the maelstrom of eyes
and mouths agape in the netherworld,
pulled the tackle taut and lively to hand,
dreamed my father was me being my father,
shivered in boots for him, gasped.
Once I fell asleep while he was gone,
then for hours listened for the tackle box
to give off its signals, its telling tales
clanking him home safely from the sea,
and feared him into nasty depths, shark bait,
waders at once too heavy for the going.
I slipped down to their room. The sun
froze on their lovemaking, at once
icicled and starred the memorable arc,
which, in morning’s madness, flew for me,
flew like semaphores in the sunlight.

Moongate Talisman
(or the shortstop remembers one put-out)

29 June moon hanging its lantern
       in the tall pine tree above camp,
                 lighting the way lopsidedly
                                for those first explorers.
In the idled canoe
       you pealed one breast clean,
                 hung your tongue like a comma
                                taking leave of its sentences.
This is our anniversary;
        seventy years now, and I know
                 all the arts of the gesture,
                                what filled the ample airiness,
what stretched your paled shirt,
        what made topographical mainstays
                 and folds only light could identify
                                in the hunkering shadows.
Perhaps somewhere now, West or East
        Coast, Plains-dealt or mountain-sworn,
                 you feel the water work wafer skin,
                                push yourself against the gunnels,
go home often to that touch of air
        off the water, my clumsy palm holding
                 a line drive in a worn and thin glove,
                                one moment never repeated.
~Tom Sheehan

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