December 2, 2014


Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea 1951, graduated from Boston College in 1956,  has 26 Pushcart nominations, authored 18 books ( 5 published this year, one mss complete) , appeared in hundreds of Internet sites and publications  around the world, and read at colleges, libraries,  book stores and Open Mic settings from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
Tom is a frequent contributor to IVJ. You can read more of his poetry in the October and November issues.  His books are available at Pocol Press. You can read more of Tom's poetry in the October and November Issues of Indiana Voice Journal.

 A Private Ceremony

  It was underfoot all the time,
under the sprawling pines, clutch
of alders in their secret weeping,
under bank and half scrutinies,
                         under an oft-remembered scum
of yellow residuals and blatant ash,
under booming barrage of business
and turmoil gone amuck inland,
this river coming back from the dead.

One strike of trout, silver in slashing,
its quick upstream knifing as if bowed
outward from a grand archer, a slight
speckling of oddly hurried hues
gathered loosely on bright scaling,
announced the comeback ceremony.

Twelve years since the other trout,
thick in the middle, hungry, hurried,
slammed into my hook in river’s gut;
twelve years’ surface garbage, underwater
death in the quick and quiet reign,
the dread reach for root and soft gill
too tender and slow to be refused;
twelve years of idle Saturdays,
dawns spent over lusterless bait
and the image of a river buried
in another time. By the golf course,
where the banks curved under grass
overhangs lush as ever, on April
Nineteenth for thirteen years,
I caught my limit less an hour of sun.

The drought came, the dozen years
between the two trout, the gangrenous
river sore all the way to its falls,
winter-tied flies bouncing hitless
and superficially off crested surface,
targetless, taking the low fly-by
for nothing, soft whiplash of flight
whirring into fast silence of dawn.
A river’s dying aches into Earth’s heart,
begins upstream, inland, begins with us
who envy its freedom, its plunge to seas,
its long passage feeding the mother of all,
we, upright and erect, we inheritors
of all we deposit on Earth, at sea.

And so this rite began, underfoot,
below my waders’ light green refraction
in the clearer waters, began the notion
of the comeback, the ritual dues paid
out over the lost years, the way clear
upstream for one lone trout at history,
the spawning germ buried behind his eyes,
a drum beating upon the silver scales,
the whole vast Atlantic pushing him home,
the clockwise spin of Earth driving inland
this new adventurer, this white water
daredevil banging at my boot, moving on.

I celebrated, hurling back into the dream
the capture of my hook, silver champion
of the return, ghost of the missing years
rushing under the soldered and pewtered
wrestling of waters becoming Atlantican,
this voyager on the prowl, this river mouth,
this wide-angled thrasher at work,
this ceremonial fact of coming clean
upriver, a new glistening gone at large
where my boots stumbled where they trod.

I vow now to free all my taking, to loose
any celebrator on this bright passage,
and if I should halt the harbinger
with the crook of my hook, its corruptible
barb buried in his mouth as deeply
as memory allows the undertaking,
I will loose my hand on the hallowed rod, 
I will feed the river with itself.

The Stone Menagerie
What is inordinate
are the hippopotami of rocks
at Nahant,
unblinking, refusing
to mourn themselves;
a half-displaced
surge out of sand as if
they've lost their breath
in that terrible
underworld of salt
and constant push.
Their shoulders
beam as smooth as agates
from the iodized wash,
gray pavilions
of armor plate massive
in titillating breezes.
Some are remote,
the unknown at reunions
holding quiet places,
waiting for recognition
in a place in the pool,
a niche in the sun.
Only the sun
enters these huge hearts
and moves them,
only the sun
stirs the core where
memory has upheaval.
But in moonlight,
as the cold year ends down
and sand leaps to lace
as intricate
as six-point stitching,
the broad backsides
become mirrors
and a handful of earthquake
glows at rest.

On My Father’s Blindness

Time whispered when he had eyes,
    a deliberation of things,
    songs, stories, a string of beads
    some islander made in his equatorial days;

leaves, loaves, salad-making,
great roasts’ sizzling songs,

an unhurrying, yieldless time
of games, ghosts, gobs of things.

How when sentences finally came to be
    he read Cappy Ricks and the Green Pea Pirates;
    his eye on the page, my ear on his tongue.
    Caesura was a bite of beer, a drink of cheese,
    turning words like the roasts he made,
    savory succulent tongue,
    but page wordless now.

    Now! Now!

Now Time strikes!
    Hurricanes, lightning, days are crunching,
    night is no more a pail of stars
    flung as sand on dark skies.
    The eyes are closed, the mouth;
    when do songs cease to sound?

Sprung from his loins wanting to be,
    self-torn from his arms
    at some piece of boyhood,
    I now remember earless, wordless,
    the touch when I was lovely young,

and I know I roam forever
in the darkness of his eyes.

~Tom Sheehan

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