The pond is hammered
into one piece.
An owl, darkly buried,
carries half the night
away like a canyon
carries an echo down.
When the final touch
is carved on water,
intimately the mouse
knows the owl, and I
am left to the last
enterprise of imagination,
the Christ tree enters
all the shadows.
I am what the Christ tree is,
an upright man at no arms,
a swimmer vertical
in time, elusive saint,
a descendent of Abel
second in the clubbing.
But night and the cold charge
live where the rim hangs
between sunset and sunrise,
halfway into the echo
night carries in its mouth,
a mouse at odds with destiny.
1. Sparrow in the Sierras
All morning Sparrow moved
above the tree line, hearing only his boots,
loose stones, wind in a bottle in his ear,
a trumpet at odds with the voices he created,
basso profundo; might as well have been opera,
canyon-deep, now and then tenor out of rocks,
ahead, always ahead, calling, promising, whistles
from a formed mouth rocks had made purse-fully
just for the sum of winds
off the peaks, passionate,
moaning as a bride might moan nearing midnight.
For three days he heard the last word spoken to him,
a quick ŅgÕdayÓ from a prospector passing by as much
apparition as his eyes would allow, swallowed wholly
by a twist in the trail, boots, mule, even the heavy
scent of old burlap and barns and leathers near
destruction fading past recognition, past recall:
gathering for stars not yet begun.
diving for God knows what, a ballistic bursting air
each time he came up fanning for life, amateur at
what I was good at, surviving, reaching under all
of Neptune it seems.
He brought up a stone, gray,
smooth as the millennium, travel yet indelible, still
worth rubbing, he said when asked. Then, For what?
To August sun he marked it, aloft, victorÕs clutch,
For the Pacific, he said.
Promising to write, he left,
the stone under denim underway. And this he says:
I did the lakes, the Nations, the high grass for miles,
dry lands, Badlands, the Parks burning for weeks,
climbing into IdahoÕs shadows.
Now, mosquito-ravaged, money gone, tired of the weight
of it all, I have flung it into AlaskaÕs Pacific, rubbed it
one last time for you, that Atlantic charm, drowned it
in water it knew
just ten million years ago before I
came along, Owen McReigghily, biker, Christ-bearded
my own descriptor, who pays no taxes, lives no place
but arbor, dry culvert, waddies back where mountains
IÕve done my passage here, freed
Nahant AtlanticÕs stone to taste new salt. Something
will touch it yet, burn it, shape it, clutch the warmth of
my hands where I rubbed in time,
grind it for stars not yet begun.
Onstage, from behind
the Laurentian Shield,
abundant of wing and body,
came tuxedo gray geese,
white jaunty Fred Astaire
scarves around necks
black as top hats.
They declined low
over the lake, their single
file pattern close as buttons
on a tunic front, choreographed
by a seamstress. A scrutable awe
trailed behind them.
Dance hall precision,
what comes to us by rote
and to them being what they are,
built parapets of that awe;
and accuracy in maneuver,
mastery of thermal lift
from an open December
lake hip deep in water,
ankle deep in food.
But too quickly these victors
of flight strike upon the very airÕs
dominion further south, where
swamps stretch feet under
cypress and yellow pine,
and secret morning mists
are quietly infiltrated
by design and the guarded
odor of gun oil.
© Tom Sheehan
Bio note: Tom SheehanÕs Brief Cases, Short Spans, a short story collection, was published November 2008 by Press 53, and From the Quickening, another collection, was published by Pocol Press February 2009. Epic Cures, short stories from Press 53 earned a 2006 IPPY Award. A Collection of Friends, memoirs, Pocol Press 2005, was nominated for the Albrend Memoir Award. He has nominations for ten Pushcart Prizes, three Million Writers nominations, and Noted Story nominations for 2007 and 2008, received the Georges Simenon Award for Fiction from New Works Review, a Silver Rose Award for Excellence in fiction from ART, and is included in the Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology, 2009 and has been nominated for Best of the Web 2010.
He also appears in the new anthologies from Press 53, Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform (sharing space with Jim Salter, Tobias Wolfe, Tim OÕBrien, Kurt Vonnegut and others) and in Milspeak: Warriors, Veterans, Family and Friends Writing the Military Experience.
He served in Korea, 1951-52, and has published 13 books. He has hundreds of Internet appearances, and has appeared in nine consecutive print issues of Ocean Magazine, and in many other print magazines. He and a committee of friends have co-edited and issued two books on their hometown of Saugus, MA, sold 3500 to date of 4500 printed ( 400 pages each, color sections, text, timelines, nostalgia and history, at $42.00 each, all for scholarships). He can hardly wait to see them on a new planning session. TheyÕll each have one martini, heÕll have three beers, and the waitress will shine on them.