Cold Night Thoughts beside an Empty Cave

 

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.

 

 

 

     For Stars Not Yet Begun

        

 

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:

Sparrow here,

 gathering for stars not yet begun.

 

                             

            2. From Nahant, Atlantic Rub, Pacific Skip

 

For hours heÕd been

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,

false mountains

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

have beginnings.

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.

                                                                                         

 

                                                       

 

Canadian ƒmigrŽs

 

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;

unerring decision

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.