Voice from the Gray

 

1.

Are you there, Thomas,

hearing the maple burst pods,

sunflower creak and groan up,

down-loam leap of crocus strings

silent as webbing in the corner

of the barn, tulip death

at wayward Chlorodaine

you spilled?

 

I watch you

in the mirror of stars,

renegade heart, April's savage,

killing the long winter siege,

scabbard clean of weapon

you clutch. You muster

your spring

 

voiceless,

thwarted larynx

sky-lifted, the amens

for buried blossoms, the sable

early flowers cede

to summer

end.

 

2.

Do not dwell

on winter sludge,

April's vast recall,

memory of bulb and seed

working hard as sandhog.

They get hot every equinox,

volcanic up, forest

fire down, August

death.

 

Do you walk

where your father waits

socked down beneath the stone

all savings bought, deftly scribed,

"James 1903-1978," so off-hand

you wonder where reality

ceases?

 

Grass leaps

above him down,

has root of snake and worm,

grass root boa does its dig,

grapple gains your father's mind.

Wait, James, your mother loved

you no more

than me.

 

3.

Visitations

take their time,

Who goes where, how?

Spring from the grave, James!

Spring! Spring! Oh, James, come up;

one sound from your broken eyes,

a hand at dusk, just one,

just send the bloom

once more.

 

Flower's fur,

toss and turf of tempest grass,

leap of leg you lost, grief-bent

in another vault. Are you wholly joined?

You in forsythia come-back, foxtail

lunge, lost son's lilac rocketing,

smash of lightning maple wears,

love-lies-bleeding is stranger,

lo, clethra and groundsel

carve your eyes.

 

Water washes

under; happy at this

infernal machine scored years

ago you gave me, I dream your rivers:

King Amazon whose ticks scarred

the leg surgeon's saw

erased.

 

4.

Father of Waters down

to New Orleans town, the fist

of Harry Greb a log-slam to your jaw,

teeth a-chatter like old pickets

seized loose by rust of nail

and wild March air

giants kick.

Wrench of

Allagash log,

hump-backed stream

stole hook and leader

from your cigarette hand.

Down East does gray house wear them,

is the shadow of the hook

buried in this page?

What shark

where?

The Saugus

kicking the Atlantic

three miles down, square

of mackerel, stripers' pavement,

plaza where flounder bite the sky;

and six miles out, sixty yards astern,

we tasted salt together in the turgid wake

when I chased my Red Sox cap

and you chased me in much

too quick sobriety.

 

5.

Voice hangs

every which way hours:

Crow a little bit when in luck.

Pay up, shut up, own up when you lose.

Running begins in the heart, not the knee,

Not the density of thigh, slight puff of calf.

(Turning thirteen, rushing downstairs

for annual gift, your handing me

the hammer: From now on

you drive the nails

hereabouts.)

 

The fist-burst

in the 1:00 A.M. yard,

moon with cloud robe, peer

of cat eyes, my catching four clenched

hands of thugs. God knows how you made the back

door, concrete onyx for retinas, white cane

in rapier thrust and swish: Work him, Tom!

Work him! Work him! Gut of the Corps

coming like an erection.

You never knew there

were two of them.

You cried in

black eyes.

 

6.

In 1945

white-water snows

came hard as spring Allagash,

broke the backs of buses, plows,

tore hearts of tractors out, spilled black

black blood, held the crocus six weeks back.

Icicle at your heart, snow writhing as spiders

at hip line, brood-bent, you swam six miles

home past knotted crankcases, fell in

the back door. I knifed the mackinaw

off, the iron laces of your boots.

Kissed you cold on kitchen

floor, rubbed my emery

hands on threatened

skin.

 

In one giant leap,

went seventeen to seventy,

found response, am still there.

Walked home from war, heartbreak,

the hill above that holds your voice,

Riverside where the stone deftly scribed

is hardly your last sign, where we

will touch again

underground.

 

© Tom Sheehan

 

Bio note: Tom SheehanŐs 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 OŐBrien, 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. TheyŐll each have one martini, heŐll have three beers, and the waitress will shine on them.