…and I shall always touch you,
Mother Earth, Rare Earth,
from all vantages in these
flights of uncounted time;
your heart-shaking tempests
against the incandescent eye,
silent reach of sequoias
for your partner in space,
soft jangle of roots no swifter
than any of blood, struggle
of moth at October’s light,
vulture toss incredibly high on
a cross-wind and tumble-wait,
pain that’s yet to come,
and all that’s done:
and an image in my ear
as soft as a poem left
in an old Latin diary
three tiers of lava
have taken to bed.
Behind the Retina
Just behind the retina,
hidden in a cluster, is a little room
with a secret door and passageways
and key words other
If you’re lucky enough
to get inside that room at the right
time, there’s ignition, there’s light, there’s a flare;
now and then there’s pure incandescence
like a white phosphorous shell
detonating, the core room
of memories, the bank
you’ve ever known, ever seen,
ever felt, spurting with energy.
The casual, intermittent presences
you usually know are microscope-beset,
become immediate. For those glorious
moments the splendid
people rush back into your life
carrying all their baggage, the Silver Streak
unloaded, Boston’s old South Station
alive, bursting seams, tossing images,
merging comrades one last time.
Star Roots, Field Work
Deep in the august field, I loll with mice and deer and the jawboned lightning playing wild war games all across a sky’s blue air. One jagged tear of it ripped through the stoic barn from stem to stern, lighting haymow, empty stalls, untold years of leather collectibles on the hoofed-out floor.
No rain yet, though it’s aromatic on the wind raking the trees and exhorting whistles sharp and clear as commands out of electric wires. Why I sit here, plunked on my knees, with the barn beating up the balance of the marble world, is cosmic glory like white phosphorous exploding stars in a new-coming galaxy, is but the primal matter of selection, my opting for an evening of different light. Isn’t what’s left of a day, even the worst you can measure, as good as tender, coin in the hand, something for safe-keeping in our boot or belt? Isn’t it a pot of gold, unspent, glowing with promise, with one awesome purchase left? Isn’t its frank position, despite connivance or loss metered across daylight hours, like a presence known?
The clock spins, I move with it even as the grass grows under me, the ants mine the earth below in their silent economies, and moving meridians pass my eye in the mind’s planetarium. Time is merely circular and I catch myself and it coming together by degrees and by handful, by handful, old faces left for my finding at oddest hours.
Later on when I am housed, the roof a miniature sky and lightning sleeping like ducks on the vast pond of blue air, I’ll stand by the mow door asking the wind to come in, field to shake free my insomnias, hedge rows and stone walls to give up the last stand the mind makes, unless an old comrade’s face takes over.
Nothing more than this can prepare me for morning, the cycle of time, the circle of places, and the deep roots stars have in midnight fields, in the caverns of high barns.
Ode to a Rising Sun
Out of the edge of earth,
out of choice darkness mixed with silt
and angry acids that form of fire,
out of secret caverns rocking in the deep,
out of stone moving liquefied
which is but a sea we float on,
out of distance,
out of death-wracking night,
out of fear of childhood,
out of nightmares and terror shrieks,
out of ignorance, out of shame of thoughts
sitting like pebbles on the soul,
dark black pebbles,
out of the songs of frenzied air,
out of the mouth of monster bird
cast from an angry god’s hands,
freed from the moon at endless wait,
escaping from a debtor’s prison
partly in rags and partly in pain,
heaved upward like a mason’s block
to the next tier of gray waiting,
on the hilltop comes the sun.
Before it, pell-mell fleeing,
scudding down alleyways,
across corners, stoops, half granite walls
where houses used to be,
through windows and mirrors
and the wiliest of laces
where night collects itself
in a host of aromas, the shadows
go quickly before the miracle
hunting them down, at chase,
at wild pursuit, leaping one wall
to the next, one huge lunge
across barriers, time, as if breath
will expire too quickly again.
I listen. The sizzle starts:
limbs grating each other. Horns
and klaxons announcing.
Clocks unwinding. Linens cracking
their sheer porcelain deposits
only odors can tell of.
Percolators, motors, engines,
dynamos, all huffing and puffing
and snorting Orion away.
Pulses and electricity
beating at the lines, the mad energies
Being heard, being sound,
being echoes and static-filling air waves.
Being noise, 3 A.M. surprises,
movement and energy and time happening
to inertia and all its cached parts.
Being lifebelts to jet darkness.
Being chance. Being opportunity
all the way into something new.
Hardness gathers in the sunlight,
artifacts of mining and distillery,
elements from miner’s foot and glazier’s thumb,
copper tubing and greened-up brass,
old galvanized iron tongues still wagging, PVC
like a saint among water carriers
hardly getting dirty like Din Din Din,
porcelain dishes and ewers
with light cherry trimmings
faint as postage stamps,
buckets and ladles catching at breaths
before sudden plunges down Earth’s throat,
bring morning’s water to a thousand hands.
At Earth edge the worm
shudders, recoils, goes gelatin.
Earth shakes with a robin’s sprint
across a quick lawn, as if drummers’
batons beat on.
He spears the tubed, eyeless thing,
soft telescopic escapee
just now plowing into loam.
The warning signs are warm.
Bridges, high arcs measuring new light,
fields and fields of steel and concrete,
I-bars and T-bars and girders and purlings
and struts and bolts and nuts and plates
by the high acre, and expansion joints
as devious as grill work
begin to stretch their backs,
spread a little more to east or west
or north and south, begin to stuff
themselves into corners barely meant for stuffing,
cast off their chilled auras, breathe outward
under the new caress, the touch
of secret places, the mouth of morning
touching where it touches best.
Steel stretches into sunlight.
You can hear it flex its muscles.
Windows, like incorrigible children.
Talk back: skyscraper faces, greenhouses.
Across the street a woman’s room leaps
with the explosion. She could be nude
behind that glow! A car’s windshield
becomes a moving target, throws flares back
at the enemy. Chrome answers too,
tracer streaks of gunships, firefights,
strafing upward from an inversion of light
and war and outside forces and death
of darkness; hallway corners, dank and drear
and wet with blood, give up the fight.
Under stairs, attics, old coal bins webbed
and smelling of gas under a spider’s collection of glass
and flies and moths silent for eternity,
throw in the sponge.
Windows answer like gunshots, bomb blasts.
Grenadiers of the dawn. Calligraphers. Signalers.
Corps upon corps of morning glass,
cohorts of the inner anvil, armies, legions of light,
great stationary convoys basking
for split seconds in eternal flame.
But then, I get warm.
A bird, retreated on a dark bough,
umbrellaed under leaf canopy,
glad for morning, worm sights, a level
of breeze he can climb on
and part fingers of his wings on thermals,
hellos me all inside out.
He is crisp and clear and singular.
He is unique and melodious and real,
the torrents of his heart pounding
on the slanted shelves of air, his notes
as sure as rungs on a ladder of resonance
lifting the aria to unknown stratas,
flinging it over the slow river slowly
filling up with silvering day,
cascading song and joyous light
and the energy of a breeze,
like a mountain being emptied
of all its goodness.
In the morning mountains, like sundaes
piled high with sweet textures, explode.
I catch the mouthy shrapnel they throw
into the battle dawn wages.
It is rare beauty on the fly, beams
and sunshine flares and streams and colossal
stripes of golden air coming through clouds
hanging loose as line-hung blankets.
Mountains are the first to get the sun,
heaving upward white cones of snow
as brilliant as stars, as sure and as steady
as old men who know all answers
and give off such illumination.
But you there, at the crossroads of this day,
looking across the inviolate stretch
of gray light we suddenly find between us
yet joining us, must also find the ignition as spectacle
born in the rigors of yesterday’s soul.
You, too, know the upshot of this new coming,
the bird, the fire, the breath as deep as stone.
You, too, must linger where the sun warms first,
the first warm spot of the day, the bay window
broad as an ax sweep, a piece of porch tilted
under a pine, a front door stoop as white as first thoughts,
a path between corrupt oaks and sleek birches,
a blanket where your hand falls to rest,
the place in your eye reserved for sudden starts
when you think all about your being is still dark
and the nightmare is the bark of wild dogs
crawling down the banners of your mind
like spiders of light on the move.
When it all goes down, when the bet
is paid off and all markers set straight,
the sun comes with its singular entry, its warm shot,
its two fingers of life into my glass.
(Ode to a Rising Sun previously appeared in Literary Orphans)
Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. Co-Editor of A Gathering of Memories, Saugus 1900 - 2000, Tom has published 28 books, has 30 Pushcart nominations, a Best of the Net award, two short story awards from Nazar Look for 2012- 2015, and a Georges Simenon Fiction Award. He has 30 Pushcart nominations, and five Best of the Net nominations (and one winner) and short story awards from Nazar Look for 2012- 2015, and a Georges Simenon Fiction Award. He was also Danse Macabre’s 2016 Writer-in-Residence.
Set in the legendary American West, Tom’s latest collection Jehrico ~ Many Stories of a Mexican Boy Making His Way in the Old West (Hammer & Anvil Books, 2017) is now available in quality paperback exclusively on Amazon.com.