Jul/Aug 2002 Poetry

Four Poems

by Tom Sheehan

Art by Bob Dornborg


Gandy Dancer of the Phoebe Snow

You began right in front of me today.
I don't know where you came from,
patient muscles hanging loose in your
soil-painted, dark-blue suit coat,
one pocket ripped to a triangle,
one pocket stuffed oh so properly
with a coffee-filled paper-wrapped
pint bottle, your thin legs nailed down
into a pair of the saddest brown pants,
a long-handle spade extending your arms,
eyes folded over reaching for noon.

Off behind you, faded to gray,
jetted the rip of animate steam,
coal gases; railroad track arrowing
in a lake top that still does not exist.

You said, "Manja," and laughed at me,
your big teeth ripe of red meat and bread,
voice as loud as your hands slapping with music.

You untied the red bandanna at your neck,
a sun-bothered sail of red bandanna,
wiped the brow under a felt hat, sucked
at the papered bottle until I tasted iodine
at the bend of my throat, smelled coal dust
coming a talc over us, like a dry fog.

It was the same yesterday when I made
a v-grooved pole to hold the clothesline up,
and over the fence a visitor from the Maritimes
said, "You go back a long way. I haven't seen
a pole like that in years and years."

So I guess you came the way the pole did,
out of the roads I've traveled, down lanes
stuffed like chairs, past yard geographies,
a long view over trees, out of some
thing I was, an organic of memory,
celluloid flashing of wide spaces
I passed through, the odors I thought
I wore or was, cannons at the edge
of a distant war, colors banging
their permanence tightly against
the back of my eyes,

pieces of the circle I find myself on,
where you were a moment ago, just
out the window of my mind, bearing
the riddle of a melancholy whistle.


A Prejudice for Girl

The last prayer is for you turning away from me,
Your eyes shadows of a ditch done with digging,
Your mouth a dead tree in the morning light,
Your skin high on each cheek tired as the fields
Below, the angles of hands and fingers distraught
As roots from an old pine scratching for life less
Than an inch deep in soil, a cosmetic measure.

I remember you before, the dawn coming up in hazel
Eyes after we had buried ourselves, your hands heavy
As chocolate, how you walked your whiteness about
Me in morning's parade throwing remembrance out-
Ward, residues falling off your lip the way a petal
Bleeds spring.

All things folded into you, diameter of skirt, pickets
Of pleats in a circular fence, and a gate you opened
Into the reservoir of your soul, silence a gap at my
Clutch. Sunday morning there is a zoo with an empty
Bench and a tree calcium white and a skin of iron
And blue feathers in the air thick as snow. My hand
Reaching one hundred feet of asphalt to touch one
Breast you jettison for me into the holy air after Mass
After kneeling and saying my name under your breath.

Monday is a day full of sin. The taut white skin of you
Comes at me like balloons. I am afraid I will explode
If I touch again fragile air pockets you make of breasts.
It is as if your left breast is an anchor I should grasp,
The right a mooring for my travels, the dark desperation
Legs enfold is a ghost beating itself into my mind,
A facsimile of abandonment, a deep and ever-intriguing
Retreat, a thing nearly as paramount as you, or more.

I end myself up buried not in your leg warmth but in
Tuesday night's dream. Your hips assail me, your hands
Implore. There is a curse at your fingertips. I swear
I am taken.


Cat Scan

The cat
slides around the room,
knows something about me,

Threatens to tell.
Wears secrets
in her eyes subtle

As jewels.
I swear she is
old as fear,

Knows hair rise
and spine curve
is simple talk.

Plods about on paws
silent as roots.
I think she dreams

A chase in high grass,
recognition of game,
that other life

She found in my eyes.


Neither Yet This Morning Have I Seen You, Nor Now

Neither yet this morning have I seen you, nor now.
   I'd swear it's a lost day, except-a tulip tipped its cap
to the early sun, dew as fresh as the idea of you
   caught up a lacquer on every green urging, at sea
a ship rose right out of Europe in the frontal tide;
   and over the Mystic Bridge a pair of falcons, higher
than those iron fields, leapt atop a swelled thermal
   the indescribable joys of dawn's paralax.

Mazed miracles of kelp, odd bottles fogged
   with mysteries, banquet quantities of sea clams,
littered the beach after last night's storm.
   If we argue, neither this nor that, neither what
nor how, will we have such residue, such
   remnant, will love's debris be so graced?


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