Tom Sheehan: A Poem
My legitimacy statement says, “I have appeared in your magazine, have read and vacationed in NC, and once worked in Tennessee.”
Cold Night’s Dark Advances
And always it is this Gift-giver, this woman from midnight’s
the other side, this darkness that is not taken from. And she
comes in pieces, trajectories, soft angles and planes, curves
from a world galore I look for in this, her classroom of touch,
taste, and sleek terrors wherein she says, Hello, Two-Dream
Tommy, here are dimensions of a barrier, the two roads you
must take one at a time if you are meeting me and getting
crushed that side of midnight.
Oh, is she north or south of me, breathing yet or not, image
impossible to see? Yet I’d bet on her on either road I travel.
Lo, I speak out to her and dream of her, spraddled, urgent,
these two parts of unspeakable darkness. Do they have to
mean or what become?
It is more than geography hugging me, but deliciousness in
wind in January, trees stripped to the rawest dimensions,
oh bare bark that’s borne, on edges of my lonely electric
road, crows by dozens the only intruders in full dress shadows,
a three-day-old snow crusting to gray, three strung marvelous,
mysterious wires hanging as if knotting ships together at low
tide, weighted with more than this sense of ice, singing songs
through the keen teeth of day going down to its knees in her
own perfection. Absolve me, love.
The song is in your mouth, but the notes, they belong to me.
This last prayer is for you turning away from me, the host of
imagery found on a forgotten road, your eyes shadows of a
itch done with digging, your mouth one dead tree amid the
morning light, your skin high on each cheek tired as the fields
beyond, angles of hands and fingers distraught as roots from
an old pine scratching for life less than an inch deeply soiled,
where odors oft bury themselves in mere cosmetic measures,
bearers of softest gestures, a voice with a hand and a range.
The song is wolfish, high pitched, remnant at odds in the pack.
Roadside strands, thick as old hawsers, carrying theater lights,
marquees alphabet-bright in upper case, library lamps under
which notes are passed, the grocer’s late display behind a six-
foot window, fire alarms and call boxes with bluer lights like
taillights of a ’51 Ford, carry on how divas do their derring-do,
octave and platform above all else, yet the song that’s in your
mouth, those notes are mine.
I remember you before, dawn coming up hazel-eyed after we
had buried ourselves, your hands heavy as chocolate, how you
walked your willingness around me in morning’s thrill parade,
throwing remembrance outward, new residues falling off your
fond lip the way a petal bleeds spring, sweetest Scheherazade
or salty Salome, love’s finer fingertips out on briefed endless
parades, fiery fluids finding such fingernails, and crusting up
unobstructed an artless elevation of rare dominion, oh, that
music’s mound of insurmountable support, the bone-fed field,
measured stable of all the symmetries gathered for hearing..
Are they heard downhill, flat side, down where this strange
road ends, or begins, a dynamo bellied into earth the way a
bear buries in all winter, this old man writing a journal just
past his latest midnight? These songs you sing, these notes
of mine not for grocers or ticket takers or lovers embattled
by scented, pressing time. Animals are spared this wizardry,
songs the wind owns at lips of wires, arias heaved offstage
from spider webs slung between Erector-set steel skeletons
like lapsed and forgotten messages passing along the road,
or compliments remembered in quiet hours between places
lit up with odors. Thin-mil songs, wired notes stretched out
in steel and nervous alloys, high-minded and high winded,
humming the universe and music of sphere, falsetto, bird-
level, dog-sharpened, I swear they transcend all insulation
technicalities, leap beyond what this very Earth displays.
All things folded by you, diameter of skirt, pickets of pleats
in a circular fence, and a gate you opened into the reservoir
of your soul, silence a gasp at my thumb clutch, fingers locked
upon the mound. Sunday morning there is a zoo with empty
benches and a tree calcium white and a skin of iron and blue
feathers in the air thick as snow. My one hand reaching one
hundred feet of asphalt to touch one breast you jettison just
for me into trimmed holy air after Mass after kneeling and
saying my name under your breath and deepest commands,
arch’s silent and oft commands, well-suited for these ages.
How you do that again and again? When you’re young and
shadowy, alone in a lakeside summer camp, wind through a
midnight screen, rain its brazen complement, belongs in the
same irreverent choir; voice sharpening wind itself, honing to
a point the cold stridors, the caterwauling rigid metal ribbons
exhaust upon charitable and dark rivers of air, another place
of shadows along these shaded roads, where you’ve left less
than madness but your music, whole notes still being mine.
Monday’s a day full of sin. The taut white skin of you comes at
me like balloons. I am afraid I will explode if I ever touch again
fragile air pockets you have made of breasts. It is as if your left
breast is an anchor that 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, ever-intriguing
retreat, nearly as paramount as you, or more, like the way you
measure out degrees.
Now and then, orchestrated dull and basso cantante, a tower vibrates
and threatens to topple, its wired-up voices plunging with roots and
footings where a tree empties its emptiness. The last sound made, the
ultimatum investing the lolling of cables, is unheard, the lovely notes lost
in an endless void of mind, the song that sits in your mouth, the notes I’ve lost.
I end myself up buried not in your leg warmth but Tuesday night’s dream.
Your hips assail me, you hands implore, there are angles present in all shadows.
From what sea does this dampness come and abide, what evolution turns your
saline chemistry to this, bids me bury my mouth alive, the libretto moving me
onward and outward? Think, know what I love.
I walk here between songs, watching rabbits, sleek on snow, whitened for the
last resort, paddle-footed, snow-shoed for their abrupt living run, alerted of a
hawk tasting them from thermal undertakings, and find myself ready for them,
ever noisy adjectives wires spill overboard, seeing the fork out in front of me,
seeking, all seeking accumulation’ s extensions.
There is a curse at your fingertips. I swear I am taken. The far away rivers,
mountains melting, dams letting loose love’s own absolute awe, accord their
dulcet undertones. There is a curse at your fingertips. I swear I am taken by
the weight you bear upon me. Oh, love, on your knees, absolve me.