Header Graphic
Poetry 1 Spring 2018


Thomas, Thomas

          by  Tom Sheehan


Through the long slanting of the gray day

I, mute and immobile, watched my son through

The window, saw him use hands as tools, arms

Working hard as crowbars, an energy split of

The sun, my atom building a fort housed of dreams.

Oh, years close such ugly jaws between father

And son, between the old and the dreaming,

Between the looking back and the looking forward,

So I cheat sometimes and think the looking back

Has more magic, the greater reserves of splendor.

It happens when I stop at task to breathe against

The hot sun or feel the night with a caress

Faint but daring as a girl once known near darkness.

Looking back is more than perfume time; it’s past

Perfume, past touch, past the wonder of guessing.

It’s back in the prehistory of dreams and daring

When I was him and building a fort to house dreams

And perhaps my father loved me from a window.

It’s touching on the magic of Roland and Arthur,

On Charlemagne, Richard who roared, and red-crossed

Phalanxes moving as a wedge at a word or cry.

It’s where Beowulf has gone, to a land and time

Not to be known by me again, to a place called

Childhood, the true democracy of imagination.


Looking, I was delirious for him, felt the happy

Stones banging the barrel of my chest for him;

He was knowing what I had known and lost along

The way like a red-lit caboose cutting a curve

In the dimness that was my little years.

I ached, knowing that I had come of age, of importance,

That my little dreams are cries for peace

And sweat is sold for food to fill his mouth.

The world had fallen in my path and I had scaled

A mountain away from him. I wanted to leap

Chuteless from its peak into his time, to know

Once more the sense of glory and romance

In all things the mind has fingers for.


In the evening, pink threatening red on the horizon,

He finally came to me, the seven years of him

And a day of his days enfolding more mystery than fog.

“Come with me,” he said, eyes of miners’ lamps,

A face blacker than coal is black, where dirt

Had so much freedom you would think he had never

Been clean, had never been discomforted by soap.

“My fort, it’s over here. It’s secret and mine.

I’ll show it to you. Only once, though. Big people

Aren’t supposed to be here.”


Quiet, motionless as a beached ship, the fort

Was built against a split-trunk maple tree;

Limbs bare and black hung over a pit nearer

Darkness than all the caves I had known.


Canopied arms rigid over a small darkness

Huddling like a rabbit down the barrel of a rifle.

I turned back on myself, into dreams, onto pages

Long since read. Ah, how high and strong its walls,

Built of stones I dared not move, set magically

With a mortar I could not mix. Passageways

And tunnels with dumb mouths stared back,

Mysteries leaped, dangers crept, silent

As Sicilian Vespers. Hamlet’s father would walk

Such walls. Quasimoto lurked quietly overhead.

Lafitte, Long John Silver, Grendel, shared the dark.


On my spine ice began to flow. I was knowing again

The lost land, the lost time, the lost dreaming.

He crept along the wall, motioned for me to follow,

Whispered a sound I’m helpless to repeat and can’t forget

As if a ghost of me were calling on a cold gray moor.

Back, still back, I went, spinning in a machine

Tumbling off my hard edges, knowing the deliciousness

Of fright, savoring one grand moment in a life

So old to magic. And he huddled, my son, my coming man,

For a moment, for a split second of forever, against

The high walls of his childhood. I dared not move

For fear I’d break them down.


Bio: Sheehan, in his 91st year, graduated Saugus, MA High School 1947; Marianapolis Prep. School 1948; 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52; Boston College 1952-56 and worked summers for 8 years at the Reconstruction of the First Iron Works in America, now a National Park and right across the street from his house built in 1742 (See Faith Hope and Fiction). He has published 32 books, has multiple works in Rosebud, Linnet’s Wings,Serving House Journal, Literally Stories, Copperfield Review, Frontier Tales, East of the Web, Faith-Hope and Fiction, Rope & Wire Magazine, Green Silk Journal, and many others. He has 33 Pushcart nominations, 5 Best of the Net nominations (one winner). Accepted for publication is a novel, The Keating Script. In production at Pocol Press are: Between Mountain and River and Catch a Wagon to a Star, both western collections; Alone, with the Good Graces, a short story collectionand Jock Poems and Reflection for Proper Bostonians (prose and poetry of sports in Boston.) Back Home in Saugus (a collection) is being considered, as is Valor's Commission (a collection of war and post-war tales reflecting the impact of PTSD; Small Victories for the Soul, and Home is for Wanderers, both are poetry collection). He was 2016 Writer-in-Residence at Danse Macabre in Las Vegas. His latest book, Beside the Broken Trail, was released in December 2017 by Pocol Press.