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Poetry 4 Fall 2021



We Were This,Too

     by Michael Samra


Embracing the iron gate, face thrust for a better look 

between the bars, obsessed by the statues’ silences.

These, some provided with their own personal

lighting, pulled lust up out of my insides 

as if they were locking it onto them.  Standing 

each twisted under lichen exposing their empty eyes 

or craggy torsos.   Don’t think I was objectifying them — 

Although I wanted to be among them, it was as if

in leaning against the gates under yellow lamplight

something had inserted its mawkish sticky fingers 

to fish about inside my insides and pulled something 

out of me I didn’t know was there.  Perhaps planted

by dirty cops . . . About such statues I could

blather forever — although, or especially

because of, their silences.  One had the shape 

of a hunchbacked dwarf in a jangly dance 

for no audience aside from its lichen, another 

took the form of raw meat dangling on a hook 

over a sleeping angel, a third presented 

five frightened children chased by a horizonful 

of spiders . . . On and on, there was even a statue 

of a dark night dropping on a still field

and another of someone drowning in a winter 

lake, banging on the sheet of ice overhead.  

One statue resembled mostly a regular person

just standing around ; it had a kind face, whose 

nose though had been smashed by someone 

sick I guess with insanity or angst.  

I couldn’t even touch them, let alone 

hurt them — Where in the garden 

of statues was a spot for me?  I was nearing 

the end of this exercise mostly because I’d become 

unconscious, exhausted by all the gazing 

and wondering, and dropped into the inner garden 

of moving statues called sleep, when you dream 

or you’re legally drunk.  It wasn’t until

morning, woken by the noise of construction,

pants down in the clarity of sunlight

still gripping the iron gate

that I found out it was a graveyard.


Bio: Michael Samra has received the Himan Brown Award and Hillary Gravendyk Prize; his writings have been published in the Bennington Review, Coastal Shelf, and elsewhere.  Among the Enemies, forthcoming this spring, is his first published full-length book.  He has lived most of his notable years in New York and his current home of New Orleans, with deviations.



Poems Freed and Cast Abroad
        by Tom Sheehan


#3 At Saugus, Embassy of the Second Muse

Notice how he has come out of a dread silence and given himself a name; Saugus, he says. He bleats like a tethered goat to come out of the coming, to be away, dense spiral to core of self, to mountain call, bird arcs across slopes of pale imaginings. Saugus, he says: I am part of you cries not for love but intimacy of words, light touch of skin we dread and seek, owning up of self as if in another. I am that part of you named endless searcher, thirsty one, guzzler, sufferer, warred on, starved and wasted, that part of you you can’t turn over by yourself. I have secrets you do not know you know. I am lodged in a far corner of mind, some fallow place at reins’ end, waiting to be routed out, turned up, to green a page again. Has it taken you so long to find me, or do you ignore me and try it on your own? You can't avoid documented lightning, shock of metaphor, God on one knee, Saugus.

I am not a stranger. I breathe with you, find shelter and warmth when you do, know the single star haunting the edge of your horizon, know best of all the magic when the sound is right, Oh, Thomas! when the sound is the music of one word  upon another, and it tears two parts of soul to four because nothing like it has been heard before, when the word dances on its consonants, slides on soft vowels, when the spine knows the word is known by every ganglia, thong and sinew of the body. The coring.

I am Saugus and you waste me away, cast me aside. I who carry all sounds of memory, cast me aside at breast-panning, when you lose that music down in some phantom crotch, when a sweet ass ties your brain in knots. Now, Oh, just now, Thomas, feel the core wind in. Feel the word rock in you. Find the word rock. Chip at it. Let the chisel fly, the sparks dance out globally, a word thus broken away from the granite source in you. Don’t you know me, Thomas? I am the gate tender. I am the one who lets you find the word rock. Oh, I am the key man. I let you into that vast field of yourself where the rock grows.

I am Saugus, and I tend that field where the rock lies in the sacred cairn. We meet so infrequently. I keep myself here waiting on you, gate eager to rise, the field waiting to know your tread, the rock waiting to be beat upon by the hammer of your desire. I am lonely when you wander. It is dark and fearful without you. Yet I can make you cry when I am lonely. You don’t believe me … I am Saugus who makes you cry. You can’t tease me, please me, appease me. Just use me. I am servant of servants. I am Id’s Id’s Id, ego sans ego sans ego. I am to be used, exploited, submitted.
And I guard that huge rock in you, tend it, know what else filled it dense as hardpan that time in Boxford field and you hurt all over; dense as the frozen earth DeMatteo dug fox holes with C-3 and it finally blew off the back of his head and Colonel Mason said, “Shit!”; dense as Vinegar Hill or Indian Rock or that rock wall outside Schenectady and you stopped to change a tire at her waving and she slid down that wall at her back motioning to you her bodily gratitude.

Dense is that word rock, full of all your lore and legends bricked with every movement you’ve ever known, all sights and sounds and music of the words; that special place where the thing rings in you, that place of core vibration. Jesus, Thomas, take my hand again! Walk in the field with me. We belong together, you and I. Dispel me of doom. Let the music of words come, let them dance first in your eye, roll on your tongue, Oh, live to die on the page. Let them vibrate on your spine, get kissed of your skin, shoot out of here in flight of geese, and mournful sound of heading home when there is no home, steaming freight train whistle calling you from a circle of blue nights, self -shout at the moon still shining on a hill East of Cleveland, South of Yang-du, East again a long stretch from the Chugach given you in a word picture, West of a cliff near Kerry and rain moved as God laughing at the rootstock of your silence, Celtic mummery, God so buried in stone.

If you can’t come with me, Thomas, you are the loser, lonely, forsaken. I can take you back to all those hard places, to the adjectives and verb ends; to the quadrangle in Japan in 1951 and the cool wind coming through Camp Drake and the voice of death talking in it and calling out all your comrades’ names and it didn’t talk your name and you still felt sad and knew you were the only ear. In three weeks they were gone, all gone, their voices went into ground, and all their words, and they built on the word rock and now they still dance sadly… such words that make you cry with music still in them, and they come long and slowly out of another time funnel, like Billy Pigg cursing as he rolled over in your arms and Captain Kay saying, “I just want to go home to Memphis for a little while and tell Merle and Andy I love them. Just for an hour or so.” 

Ah, Thomas, come home again. Come you home again, lest dust grabs us with the wind, makes of this pairing a double-down burial, leaves our Saugus by itself. All names brought to fore, friends and comrades of the field, come along with us, celebrate the birth of death, first part to let go, say they are gone, disappeared the way departure happens when you're not looking for ways to get free for a last handshake, not having one at the start when it all began; under wire and fire, a veteran of the wars teaching how to die, one-hand finger-talk saying nothing, and it all coming down to this.



Bio: Tom Sheehan, (31 years retired), now in his 94th year, (31st Infantry, Korea 1950-52; Boston College 1952-56), has published 52 books, the last three with Taj Mahal Press in India. He has multiple works in Rosebud, The Linnet’s Wings (Ireland-100), Copperfield Review, Literally Stories (UK-147), Frontier Tales, Green Silk Journal, Rope & Wire Magazine (400+). He has 18 Pushcart nominations, 6 Best of Net nominations (one winner). Several books are in submission status. His story, “The Tale of Trot and Dim Johnny,” won the Ageless Writers contest, and his articles, “The Great God Shove in Charlestown, 1935,” (4/25/21) and “Grandmother Comes to Town” (5/30/21) were published in The Boston Globe’s Sunday Idea Section, with splendid responses.