:: Article

for Larry Eigner

By Tom Sheehan.

Poet in the Rolling Chair
(for Larry Eigner, RIP)

(“All that is hidden will be known.”)

You wore what you called the raw wounds
of heaven like an old corporal’s thin stripes,
stripes earned in the long combat, charred
chevrons a lolling disease had pinned on you.

All your poetry came misty, dispensed in spray,
driveled, almost locked away for certain for ever,
except for what note paper took on, laid out, said
plain as day what you had to say about gray skies,

tide-bulky ledges, thin horizon slicing daylight’s
enormous promise, oil-slicked puddles owning
dyed coin, all out your near-beach window; inside,
where it all counted, frustration of one clear word

you fought forever to deliver free of spittle, odd lot’s
drool, your lips parting in deep breath’s annunciation.
That we listened, on the edge of all that’s auditory
and wet at the same time, for God truth of eons,

for zippy spark or ignition by which we full-damned
our own laziness and ineptitude, for a Christ vowel
to spill from your lips out of unknown places where
you had taken yourself, was keyed by our silence.

Believe, Larry, whatever form you’re in now, dry at
pronouncements, chin stiff as a breeze you loved
one April at Kings’ Beach, head no longer bobbing
on a weakened rubber band, your fingers pointing

to each one of us from a new mount of rocks, dais
of the long-timed maimed and tortured by twisted
nerves’ great disorders, of those risen finally
from pain of not being understood at the first

whack of words, whose minds moved on wheels
(for you became what you saw by others’ hands),
we hear, at slow moonwalk, the tide easing
and ceasing its long monotone, world falling

away from what was so important this morning,
at first a soft A your tongue lets go of, lower lip
dropping with quick control, your commendable
chin with it as partner, then lip-clasping Man

and letting go a pursed with that demands
tongue against tooth and air’s small escape
so that the V of Voice will require your dark
teeth on lower lip before you loose the naming.

If I struggle now because I struggled then, think
lightly of me and without disdain, for I tried
to lean with you those days and nights you moved
at everybody else’s hands, grim suitcase of poems

moving along with you, rare upward alloys
coming up pure on bond, as if some other god,
some other Muse of the Fourth or Fifth Century,
searching your eastern desert, put a hand on you.

In the Middle

In the middle of an I-95
breakdown lane I saw the dog,
Labrador black and heavy,
rent up and down like an old box,
sheared at blunt edges of a bumper.

Color-broaching needles,
whole fistfuls of them,
probed behind my eyes
for recognition, for pain.
Then I saw the boy
astride a meshed guardrail,
his forehead pushing down
on the cement guard pole,
an inversion of Atlas
hung up on a raw April day
of new dimension.

A long-gone pain, old as
trees, kicked my chest;
esophagus stuffed itself
with memories, bone-
wrench impact of another time.
I heard the frail touch
of tears on far ground,
screech of taxi tires
coming off the pavement
of a road I travel now
in dreams, dog’s last pant
wet in my hand.

I found half an hour
and my beaten duffel bag,
cached away in the van
secret as campaign ribbons,
gave up an O. D. blanket
a moth had buried itself in
waiting the resurrection.

I gave the blanket
to the boy to the dog
to a hole in the ground
behind a house in Georgetown.
He walked away wordless,
a prisoner caught up for a while
in other freedoms.

And I found my thirteen-year
old eyes, the unjaded beauty
of them, before girls
and spiraling footballs
and quiet battle losses
deepened them with
distant stars.


Sheehan served in Korea, 1951 and lives in Saugus, MA. Books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans, Press 53; A Collection of Friends; From the Quickening, Pocol Press; and This Rare Earth & Other Flights, poetry, from Lit Pot Press. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, and 290 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine. His newest books, from Milspeak Publishers, are Korean Echoes, 2011 (poetry), and The Westering, 2012, which will be followed by at least eight more. His work is in/coming in Nazar Look, Rosebud Magazine, Ocean Magazine, Nervous Breakdown, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, and Qarrtsiluni.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, July 27th, 2012.