Leftover soldiers

Enter the cold no-man’s land,
A dump of wire and the dried bread.
Five o’clock coming over the horizon
With a rain of bullets — and the crowds of
Soldiers from another messy war;
And each man fixed his bayonet on the final stroke.

Under the brown fog they flowed over the trenches,
Listening for the dead sound from the whistle blower.
And death came in the copper smoke — tin
Soldiers dropping dropping dropping,
Picked and shoveled into the dry cracked earth.

Hands rattling coffins like metal leaves on a rake,
Their gait to the afterlife crutched into obscurity.
Priests kneeled in blood searching for divinity —
Rosaries waning in the cold,
Praying hands bruised trying to resurrect the departed.

White-colored flags hang in a stagnant draft, their
Shadows in the empty rooms of the living.
The war is over — the dimness, the thick green
Panes of light, as under a green sky drowning; no longer
Do the dead trees give shelter,
No longer the stroke of dawn, or the mudcracked bones.

Copyright © 09/19/17 lance sheridan®



Fence in a snow

In a snowy wind blowing there
Hunches a stiff black fence
Arranging and rearranging its wire in a cold.
It does not expect a warmth
From an accidental Spring.

In a knothole in an eye
It seeks from a mute sky
Any minor light celestial
Occasionally, falling falling
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, out of a cabin, table and chair
An incandescent burning took
Possession of a window frosted now and then,
Thus hallowing an interval
Quite consequent

By bestowing benevolence, honor,
One might say hope. At any rate, the snow
Keeps falling, wary grows the wood
In this whitened landscape;
Obtuse objects here and there.

And then, a respite from this winter,
A miracle of sorts — a budding leaf, a
Trickling stream, a radiance from a sun,
No longer the wait for Spring’s descent,
A seizing of the senses, a tenancy rare.

Copyright © 09/04/17 lance sheridan®

Naked sea in a still place

This is the sea’s end, this cobbled, fishing village,
How the sunset’s breath draws on my hobbled walk.

Cod and halibut, once scooped from the deep brine
By weathered men, salt air nettled in calloused hands.

Why is it so quiet, why are fishing boats with blackened bows?
Their water-lines gasping for a breath.

A quietness dampers the street sounds,
It stretches for years, the shrunken, aging voices.

Aging wooden crutches, half my older size;
The creases in my face, etched by salted wind.

Storms and rain like anchored chains, pummeled the fishers,
Is it any wonder we all survived?

Is it any wonder we weren’t all swept into the darkened abyss?
Drowned among the mackerel, kettled schools

Who swim with their backs against us,
Silver and gray like the perts of our bodies.

The sea, that bred these,
Creeps away like a sea snake, slithering distress.

This tired, aging, salted body has no mercy for us,
Why should it, it is the hearse of forgotten souls.

O unforgiving sea
What dregs sigh, what brine in our throats.

And our families, worrying,
Drawn together like a long pencil line.

On the widows walks, hands writhing
Things, things.

Oft, I hobble to the breakwater, spotted with wooden debris,
I am a fisherman, not a land attendant.

I am no longer a smile,
Our children here for a fish, with empty hooks and cries.

And their hearts too small to bandage,
Do I fault the sea?

They watch the fishers vanishing
There is no help from their weeping mothers.

Now the sailcloth, gray and tattered, flickering
In the wind like a pitiful candle.

It is the tongue of a dying profession, remember, remember;
What is the name of colors on the sinking vessels?

Old wood like stumps in a harbor;
Their names disappearing, wordless and slow.

Naked sea in a still place, necessary fish once in search
Of a net; pallors of fishing hands no longer gather.

Copyright © 09/01/17 lance sheridan®


Waterman’s lament

I shall never rid you entirely of your insides,
Filled with oysters and crabs crawling over
The weedy acres of your belly — I drop
My nets into the mule sea, into the bray and
Mouthpiece to dredge the silt from your throat.
Forty years now I have labored, I am none the wiser.

Morning mist scaling an overcast sky —
Looms around me. O father, I pray to thee
To mend my life, my brittle bones, my
Calloused hands. White hair littered with brine.

My boat grunting to the horizon-line,
Stroking like an old swimmer winded —
Its hours are married to shadows of waves,
Dawn till dusk in a mourning.

No longer do I count the red stars, nor
Bask in the cornucopia of the day —
But rather I listen for the stroke of the end,
Scraping along the blank stones in the shallows.

Copyright © 08/31/17 lance sheridan®


A conversation with roses

You bloomed in earth’s dirt into the lightless dawn
Where blind bees fly like stones, poise in shadows
And pause for breath — that morning, small as a doll,
Flat sky purpled, I found your name. I found you in a
Churchyard, your petals dripped red, a bloody dye.

I had nothing to do with your guilt by this poorhouse
Where the dead die, where their bones are plaited into
Graves — crowded foot to foot, pushing up flowers,
Breaking the soil, breaking the backs of worms.

In this charity ward, my sister withers beneath your roots,
In her artificial life, she does not stir. And shall I follow,
Borrowing the silt of her tragedy. I remember a whiteness
Stilling her birth cry — mothered in and God-fathered out.

In plastic baskets with plastic flowers my mother lays them at our
Headstones — they do not rot. And the stoned-faced priest
Says, O pardon the one who knocks at her sister’s grave,
She found her remains. I lie in six feet of darkness, insects
Knocking on the pine-box. My last breath silent in my throat.

Copyright © 08/28/17 lance sheridan®


The sea meeting

What are these stones at the shore to meet me? They are the cobbles —
Clast of rock, the high-water mark, gravel for a drowning pool.
In a aging veil that molds to my face, they are leading me to the sea;
Graying finger-joints flinch slowly in the blackened waves; why am I cold?

I am nude in my reasoning — the gulls are nodding, their tinfoil eyes winking;
Wading into the milkweed seaweed with tendrils grasping,
I cannot run, I am rooted in its spiky armor;
Breastplates of waves knot under my arms.

This barren body, untied from its disguise, exhausted from someone I knew;
The long white box is adrift in a sea of flowers,
A rector its agent with buttoned-down cuffs, a hymn, a prayer —
Is it the orchids that smell so sick?

Dream of a duel that will inevitably win — yet in my cells the new virgins,
Magicians in a blackout of bones. My smile and voice
Are changing, no longer a curtain of wax dividing them from a personage;
Life no longer running to the end of everything.

Copyright © 07/29/17 lance sheridan®


Into the sun-dried air

A seedling sits blade-shaped in its dark clay,
Winter face gone green with the spring season,
Tender skin pushing into a sun blazing blind
At its thirst trade; with ticking-time seconds
The dried-air hangs parched in its hands; a dawn
Fusing drought with the cracked soil.

I see a stalwart flower
Coupled by petals quickened into
A thriving day. At that,
Whirls towards a rough storm, crooked clouds
Aloof, squatting demon-wise
Walks forth the rain like a beggar.

A flash like blind crack night’s black
God’s work stood anchored chained, grinning fierce
Shriveling to cinders in a gutted earth —
Fixed in the cracks, echoes in the clay
Some havoc on tender roots, and yet
Strengthens the Iris’ prospect to strike a flower.

What the sun saw engraved in a shadow —
A thriving, tender plant
Fresh buds fit fiber for a dry air
Staunch in an earth house rent, wedded to its roots
Whatever trials to come, steadfast to a cause
Earth’s ever flourishing growth.

Copyright © 07/17/17 lance sheridan®

Plant seedling growing through dry cracked earth