Memoirs of a blueberry picker

They called the place the lookout sea,
Fountains of waves
A salt mist in blue sky aloft,
Clouds passing through Saturday mornings
Honey air, we walked a sandy path
With tin pails in hand;
Well water kept us cool as we picked
Bushel after bushel of plump blueberries.

Blue lips and fingers, a spider’s web,
A bee’s wing,
Dragonflies nipping and tucking, arising,
Noon sun casting our shadows;
Kindled my love for a season.
Gulls dragging their beaks in a tidal pool with water that
Had a brackish taste, the tang of a river sea;
Sandpipers scurrying through fen and thickets.

And so, together, with my sisters and brothers,
We gathered till the dusk came rising;
Pies and jams quenching our taste for a fruit.
We walked, and I still walk there,
Though the blueberry plants are barren save for
Fond memories; I oft hear joyful voices,
Hear tin pails clanging
Culling a harvest; our childhoods nourished.

Copyright © 02/23/18 lance sheridan®

Memoirs of a blueberry picker


Leftover people

This is life’s end: their bodies twisted and starved,
Cramped on a dry mouth. Black
Eyed shadows of clouds exploding rain,
Whitened faces of the drowning;
Bodies gloomy in a dump of mud,
An unforgiving country slapped your foot-soles
And your cries, all night you crawled
And swallowed the dust; now you breathe canvas
In a sea of tents, your call for help rolled
Into the doom noise of the dying.

Dirt cliffs are edged with bloated children, fingers
Embroidered in starvation; death walks among
Them, dangles the bone shells,
He knows their time, but no refugees know;
The earth turns now, a minute, an hour,
Souls turning in the soil, soon they’ll be free.
The worms walk among them,
Stuffing their mouths with dirt, the world says a prayer
But sheds no tears; the tent city soon a barren land,
Tattered canvas blowing in a dull wind.

Copyright © 02/20/18 lance sheridan®

Leftover people

Moony balloon

My moony balloon is heavy,
White knuckles and callouses to prove it;
It drags me across the sea and
Deserts; through jungles (I was almost
eaten by a lion and trampled by a rhinoceros).

Sometimes it wanes and I lose sight of it,
My arms grow tired when I have to put wax on it,
It goes into hiding when people try to worship it,
And when it’s full, the whole world goes crazy over it.

Once, I brought it into a circus tent
And what an extravaganza when we floated away,
It startled the pachyderms
Who were all despondent and completely agape —
They were floating on their feet and appeared to be Gothic in shape!

But now, I’ve fallen into despair, tilting my eyes
Into an empty sky; my moony balloon has disappeared.
I’ve searched everywhere — underneath my bed,
In a parade; posted missing posters, all to no avail;
And then my worst fear: my sister popped it with a sewing pin!

Copyright © 02/17/18 lance sheridan®

Moony balloon

The lady and the worm

In some earth soil remembering ten and one-quarter Springs,
Knee-deep beneath wiggles a worm blind as a leaf;
No place it seemed though was safe from a spying robin,
Nor a britches boy sizing it up to be mouth-heaped by a pond fish —
It preferred to be out of a watery aspic and lewd beckoning by feathers.

In a long book read, a lady in a paisley dress perchance to view
This dark, thick worm by a foliage — dodging bell-tongued thrushes
And descant young lads toting rods and hooks fisting for a pond;
Now, this fair young lass during a stroll performed a solitary gesture
By gently picking up the earthworm to free it from all molesting.

She fit it neatly in moist soil in a brick dust clay pot; no longer was
The worm held hostage in a discipline of garden earth.
But one day a suitor (unscrupulously austere in his black and white ways)
Came to court the fine young lady — unbearably betrayed, so she
Morosely withdrew. He’d hooked the worm and knee-deeped it to a bluegill.

Copyright © 02/14/18 lance sheridan®

The lady and the worm

Channel swim

Where breakwaters shove the stones
And suck the channel water,
Clouds unfist the sun, black coating the shore.

The chalk-colored cliffs statuesque
Over a lighthouse curtaining the stubborn dark,
And I in a swim past the huts of fish.

In a blue unchanging world, I stroke through
The narrow crack, through the odors of an
Old sea; in a backward look, the shore is drinking the waves.

The map of my swim lies beneath, along the
Silver streak of pilchards, they cast their
Scales ousted from fishing nets; cleave forward in a fury.

Waves wallop me in a freestyle, assaulting my body,
Riveting cold, yet I take the challenge;
Sprawling, hunched in a wincing mask of agony.

Far from the Dover beach, I see a French window ajar,
Boats retching in a basin; I marvel at the onslaught.
In a harbor, I’m greeted by ring-billed gulls and casual valor.

I forsake my luck now, compelled by a sea bond;
Yet, I must make a gesture where others celebrate,
A daring act played out in a brief epic. I walk the plank of gratitude.

Copyright © 02/10/18 lance sheridan®


Channel swim

I came before the water

Up from a thatched cottage, the sun
Purples the horizon.
Halfway down to a sea, dressed in gray,
Casting nets drying, yearning
For a fish —
Today may there be a harvest coffined
In silvery jackets.

As I wade into the sea-mouth,
The salt air
Thin and sluggish trickles down my face;
Waves eyeing me
Move obliquely with a wet.

My fingers work the baited nets,
As I could, between
The glittery wisps of wind, cast them over
A dawning tide.
Bellies of schooling fish struggle, puzzled
By their passage to a demise.

Fattened a pot, a smokehouse; I, a net-mender,
Sit by a cottage
White as sea-salt — is there anyone who dies,
Or is born without
Their knowing it? Inched from our mother’s womb,
Swollen to a life,
Then wear the death mask once your tasks are complete.

I can still smell the salt air, feel the waves pulsing
Like hearts;
See the blunt, sleek coastline hills — rivers
Feeding the sea,
The clumping of tidal pools where mussels beach;
Hear waves lapping
On a shore; all while mending my nets and sipping
Life before the water.

Copyright © 02/06/18 lance sheridan®

I came before the water