A cold harsh landscape once well, now ill,
The skin of its soil worn down to the clay-bones,
Apples hang helpless in trees barren hands,
With time’s taint, tough trade for a Fall.
In a sky, a winter’s shape in darkened clouds —

Whitened flakes leaved in vows: How we shall
Do a drift, a plough. Slowly slowly staunch to a house,
Thrive to a field — crops decrease, frost for a fruit,
Each to the other, snow for a weather.
Follow on an unforgiving wind. Hardship then, trials

To come — echoes from a roughing storm. Some
Havoc on a tender limb, whirls the frost
On a sapling, wreck an orchard; farmer slants
A look. A grunt. A price paid. And the
Quickened Spring air unflourishing. Squatting sun

In a strict second. A moment — free gadding on
A crooked path like a beggar. Strikes to a stone
And all is ablaze. Each bud. Shriveling cinders
To its gutted end. And the doomcrack farm,
The day’s black. The night’s black. A heart’s end.

Copyright © 10/19/17 lance sheridan®



Touching the air

How far is it?
How far is the air?
Blades disturbing the dust in a bowl of clouds —
Revolving, muzzles
The sound of pumps
Trying to drag water out of a parched ground,
But the pools are empty,
Quietly through the dirt.
The silver streams are dry, the earth
Is wounded, unending cries for
Rain. If there is no water,
There is no bread.

How far is it?
How far is the rain?
In a minute there is a drop
It is so small
No mud on a boot;
Wind in and wind out —
Like tired lungs.
The blades are dragging themselves
Over the shadows
Over the old bandaged crops.
Old face on a farmer
Stepping from his skin into a grave.

Mourned by religious types —
Untouchable and untouchable,
Come to pray for his soul
Come to pray for the rain;
Now a deluge breathing, its teeth
Digging into the clay
And the rusted blades thirsty, whirling
In the cold wind.
And the black clouds straying down,
Thunder and lightning;
A thick earth of water and the new crops,
Wheat and grain and the milled bread.

Copyright © 10/13/17 lance sheridan®


Sea crossing

On a storm struck eve, the sea rises and falls,
Crumbles on wooded-plank, mast and helm;
A graying wind tumbles down with disturbance —
Cleaves into a fury as rain grips the rails,
Dark as anger: taunts the white gull, taunts the
White-dressed sailor, retching, sprawling agony.

Compass points, wrinkles and slides: a writhing course
Far from a harbor; waves wallop in the water,
Drenched basin of a sea; tall ship listing — ransacked timber
Like refugees wincing falling betrayed. The hungry storm
Advancing, auspicious blackened clouds taunting,
Chalked cliffs advancing, jutted rocks waking from an empty silence.

If you come too close, if you come too close, a solemn death;
Water’s feet rising rising, foothold of oaken wood.
Sailors grimpen into a wet salt: lifeboats for some — possession
Of a row in a moment, menaced by the cold drowning
Into a funeral, rolled into a deepened. And the oars creak a
Distance in a current, through the wave cry, the wind cry.

In sullen light lies the storm waste and the ransacked sea —
Bodies lean into a row: lifting brine and a whitecap;
Stroking towards an empty harbor. The ships have all gone
Under the sea. The sailors have all gone under the sea.
They have all gone into the dark abyss. Ghosts playing out
A survival, that of the living: in their beginning is their end.

Copyright © 09/27/17 lance sheridan®

WP poem image

Autumn pond water

Morning clouds burning off like
Smoldering embers. Leaves
Dropping like twisted scarves,

Bark on archaic trees
Thick with a breeze. Graying
Mist paints over a pond

Gilled with perch and trout.
An early frost scrolls a
Shoreline of duckweed water

With spirals of ice-crystals.
In a dell rung by the ground
Cold, the withering of flowers;

Old roots searching for a warmth
Burrow into the dry salvages
Of earth. Down boles of the elm.

And while the air was stirring, the
Hourglass of Autumn sifted a drift
Of winter. Flakes falling from a tin sky.

And the wind began to howl. The
Distant sound rote in the cold mouth;
And the heaving snow rounded

The hollow, cowering pond and the
Littered branches. And Autumn bailing in a
Boat. Silent listening to the undeniable.

Copyright © 09/22/17 lance sheridan®


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®