Thursday, July 16, 2015

Signals from a Dark River

by Tom Sheehan

Dangers are everywhere about my river: its own porous bog whose underworld has softened for centuries, the jungles of cat-o-nine tails leap up into. Once, six new houses ago, one new street along the banking, two boys went to sea riding a block of ice. They are sailing yet, their last flag a jacket shook out in dusk still hiding in Decembers every year. One old man at river's mouth grows rows on rows of strawberry plants in his front yard. These plants run rampant part of the year. He planted them the year his sons caught their last lobster on the last day of their last storm. Summers, now, strawberries and salt mix on the high air. A truck driver, dumping snow another December, backed out too far and went too deep. His son stutters when the snow falls. Worn wife hung a wreath at the town garage. At the all-night diner a waitress remembers how many ways she put dark liquid into his coffee. When she hears a Mack or a Reo or a huge, chromed but cumbersome International big as those old Walters Snow-Plows used to be, she tastes the hard sense of late whiskeys. He had an honest hunger and the most honest thirst, and thickest eyebrows, she remembers, thick, thick eyebrows. Once I drove a purring Saab 580 miles to my brother's home in Conneaut, Ohio in 8 hours of summer darkness:

six-pack hanging cold
         on his pre-dawn's split rail fence
                  he never drank beer.

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