Last Flags on the River
Dangers are everywhere about the river:
the porous bog whose underworld
has softened for centuries, the jungles
cat-o-nine tails leap up into.
Once, six new houses ago,
one new street along the banking,
two boys went to sea on a block of ice.
They are sailing yet, their last flag
a jacket shook out in dusk still hiding
in Decembers every year.
An old man has strawberries in his backyard.
They run rampant part of the year.
He planted them the year his sons caught
the last lobster the last day of their last storm,
and remembers summers and strawberries and
salt mix on the high air in the middle of December.
A truck driver, dumping snow another December,
backed out too far and went too deep. His son
stutters when the snow falls. His wife
hung a wreath at the town garage.
At the all-night diner a waitress remembers
how many times she put dark liquid in his coffee.
When she hears a thunderous Mack or a Reo or a huge
cumbersome White big as those old Walters Sno-Kings
used to be, she tastes the hard sense of late whiskeys.
He had an honest hunger and an honest thirst,
and thick eyebrows, she remembers, thick, thick eyebrows.
Thomas Sheehan’s latest books are Brief Cases, Short Spans and From the Quickening. A collection of cowboy stories, Where the Cowboys Ride Forever, is now in the hands of a western publisher. His work has also appeared in many print and online publications. Sheehan has several Pushcart nominations and won the Georges Simenon Award. His web site is here.