Laurel's Bookshelf
(MBR Bookwatch
Volume 3, Number 11 November 2004 Home | MBW Index
This Rare Earth & Other Flights
Tom Sheehan
Lit Pot Press, Inc.
3909 Reche Rd. Ste. #96, Fallbrook CA 92028
ISBN 0972279377 $14.95 231 pages

Tom Sheehan is a poet and writer, a wordsmith blessed with uncommon gifts. His philosophy is aptly expressed in the Preface of this book:

...and I shall always touch you,
Mother Earth, Rare Earth,
from all vantages in these
flights of uncounted time;

It was a difficult task choosing examples from Sheehan's poetry. Whether many stanzas long, or brief, each poem told a story that enthralled, brought laughter or a tear. The poems are divided into four distinct categories:

In the Hearth and Self;
In the Universe;
In the Confrontation;
The Air Around Me.

I was particularly drawn to Sheehan's thoughts on aging, lost family members and friends. One powerful example on mortality is found in "Voice from the Gray": one giant leap,
went seventeen to seventy,
found response, am still there.
Walked home from war, heartbreak,
the hill above that holds your voice,
Riverside where the stone deftly scribed
is hardly your last sign, where we
will touch again

In "Thomas, Thomas", the poet contemplates his father while watching his son play:

Oh, years close such ugly jaws between father
And son, between the old and the dreaming,
Between the looking back and the looking forward,
So I cheat sometimes and think the looking back
Has more magic, the greater reserves of splendor,.

"Four More Poems the Road Gave Up" is a four part anthem. All were worthy, but "Displacement" was my favorite:

What happens on a round smooth stone
is hands, fingers of old voices, dust, bones,
sunlight falling in May, the terrible heel
December has....

I'm always fascinated when a poet weaves ekphrastic art - creating a poem from viewing a painting. In "Small Boats at Aveiro", Sheehan records his thoughts on a painting set in Portugal by Peter Rogers, Nahant marine artist:

They are not
Deserted, though faintly cold for oarsmen
Who walk down this beach behind me,
Stomachs piqued and perched with wine,
Salted hands still warm with women, mouths
Rich of imagery and signals.

Grieving the losses of war has been a familiar cry of late and in times past. In a few lines, Sheehan captures the essence of war and those warriors who serve their country. "Born to Wear the Rags of War" was chilling, exquisitely written by a man who lived it:
They had been strangers beside each other, caught in the crush
of tracered night and starred flanks, accidents of men drinking beer
cooled in the bloody waters where brothers roam forever, warriors come
to that place by fantastic voyages, carried by generations
of the persecuted or the adventurous, carried in sperm body, dropped
in the spawning, fruiting womb of America,
and born to wear the rags of war.

Tom Sheehan is a poet of exemplary style and voice. Whether read in awed silence or spoken aloud, his work is beautiful. For lovers of free verse, this book is a must have, must read.