By Tom Sheehan

My grandfather ran the city dump,
burned clinkers in a little house
he made of scrap. On cold nights drunks
slept in that makeshift haven.

They knew the welcome of his fire,
the monger’s stove to wrap around,
hot curbing to prop cold feet,
quick difference from the frozen air,

wind-swept railroad tracks, bare entry ways,
darkness where howling ghosts abide
or, last resort, slim cardboard wrap.
The lost, lonely birds came to roost,

flew in at dusk. He stoked the fire
to stir up flames, dried their feathers off.
Just as often he left his lunch about
like tasty suet hanging in the yard.

On Saturdays I brought his lunch,
dense laminates of meat and bread,
thick and heavy and coarse as sin,
brown banana we would not eat,

molasses-brown coffee in whiskey
bottles wound about with paper bags.
I never saw even one pint bottle
finished off within his grasp,

rarely saw his small hand feeling
inside a paper bag. His birds
did the picking, had suet choice,
hens dining before the cock.

When he died they came to grieve
the savior of their awful nights,
the drunken, besotted, brothered band
who so often drained his cup,

mottle-skinned, so soured of life,
pale host, the warred upon and beaten,
they came to cache the little man
who offered what was left of God.
Tom Sheehan’s books are Epic Cures, 2005 (with an IPPY Award) and Brief Cases, Short Spans, November 2008 from Press 53; A Collection of Friends, 2004 (with an Aldren nomination), From the Quickening, March 2009, from Pocol Press; proposals for story collections, Where Cowboys Ride Forever, and Out of the Universe Endlessly Calling with other publishers. His work is currently in or coming in Ocean Magazine, Perigee, Rope and Wire Magazine (with 55 short stories), Qarrtsiluni (with 4 recordings), Green Silk Journal, Halfway down the Stairs, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Hawk & Whippoorwill, Buffalo Carp, Eden Waters Press, Lyrical Ballads, Lock Raven Review, Indite Circle, Northville Review, Word Catalyst, Yale Angler’s Journal, Oddville Review, Ozone Park Journal, etc., and in books coming from Press 53, Home of the Brave, Stories in Uniform, and Milspeak Anthology. He has 10 Pushcart nominations, Million-Writer Noted Story Nominations for 2007 and 2008, the Georges Simenon Award for fiction, and is included in the Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. His poetry books include The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; and This Rare Earth & Other Flights. He is a 1956 Boston College graduate after service in Korea with the 31st Infantry Regiment, 1951.

One Response to “Remnants”

  1. lapia says:

    like left overs scraps,
    feed the hungry “brown bananas”
    clip the wings of soaring eagles,
    if only for a little while,
    gurgitate little scraps
    to those of us who weren’t looking.

    Thank you Mr. Sheehand for this wonderful morsel.
    Very nice!