by Tom Sheehan

My father hid his diabetes
in black shoe tops. At night
he peeled off bloody socks
where veins found short circuiting.

My mother bought white cotton
socks by the dozens, band aid
throwaways after work or Sunday
best, after his heart pumped

its way down long lean legs
deep Nicaraguan paths had known,
every baseball diamond Boston
shook under red August skies,

who-knows-what in Shanghai.
Later on it went topsy-turvy
in eyeballs’ secret caves,
refracting light into bones,

porous humors going to sponge,
into space where ideas lose out.
When he sat to peel his socks
from their red-wounding rounds,

checking the salvage of the day
like a crow beside the macadam,
or thumbed a brailled king of
hearts or a diamond five

before he pegged me off the board,
I used to congratulate myself
for not saying anything to him.
He’d shuck off such words just

as he would an uncomfortable
compliment: they paid nothing,
they did nothing, they sat on the
ear like old, old promises.

Just piles of junk, he’d say,
the letter of vocabularies
and sore intentions. Even now
at cribbage or haberdashery,

seeing apod men humbled to knee,
clothesline flush with socks
as if a semaphore is working,
I remember how he crossed one

leg over the other, fingered
a sock, slowly peeled the skin
away from his angry feet,
casting off evening’s surrender flag,

like an Indian,
from his coals.

Tom Sheehan has published two novels and three books of poetry. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Poor Mojo, Wild Violet, Paumanock Review, Snowbound, 3amMagazine, Splitshot, and Small Spiral Notebook. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times, and in 2002, he won Eastoftheweb’s nonfiction competition.