4 Poems by William Sheldon

A cardinal calls, desperate lust
masquerading as bravado, counter-
point to the beep of some heavy
machine in reverse. The coffee
goes cold. The dog lies
across the screen porch doorway
oblivious to the robin
hopping two feet from her nose.
The day is waiting. The boats
are turned belly up. Tomatoes
green on the vine. Tomorrow’s
not worth discussion.
You, with your book in your hand,
it is time for your la-la-la’s
your mi-mi-mi’s. A flash
of red followed by a darker,
similar shape makes its way
into the greening trees.

I like to walk the river far
from the bridge into the sound
of no traffic
hearing a kingfisher dive
or water snake slide
in S’s on the surface
I like to see no colorful
kayaks, or canoes, pass me
wading crotch-deep into holes
where carp hold	their fins       
feathering the current 
knowing no one anywhere
walks like I do
subject of all I survey.

The World and Oysters

He brought rakia and she brought flowers.
The food was good. They left with colds.
He brought flowers. The rakia was good.
He left without eating, walking home in the cold.
The food was cold. There were flowers.
She was cold. There was rakia.
He brought food for her cold.
They drank rakia. Bees moved in the flowers.
He drank warm rakia with honey
for his cold, called her flower when she brought food.
He went without food to buy her rakia.
She was a frozen flower with bee-stung lips.
Three Rivers
I. Night Noise
Smoke rises in horns
on a herons’ wind.
All night the mud groans
as the river sweats.
We hear the moon
scratching its cradle.
Stepping from our tent
onto this pelt of sand,
all is still
except the slight
panting of smoke.
II. Commonplaces at a Wake
The rain’s mourning
holds the river enthralled:
the drizzle’s starched talk
with the soughing mud:
“Tomorrow… A better day…
“No, no… A long way from
happiness, but… The sun
will rise… Some compassionate
gesture...” The river
who barely knew the departed
watches the mud,
knows that surface
acceptance of solid advice
belies the cold scream
that is building.
III. Coldwater
West of our town, the bones
of the river lie whitening.
Nights we hear mud weep
regretting a lover’s leaving,
perhaps even the loving,
as the distracted moon
hums above. We
know the river’s secrets,
are ours. We smile              	                       
through soiled lips,
our streets coils of skin,
the bones of our hearts
cradling thorns awaiting
evening’s exhaust and desire.
Singing down the sun,
we make our sad ways
to that trickle of solace
knowing what we have done
we will again.

William Sheldon is the author of three books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002), Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), Deadman (Spartan, 2021), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 2009).  He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso ReviewHarbor Review’s chapbook prize is named in her honor. She expects her next collection, The Book of Stolen Images (Meadowlark) to be out in a few months.