Two Poems

Derek Sheffield


A hollow holds the trickle
that licks Temple Ridge to life,
seeps through sun-cracked days
and cricket-pulsing nights,
draws out green stems, drops
from a ledge of granite
catching moonlight. Mud recalls

a wet slither, and snarled roots
touch a coolness in the air
spilling past my skin.
When I press my hands into a bowl
and stoop to fill it, the water
is a frigid amazement
as the first night out

of the Garden must have been,
two people lying on their backs
under the unlocked sky, silenced
by the glittering fruits of stars. Ginger
lowers her face, looks to mine, and laps
until my hands hold nothing
but the strokes of her warm, slick tongue.

"Prayer With Fur" previously published in Rough Places Plain: Poems of the Mountains (Salt Marsh Pottery Press).



Slowly rolling a steel wheelchair
through sawdust, rubber vein pulsing
under the skin of his left arm, he watches.

Neil hammers, Travis saws, I measure,
and nothing, we know, squares in his sight,
carpenter, grandfather, white-haired overseer.

In back seats on the drive to church, we had heard
our fathers tell the stories of the houses he raised,
hands scoured and trousers cuffed by dinner.

One last shim and we stand in the midst of our sins,
watching him steer his chair down our skewed cuts.
A little steep but it will do for Sabbath and dialysis.


Neil swings a sledge, Travis stacks the scrap, and I jerk
my hammer in reverse, cleats jangling to concrete.
From the doorsill, no one reckons our mistakes.

Wood wrenches free of wood, and we hear again
Save yourself, his wish to see us doused in Christ
in the two weeks it took for his blood to poison him.

The damned and all but meticulous, we straighten and sweep,
we load and leave with the last nails clutched in our hands.

"The Ramp" previously published in Poet Lore.

Derek Sheffield won the James Hearst Poetry Award judged by Li-Young Lee. In 2004, he received a Washington State Artist Trust Grant and David Wagoner selected nine of his poems to appear in a special section of the Fall 2004 Poet Lore, Poets Introducing Poets. New work is forthcoming in the North American Review, Passages North, Ecotone, and Family Matters (Bottom Dog Press). He serves as the creative non-fiction editor for the Seattle Review and teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Wenatchee Valley College