Home > Imprisonment > Get Off My Back, Saugus

Get Off My Back, Saugus

June 15, 2011

by Tom Sheehan

Hey, Saugus, get off my back! Get off my back, Saugus.

You, yes, you, who preaches from Appleton’s Pulpit, you ranter and raver, you extraordinary tongue wielder, you who yells in chorus from Stackpole Field when wind brings from the banks of the lost pond voices forgotten except by you, a goodly chorus of faces and spirited ones how many times fallow for a quick generation of yells. Take back your yelling, Oh Saugus, and your cries. Get off my back, Saugus! Saugus, get off my back! You who hastily harangue from the Town Hall floor a bending of principles and fundamental yields your seeded and spirited politics have given the ages; or your echoes, oh echoes of told timbre and tonic Riverside throws up for grabs the one day trumpets cut to the quick of small argument advancing outward, when one falling leaf, nurtured by one, one old friend, comes, October’s breath and daring, to my footed path, saying his name to me, her name to me, saying we to me.

Get off my back, Saugus! Saugus, get off my back!

That trail over there, pond-sided, a boy once knew; new here, that boy, brought to duck and carp and fox, summer’s sweet immersion, winter’s scissored ice, brought to this place out of all places, brought to you, to be layered on, to be imposed, scribed and etched, by what makes you what you are, and that boy, that boy lured here to the burned edge of the pond, which lingers in the mind one second longer than all.

Get off my back, Saugus! Saugus, get off my back!

You do not come at me softly except night-shaded where the wetted, youthful, endless kiss ends sixty years later when her last picture is delivered to New Jersey, to another, an older flaming moth who knows you inside so deeply the ache is read; who knew your waters blessed us, pond, stream, river bend by bridge, marshy pools’ awesome pair wearing summer’s threatening horse shoe crabs down back of Sims’ Orchid Farm’s arms-wide spread of glass, and sticks for miles and miles of reeds promising fire, and antennae-slick worms marsh-dug for a nickel apiece, for Atlantic bait, bye the bye.

Get off my back, Saugus! Saugus, get off my back!

You take me past Eileen’s house full of ache I can still feel, the way her soft words flinched, or Honest Lawyer’s sign saying “I’m almost home,” or where a rumble under stone is but the one voice first comforted me, and my brother too, good lady of iron who talks from under granite these days of settled touch, who, landing here from Cork’s land and loving this place of yours, stays now forever, sweet incarceration.

Get off my back, Saugus! Saugus, get off my back.

Today, trekking on you, you make me think about a man I haven’t seen in fifty years, or heard, his coming out of your cut century of shadow and of shine, Phillies’s A’s and Cornet’s old-time catcher, big-mitted Sam Parker, died on Hopper‘s masterpiece device. Every day you do the same thing taking me back, grasping, clutching, your claws wrenching soul, letting me know you’re all about, on Pirates’ Hill, Standpipe Hill, Catamount Cove, where Charlie’s Pond used to be, the Pit, easterly where our river runs dim and crooked to the sea, and on all the artifacts of being, illustrious bones, tossing them up, Saugus, oh one by one tossing them up.

Ah, Saugus, will you never let go? Will you ever let me free?

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Tom Sheehan served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951. Books include Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; A Collection of Friends; and From the Quickening. He has 14 Pushcart nominations, a Georges Simenon Fiction Award, and is included in Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2009; has 200 short stories in Rope and Wire Magazine, with print issues including Rosebud (4) and Ocean Magazine (8) among others. Poetry collections include This Rare Earth and Other Flights; Ah, Devon Unbowed; The Saugus Book; and Reflections from Vinegar Hill.

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  1. Carol Berg
    June 16, 2011 at 11:52 am

    So many lush and lovely lists and phrases in here! Thanks for the beautiful poem, Tom!

  2. Barbara LaMorticella
    June 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Oh my this incredible rush of sounds/memories, Joycean, fluid, flowing….

  3. Tom Sheehan
    June 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    You comments overwhelm me, so I will keep working at it all.

  4. June 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Wonderful, Tom!! I still have to say, “Saugus, Get off my Back!!” from several thousand miles away. But, you’re there to help me transcend the miles by transporting me back home with your poetry. I’m afraid the “homeplace” is in our blood no matter how far afield we may wander. But, thanks to your magical words, I feel so much closer now…

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