Poems for April 24: John Sheehan and Jack Hirschman

Give Us This Day by John Sheehan

If I have a loaf of bread

Leaving Gary, by John Sheehan (Tia Chucha Press)

and my brother and sister have none
then I owe them half
even if they do have a gun
I just might not realize
how much guns had to do
with my having the bread
in the first place

from Elsewhere Indiana

[After graduating from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, John Sheehan was ordained a priest in 1948. he taught high school in Houston and Rochester before moving to Gary Indiana in 1968 to teach in the public schools. He left the priesthood in 1969, married and continued teaching in Gary until his retirement in 1987.

In the 1980’s Sheehan joined the Chicago Poetry Ensemble, a group of writers who had a profound effect shaping performance poetry in Chicago and beyond. Written in an almost converse language, his poetry collection Leaving Gary jumps from a Houston of ice cream parlors and fried chicken in the twenties, to seminary life in Canada in the forties, and to teaching life today. He confronts issues of race and class, religion and landscape, memory and media, chronicling

John Sheehan (photo by Kurt Heintz)

places which have disappeared and place we wish would disappear. For more on the Chicago Poetry Ensemble and slam poetry in Chicago, see Kurt Heintz’s 1996 article.]


PAIUTE ANT PUDDING by Jack Hirschman

They would go in deep night before the ants were awake
with an empty sack and another with burning coals.
They would stuff the branches where the ants were sleeping,
into the empty sack, scrape them down,
and pour them into the sack with the burning coals.
The legs and pincers would come loose in the heat.
Back in camp, they would empty the tiny bodies
on a mat of leather, wash them clean with water,
and with flour and hot water make a gravy
which would cool into a pudding by daybreak.
A hundred years later, this ant pudding can still
rise off the ground or a modern table
and fling itself at the face of any fucking Nazi

From Endless Threshold (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1992)


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