Offcourse Literary Journal

Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut, by Tom Sheehan.

This star reconnaissance began on the fourth of July, the quick morning soft as a fresh bun, as warm, air floating up the stairs and coming across my bed in the smell of burnt cork or punk as smoky as a compost pile rising upwards from gutter and lawn debris the night had collected, the spent rockets askew in gutters throughout the town, their clutter of half-burnt paper and tail sticks themselves once afire in the night sky, those signals that gave darkness a new dimension of light and sound and the explosion of circular flares oft too bright to look at, as if the sun had delayed its departure for the heart of our celebration, as if stars had loosed their final demise amid or against the spatial junk they might encounter in those outer reaches, the friction of them in the distance measure as silent as Indians in the past on these fields and paths at flint and rock, even as children younger than I was went secretly about the ways and quiet roads and padded lawns collecting the now-expended shafts of excitement, rolling them into the fisted quivers of their hands, tightly against their noses smelling the residue of them, the dross and dregs of sky-reaching powder that short fires had implanted on their thin shanks as black as the night was, so that when fully amassed in one child's hand a match was re-applied in secret and the gut blaze of the celebration began anew for those without money to buy their own pyrotechnics, the blue-red and orange-green flames loosed by this competition excelling much I might have seen on the holiday eve, these young scavengers, that young army of excitement seekers like a fresh wind adrift on the dawn, my younger brother Charlie one of the aimless and directed searchers of ignited celebration goods; marked all the way across a vast lawn, where the flag was left hanging out all night, by his red hair and fiery eyes, even before the falsity of the dawn flash, his nimble legs in drive gear and nimble fingers at the bundled grasp of sticks awaiting new flame; he, young Charlie, who was long ago appointed to the same bedroom as I, the choice between us as the one who would decorate the walls with Neil Armstrong's little dance down the ladder of time and across the tempest tide of the skies and the blur of our black and white television set, this younger brother of mine who dreamed and reached the stilted aerodynamics of lads, who exaggerated his heart and his mind for the unseen, the unknown, that far pit of darkness the skies offer to imaginations leaping for the wonder of endless contact, sweet abrasions of the universe and all its parts, the coming global wanderer, aeronaut and astronaut and star traveler now out of the tight innards of the small bedroom Neil Armstrong carried on his back, the fiery-eyed, dreamy, celestial kid brother now in endless orbit and sending me these late signals from a far turn of the once-dark universe whose reception began in simple ignition beneath fisted hand like a wondrous booster for his tell-tale heart.


Tom Sheehan's fourth book of poetry "This Rare Earth & Other Flights" is available this month from LitPot Press, Inc., Fallbrook, CA; and his third novel, "Death for the Phantom Receiver" is in print production. He has three Pushcart nominations and a Silver Rose Award from American Renaissance for the 21st Century (ART) for excellence in the short story. His novel "Vigilantes East" was published last year by PublishAmerica and is shown on and B& "An Accountable Death" is currently serialized on (out of Paris), with one installment to go. They feature private detective Harry Krisman. Tom Sheehan is also the featured writer in the current issue of Tryst,

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