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Three poems by TYLER SHELDON article



               My Father Teaches Me to Shave 


Near bedtime, I sit
on the high lip of the tub.

You stand shirtless at the mirror
trimming split ends from a beard
still years from stately gray.


I am not yet five.
My feet don’t reach the floor

but I ask to shave, to be a man,
so you hand me

the can of foam, tell me

I should rub some on my face.

You don’t say the razor has no blade,
but focus sharply as we guide it

through the foam. Afterward,

we marvel at the smoothness

of my cheeks, the astringent

tingle of accomplishment.


You say that I am a man now.
I feel tall enough even to see

over the counter, where we both

reflect in that big mirror.





Eastern Kansas. Red-tails

perch on posts, like mobsters:

   “one boid, two boid.”
   From the road,

we marvel at the fat

who have earned it,

who lease sky

to leaner chests, sharper

wings. Hawks know

who’s boss.




The Boxer   


     For Frank Williams



At the old folks’ home,

I ask Frank what it is he does,

and hands streak the air black

before words are fully there.

I back away. We laugh. Would he

train me? I ask. At length he stands, 

leads me to the heavy bag

they’ve given up on asking

to remove from his room.


Frank tells me, keep those hands

up. Tighten those elbows. Peek

across your fingertips

and jab only once ready

to fend off my response.

He shows me how old men

can throw hands quicker

than whippersnappers like me.

Keep ‘em tighter, he says.

Keep ‘em  up, ‘cause I’ll

hit you  if you let ‘em down.

I take a hit, another. I

keep ‘em up. Move,

Frank says. I move.


I find out nobody messes
with Frank. He’s set
in his methods, he says, has been

for years. He leads me

to the door. Come back

tomorrow, kid, and  maybe
if you’ve practiced you’ll get

a hit in. Frank smiles.

No promises, he says.
          No promises.


Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, 150 Kansas Poems, and other journals, and are also anthologized in To The Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.



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