Thomas Lisk



I have an urgent desire, almost a need, to write a novel called Shenango, a novel (from the 
Latin, novus ordo seclorum) in the sense of a book-length work of new imagination that
would read like a fluent translation of a true story about the western lands where emigrants go, 
seeking fulfillment but discovering a waste space where some people have found fulfillment.
Never be desperate. Let the darkest birds unfold their wings and clack their puppet beaks.
Though their frightening unlikeness seems to require you to disintegrate, you must breathe back
through your soft lips and nostrils as if in their minds you were incapable of either anger or
depression, cloud-filled and blue-grounded as winter wildness from the height of a generously
peopled mountain where finally there is nothing for you to long for, only the pleasures of the
other birds’ aerial shenanigans. 
      With each iteration the cloud mass became spiffier, hollyhocks bloomed as delicate blue
as hydrangeas and lilacs, only so subtly different from the explosion that is, or ought to be, pure
white, drier and airier than powder, a limited number of monkeys in a tobacco box, the
association being tales and iterations, charged by a beautiful armature of fine copper wires like
incredibly attenuated claws, or better yet, cross-hatching on a drawing of the Gordian Knot (yes,
there was only one). I say “claws” because jackdaws are all but (or anything but) unheard of
here on Sullivan T. Coney’s island, where the hares are gulls and take any pitch you toss them.
The rest (a rest, rest) occurs across the wide Missouri. And what could seem emptier than air,
more likely to arouse happy laughter than despair at your complete freedom of movement,
except for the subtle pressures all around you, mounting as you mount higher, never looking up.

Speech, Speech

To speak of fleeting Percivals
is never the work of a moment
but an undertaking 
that must be undertaken 
in due course and with a full sense
of the gravity of the occasion.
Nothing has,
and inevitably must again,
come of less.

The hall will, on that
august occasion, resound
anew with cheers to hearten
a heartless nation, now, alas,
bent a course that may
in the fullness of time
be vindicated, but which,
for the nonce, must seem
to the thoughtful observer
self-destructive, to say the least.

An uncanny wind blows through 
these affairs, riffling the numeral cards
on the far scoreboard, cards
lifted by a blunt hook
on a birchwood pole 
some three
or four meters in length,
a pole
whose outer integument 
might once have skinned
a lacustrine canoe.

Whose canoe, one is not
at liberty to divulge.

Thank you, thank you,
thank you, you have been,
as always, too 
kind, too kind,
too kind.


A Catalog of Ponies of the Pyrenees

1. Help! The seawall has caved.
2. One of the oceans threatens to engulf us.
3. The crowbar you sent was no use at all.
4. I would send it back but postage prohibits.

2. One of the oceans threatens to engulf us.
2. Sand can only do so much against water.
4. I would send it back but postage prohibits.
4. Send what back where?

1. Sand can only do so much.
1. Sand can’t do anything; it’s a victim.
3. Send what?
3. Imagine mailing a prybar packed in sand.

1. Sand is a victim.
2. I chased death all over the parking lot.
3. Imagine sending a sand-packed iron bar.
4. A well-placed blow crushed a grain to dust.

2. I chased death all over.
4. A blow from the bar broke the sand.
4. The soul would be a well-placed grain.
2. Aren’t we all chasing death all the time?

4. The soul is the size of a transparent granule 
3. It has been customary to think of it as a thumb-sized flame.
2. Aren’t we all hotly pursuing our ends?
1. A thumb would be a mighty large grain.

4. The soul is the size of a transparent granule.
2. Aren’t we all hotly pursuing our ends?
2. Isn’t each of us 
4. the size of a granule?

3. The Upanishads mention a fat candle flame.
3. Whose custom depends on geography and language.
1. If it were flame-sized we could see it.
1. A flame under a collapsing seawall hasn’t the ghost of a chance.

4. I wrapped it but the old postage took up too much space.
4. I had to use the paper over again, stamps and all.
2. Watching wind-driven water I can’t identify the ocean.
2. If I didn’t know better we could be on any coast.

4. After the floods subside, the crowbar will be useful.
3. Whose custom depends?
2. The threat is still imminent.
1. The seawall is down.


Thomas David Lisk’s fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in many little magazines and newspapers. His most recent work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry, ReviewPorcupineBoulevard and Slide.