Sean Thomas Dougherty

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author of eleven books including Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (2010 Boa Edtions). His awards include two PA Council for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry and a Fulbright Fellowship to the Balkans. He currently teaches part-time in the creative writing program at Cleveland State University and lives with his family in Erie, PA where he plays lots of mediocre nineball and wears a cool hat.

Who Labored


you slept

the room smelled

of lilies

a wake,

Patsy Cline,

her later years,


kind that could

what we learned

for the afterlife

I searched the house


somehow you knew




my body

it is

I can



Like Gauze

But when I think of her, nothing has happened yet.
–Larry Levis

A theory of addicts.   Not a theory,

                                           but the way they bend

on the bench/more
                                 than a theory/

                                 a fiction/
friction, the spark
                      of the lighter
                                          against the edge of a cigarette.
                                          The deep inhale, pause,

then exhale.  A theory of.   Grace, dense
                                                                  and holy.  Grandeur

of the Opera Café in Budapest, the high gold ornamentation
where we drank coffee, ate Dobos pastry, talked to no one
                      but stared into the mirrors at strangers.

                      A strung out theory.
Strung out,
                      on the Green line at fourteen, a Red Socks cap,
a shamrock inked on my wrist,
                                                      the year you were born.

To disappear is to theory. To leave is a theory. Which is it?

Solitude of standing before a locked door.

Have I seen you, is a theory

different from I have seen you.   Seen you.  Shift like light
across a window.  Syllables, signs, supplications, on a night
along the docks when the snow becomes shapes casting medieval

shadows, singing.
                                Seen you.

To fade is a theory of what-is-almost-isn’t.
                                                                 The liquid
evaporating into apprehension
                                            of my speechless hands:

                                 (“To theory” attempts to predict what is
before it’s proved)— a cavernous splendor
                                                                 I leaned into:
In the Bartender’s cloth swiping clouds
                                                        was a theory of your face—

The Little Bird That Rattled

her air conditioner was trying to stay cool/got sucked in, and for a while

its dying/was filling the rooms/she slept in/how often this happens in ways

we never hear /the clatter never finds us/so we cannot at least/ hold

the tiny feathered /song in our palms/and grieve it gone/offer it a word/ or

two/ like a prayer/ wrap it in a paper towel/or bury it in the backyard/ dirt

we dig /and in this way/we honor what was lost/ it is not this/ too

often/the silent/ losings pass us/ unawares/perhaps we need to/when doing

nothing/ like the dishes/every now and then/for them/mutter/something—