Forty Year’s Mind


How the collected scales are like a single, powerful flower. As velvet petals, wilting and rising again without need of sunlight. They preoccupied my dying. Dmitri described those last breaths. My good Dmitri told the world they came as a triple moan of descending pitch. It may be this is more beautiful than the butterflies themselves lighting off into the wind. What must I have been trying to say? Or was I counting the flowers down, dooown, dooooown? Three moans growing deeper as my throat widened.

Paz might have known. I do not. I have only his “Sun Stone” saying,


a bright hallucination of many wings

when they all open at the height of the sky.

They preoccupied my living. Across 150,000 miles I was the fly doctor imagining the Polyommatus blues coming in great waves from Asia to America over millions of years. Just imagine! Some of these waves such a perfect hue it must have seemed the sky itself rippled toward heaven! It was in my youth, when I circled around these miracles, these butterflies, that love took hold from breastbone through to heart and remains so even now as the dust from the wings of my life have shaken away. 

But oh what a dust storm it was, Paz. You should have seen it. Says Paz,

and there my spirit flings itself down, is shattered
now I collect my fragments one by one.



a Lectus


Paul, the Soma is working great. I’ve never felt better. Your Daddy is OK. I walk every mile with you in your shoes. I work a double shift when you work a double shift. When you stay up all night with Richie to get him to sleep, I stay up all night with Richie, too. I love you more than I can say. Paul, I am not on drugs or alcohol. Help me mount a civil defense. Worth millions, and it will all be yours.

No you don’t, Dad.

You stay in bed all day long

dreaming of lawyers.

Dad, the Cymbalta with the Wellbutrin seems to be doing the trick. I still feel like I should thank you every time I scrape the plate with my fork by accident, though – how the screech tears open the back of my neck and puts me on high alert. I still feel like I want to burn the bookmark you got me, the one with the quote from Proverbs about sons and joy. But burning a thing has never worked, and it’s overdone and boring anyhow.

If I stay alive

it’s by my own strong grace,

not a word from you.

Laughter is the best medicine; this too shall pass; there’s nothing better than a strong name; honor thy mother and father; hang ‘em! Laughter is the best medicine? Well, okay. Welcome to the Land of Fuck. We might as well have been roaming the Seven Five with the crackheads and dirty cops, crawling through the civilian warzone rubble on our hands and knees, crawling through eighteen miles of glass six inches deep. This for all the laughter we ever heard. And your endless string of fortune cookie words and painful, stretched smiles. Deeply scarred pock tissue pulled tight over grimace bones, hellish bones, over cursed bones.

No, my only boy,

you steal too much pain from me.

Leave some, by the bed.




Things to Fix With a Hammer


All the mediocre carpenters     and nursing home aides,

especially nursing home aides, who keep thinking there’s

a hidden message

just for them

in the sky. There’s no message. There’s hardship

and more hardship

pumped out like gas station chili.




based on anything

other than     your own moral compass.

Songs. Songs that hold back their hearts like interest loans,

that make music a mockery of whispy mothers

moving across a floor of pure mulch.

Songs. Songs with chorus lines like a stutter,

like Tourette’s,

Like   ohmmmm ohmmmm ohmmmm    meditation.

Seasonal affective disorder, the cruelest.

The way rain puddles in the bowl of a young

silverbell on a backdrop made of cringing gray skies.

Poems that show off    when it’s easier to say April.

Poetry as haute cuisine while our friends

starve to belly-exploding on sentences like this:

 玩文字遊戲, which, directly translated, means playing a word game.

Communication as seasonal affective disorder    on purpose.



Rain in Gutters




Sheldon Lee Compton is the author of four books, most recently the novella A True Story (Shivelight Books, 2017). His fiction and poetry can be found in gobbet, Anti-Heroin Chic, Live Nude Poems, Vending Machine Press, and elsewhere. He lives in Pikeville, Kentucky with his partner, the photographer Heather McCoy.