Tom Sexton: New Book, New Poem

Tom Sexton sent us a new poem from his outpost on the edge of northeast Maine. He and his wife Sharyn split their time between Maine and Alaska. Our readers will recognize Tom’s name from past contributions to this blog. He drops back in to Lowell when he’s on the Atlantic coast and was here several years ago to be inducted into the Lowell High School Alumni Hall of Fame. He’s now retired from teaching at University of Alaska, Anchorage. Recently, he read his poems at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill and talked about the literary legacy of the Merrimack Valley. Look for a report in Merrimack Valley Magazine.

The author of more than a dozen books and a former poetry editor at the Alaska Quarterly Review, Tom has a new collection of poems, Li Bai Rides a Celestial Dolphin Home, from the University of Alaska Press. Author John Morgan praised the “masterful lyricism, humor, and pathos” in the book which make it “a joy to read.” 

In the east, Tom is favored for his urban writing as seen in books of Lowell poems like Bridge Street at Dusk (Loom Press) and A Clock with No Hands (Adastra Press), while readers on the West Coast and Pacific Rim are more familiar with his responses to nature and the wild landscape, infused with an appreciation for Asian writers. After a number of years in Maine, that place is beginning to stack up as Sexton territory, too. — PM


White Sheep of the Family


Once, in a town not too far away

from here, there was a family

that seemed to be always in trouble:

a few pills sold, a missing car found

behind their house covered with a tarp.

Even the mother was known to leave

the neighborhood store with a few

things she’d forgotten to pay for.

The sons would break someone’s jaw

if provoked, from time to time if not.

The youngest became a civil servant

and was in all things gracious, civil.

After drinks around the kitchen table

when he had left the room for a minute

they’d smile at each other and begin to sing,

“baa baa white sheep, have you any,”

then, after a very long pause, they’d add, “wool.”


—Tom Sexton