Tom Sexton: a New Poem

We have a new poem by Tom Sexton, an occasional contributor to this blog–and regular reader of what we post here. We had Linda Hoffman’s apple orchard essay this week. So, why not blackberries . . . and fire ants? Tom and his wife Sharyn live part of the year on the coast of Maine, way Down East, which is the setting of this poem. The rest of the time they are in Alaska, where he sends us bulletins about the weather and Chinese literature. A professor emeritus of the University of Alaska, you’ll find him in the Lowell High School alumni hall of fame with other luminaries. He says he had a good time writing this poem. Tom’s audience can look forward to a new book from him later this year, a collection of his Lowell poems through the years titled Cummiskey Alley. History buffs in Lowell will recognize Cummiskey as Hugh Cummiskey, the labor leader from Charlestown, Mass., who in 1822 brought the first Irish workers to Lowell to dig canals and build mills.– PM

Tom Sexton at Northern Essex Community College, 2019 (web photo by Kevin Harkins, courtesy of Merrimack Valley Magazine)


Picking Blackberries at Shackford Head

by Tom Sexton


On both sides of the sinking boardwalk

blackberry canes so thick they formed a wall

almost blocking out the early morning light.

A good place to avoid on a moonless night.

It was the second month of our stay in Maine.

I was picking berries when a sudden pain

shot up both legs.  A mob of red fire

ants had found me. I got out of there

fast. Off a cargo ship from Europe years ago,

my neighbor told me. They’re locals now.

He hadn’t been to Shackford Head for years.

He sent an L.L. Bean-clad tourist out there

once. In the morning, we found a large bowl

of blackberries on our stoop, without a note.


–Tom Sexton (c) 2020

One Response to Tom Sexton: a New Poem

  1. Frank Wagner says:

    Great imagery and a really interesting short story told in verse. The imgagery helps for those us who live far away from you and what you saw. I am from South Texas and at times I live a very different world from you yet, we live in the same world, fireants and all.