William Sheldon






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William SheldonWilliam Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. He teaches writing and literature at Hutchinson Community College.

Sheldon's poetry and prose have appeared widely in small press publications, including and forthcoming in such journals as Midwest Quarterly, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. 

He has two collections of poems, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Into Distant Grass, a chapbook, (Oil Hill Press, 2009).







The moon lifts, full

as a musk melon

above an evening pregnant

with the desperation of cicadas,

pulling waves of mosquitoes

from the ditch water. My hands

are speckled with my own

blood. Tomorrow

I will pull ticks, full

as lima beans, from the Labrador’s


                But this morning

it was weeds and

rapacious Bermuda that would rather

grow in the garden

than the yard. I redirected

tendrils of watermelon

from the fence.

                        In the distance

an estate sale, the auctioneer’s

“Who’ll give me...” I imagined

his silver Stetson tilted

back on his head, a halo in mid-

morning sun, like

Bob Browns.

                     My sisters and I

three and five, picking a watermelon

from his patch, our parents’

full laughter with Bob and his pregnant

wife. “Those melons’ll cross

with anything,” nodding to her swelling

belly, and saying to me, to young

to get it, “I told her not to

come out here in no sun dress.”


with perfect calm, waits my wife.

Three months left of bed rest. Our

doctor, remembering an earlier life

in vet school says, “I’ll be glad

to get this little one

on the ground.”

                         I return

to the house bearing

offerings. Full tomatoes, their rain

split skin spilling seeds, staining

my shirtfront, and a melon

so ripe it will crack

at the knife’s lightest touch.

Greedy, we will eat,

waiting for fall, laughing

at the juice on our cheeks,

tasting the damp heat of sun

and earth and rain.


Sheldon, William. Retrieving Old Bones.
Topeka: Woodley, 2002: 58-59. 

Also appeared in Clackamas Literary Review.
4.2 (2000): 202-203.



























All poetry on this page
© by
William Sheldon, 2006 



              “It is always disappointing

               to ask for gold and be given melons.”

                         --Eliot West on Coronado


Despite their guide, they used

a sextant and ship’s compass

to navigate the grass

that grazed their horses’ bellies

and rose again unbent

behind armored men astride

heavy horses, trailing cattle,

swine, and camp followers.

“We could look behind,”

they wrote, “and see nothing

of our passing across that grass.”


Mexico had bent to their will

like a damp dream of youth. Here,

there were only grass and sweat,

and black flies. People fed them

then pointed further north,

until the day there was nothing left

but to strangle the man

they’d shanghaied, who had taken them

where they commanded but not

where they desired. Nothing but to return

over that sea of grass, under sky

bigger than they wished to contemplate

to the spent dreams of the south.


Appeared in Flint Hills Review 10 (2005): 170.





Uncle Walt walked

the old Crook place

blinder than a rock

swinging his stock cane

with spiteful accuracy

on the old cow

when she crowded

my lugging of the grain.

Or halted me with it

at the waist

   “Watch that wire”

before I felt its metal bite.


Once he hooked me

ass-end over appetite

from a half-stack of bales,

and before my wind was back,

lifted coils

gently from the straw

and slid the diamondback

off into the whispering grass.

And to my “Kill it,”

his dusty voice,

“There’s worse than snakes.”

Sheldon, William. Retrieving Old Bones.
Topeka: Woodley, 2002: 4. 

Also appeared in the anthology Least Loved Beasts.
Prescott, AZ: Native West, 1997. 43.




My daughter navigates freshly tilled earth

where we will plant potatoes. My son

throws a clod into the field beside our yard.

The light below clouds bellying the horizon

fires the rust on the burn barrel, on my children’s

red hair. One state west, their great-grandmother

is dying. Again, my daughter has me right

the canoe so she can play inside. This evening

is a tease, our weatherman says. Tomorrow

it will snow. Doctors offer nothing

so definite. Last night she seemed ready.

The grandchildren called, hoping

she would hear. This morning, life

fought up again. My daughter lies still

in the hull of the canoe, eyes closed, giggling

when I rock it. My son finds a tomato stake,

laughs, staggers with it under his armpit,

the sky ablaze behind the canoe, the fence.


Appeared in 5AM. 19 (2003): 29.


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