TOM LAUGHLIN is a professor at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts where he teaches creative writing, literature, and composition courses, as well as coordinating the MCC Visiting Writers Series and open readings for students, faculty, and community members for the Creative Writing Program. He also coordinated the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at Middlesex Community College for many years; coordinated an Early Academic Intervention Program, the Writing Center, and creative writing activities at Massasoit Community College for nearly a decade; and taught literature classes in two Massachusetts prisons.
He was a founding editor of Vortext, a literary journal of Massasoit Community College, and a volunteer staff reader for many years for Ploughshares. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Green Mountains Review, Ibbetson Street, Drunk Monkeys, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Blue Mountain Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Superpresent Magazine, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, Rockvale Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, North Essex Review, Molecule, and elsewhere.
He has also published academic articles in Teaching English in the Two-Year College and elsewhere, as well an annual calendar, Stone Balancing at Walden Pond, featuring photos of his stone balancing. His poetry chapbook, The Rest of the Way, was released by Finishing Line Press in August 2022. His website is: www.TomLaughlinPoet.com
Pond Skaters for Jim Beyond the woods, a brightening sky opens up above the great pond, and a white Mercedes eases onto the snowy shoulder. The two heads that emerge are snowy, too, but their wrinkle of years are erased by the hockey skates they carry, the rippled blanket of cottony clouds overhead, and a speck of sun climbing the distant tree line to spank the gray ice with shafts of yellow. Lacing up, they take off cutting and gliding across the pond’s shiny hardness. They’re careful to avoid the refrozen holes of yesterday’s ice-fisherman, dotted here and there, small circles of blackness that hint at the pond’s murky depths. Long gone are their battered hockey sticks, hand-me-down leather skates, wooden pucks made in shop class, and leaky boots for long walks home alone in the dark. One of them has brought a Frisbee, and it sails now between them, floating up through January crisp air and this morning sunny stillness that squints them into smiles. Lurching for Pockets of Respite Whales scream from billboards neon streetlights speckle the horizon car headlights growl past there is no dark and the hunter moon laughs. There are nights like this driving home when I miss you sometimes father. I have not been able to turn after the day's electrode dance to a winking shake of the head or knowing slap on the back about this overworking rat's cage talons lurching for pockets of respite or sinking fears toward the stone. Of these you were master knowing just how to explode sideways how to hide yourself into oblivion haunt yourself awake each dark-empty morning earlier than anything alive chased by strong-armed city blocks graying mind-readers staring into those that slow army commander-bosses with bloodied bayonets laughing at your weak-kneed guilt. You taught me well father how not to live in this hell. Teach me now graved father how to laugh with this moon.