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Tom Laughlin

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 ReviewIbbetson StreetDrunk MonkeysSand Hills Literary MagazineBlue 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:


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
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.      

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