Tyler Robert Sheldon: Tells Me in a Letter He Has Cancer

Tyler Robert Sheldon: Tells Me in a Letter He Has Cancer

Party of Harlequins

     for Harley Elliott




Harley, river-walker, tells me
in a letter he has cancer.
Not the tear-out-your-bones kind,
so he says, but the kind
that makes you think harder
than you ever have before.
He tells me he’s begun to paint.


The letter has Joker cards
printed on the back, collected
from years of decks. He makes

these pages himself, wry poet,
on a copy machine:
always six or eight cards,
a party of harlequins,
each keeping the others in check.



A tuxedoed grinning man.
A sword juggler.
An empty, smoky bar.
Pain today
on every face.

Tyler Robert Sheldon’s newest books are the poetry collection Driving Together (Meadowlark Books, 2018) and the chapbook Consolation Prize (Finishing Line Press, 2018). He received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Essay Award and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Pleiades, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and other venues. Sheldon holds an MA in English from Emporia State University and is an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. He lives in Baton Rouge. View his work at TylerRobertSheldon.com.