Among the Finite

By Jack Sheedy

At the beginning of October I indicated that I would be posting three blogs I began earlier this year yet never finished due to a variety of reasons. I published one from February, titled “Back to Bed,” on October 2nd. My family and friends found it woeful, gloomy, and downright depressing. In fact, their concern for my well being has caused me to rethink my earlier plan and perhaps not post the other two blogs.

Instead, I’m going to kick myself in the butt and get myself moving in a more positive direction. Hell, I may even shave.

You see, this has been a year of successes and failures. The months of January, February and March saw me working on a new book – Cape Cod Collected with co-author Jim Coogan – which was published in the spring. Then, throughout March, April and May I worked on the annual newspaper supplement, Summerscape, a Barnstable Patriot publication, this year’s issue detailing 185 years of Cape Cod history from the year 1830 (when the Patriot was first published) to the present time. Throughout the spring, summer and into fall I distributed books to Mid-Cape and Lower Cape outlets. Very busy. And very gratifying.

Yet, as I alluded to in my October 2nd blog posting, I experienced great difficulty in finding full-time employment in this Cape Cod job market. It was as if a 30-year career of working in the Cape business arena meant absolutely nothing. In fact, I think I became pigeon-holed as a 50-something-year-old dinosaur (to be completely honest, I still do not own a cell phone). In April I was able to land two part-time positions – at a church and a library – so between those two, and with my free-lance writing, and with book sales, I was able to fashion a pseudo full-time position, sans any benefits such as health care, of course (another thing I alluded to in my October 2nd blog posting).

So, that’s my tale of woe. Yet, being a “50-something-year-old” making his way in this impersonal 21st century world has given me plenty of ideas for future blog postings, which I have decided will be my theme for the foreseeable future. For instance, just trying to understand today’s TV commercials – hell that’s gotta be a couple of blog postings right there. Or my difficulty in finding a pair of pants that fits – there’s a blog. Or my ongoing battle with ear hair – in fact, that’s why I’m growing out my beard, in order to take the emphasis off my ears. The topics are endless.

So, until my next posting on that “50-something” theme, I’ll leave my readers with this poem by Thomas J. McSheey (1899-1939), which I recently unearthed in my research of the oft-misunderstood 20th century “lunatic” poet. It is titled “Among the Finite.”

Just before October dawn

planets stretched across eastern skies

pulling the sunrise along behind

Venus, Jupiter, warring Mars,

and speeding Mercury


Just after sunset

Saturn and a waxing crescent moon

recalling past civilizations in ruin

once gods upon chariots aloft

And, yet, who the hell are we?


Billions, millions, millennia depart

like swirling autumn leaves

turning and tumbling we weave

for in a universe of the immortal

we exist among the finite


Centuries mark humanity’s progress

decades produce our slow decline

the arc of an earthly lifetime

streaming through atmospheres

like a falling meteorite.


In McSheey’s notes he underlined “finite” and “meteorite,” clearly pleased with that rhyme…which he claimed he labored at for three weeks.

Interestingly, McSheey’s lady friend at the time believed she would be killed by a meteor. McSheey laughed and said that such a scenario was ridiculous. He then went on to explain that a “meteor” was the term for the streak of light caused when a piece of space debris known as a “meteoroid” burns up when entering the earth’s atmosphere, and that if she were to be struck and killed it would not be by a “meteor” but instead by a “meteorite,” which is the term for space debris that actually strikes the earth’s surface. To which the young lady struck McSheey upside the head with her handbag and vowed never to see him again.

Jack Sheedy is the co-author of Cape Cod Collected and Cape Odd. He has written “Off-the-Shelf” for the past ten years – boy, you’d think he’d be finished by now! welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on