July 10, 2019

John McKernan: A Deeper Look

John McKernan: A Deeper Look
Quit pretending you are still a teenager 
That girl at Wal-Mart keeps asking about you 
Have you written your obituary yet? 
Which of President Kennedy’s sluts did you like best? 
I’m not frightened    Are you? 
Where have you been hiding? 
Making any money selling cheap fireworks? 
Why don’t you visit me anymore? 
Sure   Go ahead    Enlist in the Marine Corps 
Here are some verbs to help you out    Crawl 
     Slither   Sneak   Snivel   Grovel 
Let me tell you something you need to know 
You want a crate of chocolate chip cookies? 
Buddha walked through the door showing us the new  
tattoos   His entire body a geranium covered  
     in blue and green and black and yellow and red 
What would it take to make you speechless? 
A maniac’s kitchen knife to cut out your tongue
Drop to the dry ground 
Tiny explosions of dust 
A large serving of memory please 
In a chilled wine glass 
With slivers of yesterday 
I always knew I enjoyed 
Crawling in mud to trap worms & toads 
But I never dreamed 
I wanted to die 
Come Here Death   Come Here Right Away 
The singer whispered 
Thumping his needled hands 
On his broken bongo drum 
Lyrics carved in midair with a gold needle  

Red   Black  White  Green  Mud 
Gray  Brown  Yellow  Mud 
And then some  
More mud 
In the form of dust particles 
To hear the mud 
Step into the brick mold 
And remember you forgot 
The straw in this batch 
Even the donkeys look hungry this morning 
Chewing meadow daisies and chicory 
As you lift a gob of clay 
Onto the slow spinning wheel 
And feel something like water slide 
Across your fingertips    
You like the cool feel of tree shade 
Against the brick kiln and know  
If you created life from this mud 
That new life would soon create words  
For Water and Mud and Green     
Especially  Green  
The eye    A chalice of maggots 
The tongue   Dry as a dead red ant 
Both lips   Quiet the granite J 
Toe nails   Finger nails    Growing 
Both hairy ears    Calm   Nest-quiet 
My fingerprints still on the phone 
Squeaky voice inside the answering machine 
Hello   This is John McKernan    I'm not here right  
            now    Please leave a message after the beep 


John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, in the middle of the USA – is now a retired comma herder / Phonics Coach after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press.  His most recent book is a selection of poems – Resurrection of the Dust.  He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field, and many other magazines

About theJack B. Rochester

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