Tuesday 5 May 2020

3 Poems by John McKernan


The old man lifted himself from the chrome wheel chair and stood bravely before the audience. He waved a red bandana in the air, spun around three times, and slid into a pair of hiking boots. We could hear his leather belt mooing beside the scuff marks on the rubber soles.  Slowly his wool slacks floated to the floor covering a herd of tiny sheep hooves. We watched the fibers of his white shirt flow like sunlight through the window out onto the cotton fields across the highway.  Buttons rolled to the corners of the stage.

“He must have been a nudist” we said as we left the auditorium applauding wildly.

Outside, a dirty parking lot kept ejecting sports cars into the speeding highway

Some of us peered in through the side windows and noticed the magician’s watch dangling from a bird’s nest

It was still ticking and a few light rays kept bouncing off a jumbled pile of medals lying on a practice putting green


A single silver spoon lay untouched

On a coffee table in South Omaha

At my grandmother’s house

Stolen – she claimed –  from Edmund Spenser’s

Irish castle before it was torched

Wrapped in flannel

Carried aboard a ship

Bound for Nebraska

Via the Brooklyn Bridge

The ice cream & cookies & cake

Were great at Birthday Parties

But what made her think

We wanted oat meal & old bananas

Which would always taste

Like a rotting potato from Ireland


In her orange & green cheer leader outfit

Out on the side of the highway



Fearless in the onrush

Of  million dollar RV’s


Unmarked ambulances

& motorcycles

She enjoyed the wind rush

Of a Harley zipping by at 80

I received a phone call

From her in the ER last night

I don't know what I'm going to do

Me Neither   I whispered


John McKernan is now a retired comma herder / Phonics Coach after teaching 42 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in Florida.  His most recent book is a selected 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

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