John McKernan

We used
Our tiny child bodies as dams
In the Cass Street gutter
To block the cloudburst
Its gritty brown flow
Rolling down
Our neighbors’ sloped lawns
Nude cylinders of mud
Squealing in green lightning air
Around the corner   Shivering
Pushed by his father floated
Jeffrey Hains in his chrome wheelchair
Wearing a black swim suit
Bones & ribs twig thin
His smile growing
On his big wet skull
When his father’s lifted him up
Then down onto the warm gutter
Shallow concrete water slick  
Not any lightning   Not any thunder
Not even Mrs. Jurgen’s shriek
At our nude bodies with their invisible
Pricks & lips & breasts & scars
Could clothe or peel way the iced
Warmth we felt crawl under our skin



Who are they?    At night with their tires exploding
Their mufflers the sound of rivet drills
I’ll be dreaming of a quiet H Bomb obliterating
    some peaceful Pacific island and I wake
    to the smash of a Pepsi semi bending
    a guard rail into the shape of a noodle
I sure hope that fake Viet-Nam veteran fell
    asleep in the ditch & not on the berm
I like it when the coyotes are afraid
a little and shut up for ten minutes
It is true   I’ve never seen a coyote
    as road kill on Highway 10
You can’t tell me that guy with the Coleman
    cooler wearing purple latex gloves was
    collecting wildflowers around the form
    of a German Shepherd by the mail box
All those new restaurants in town and the mall
I liked how that dog would play tag with trucks
    and the school bus    Never go near a car
Just look at that    Another anonymous deer  Its
    front hooves barely touching each other  One
    ear pointing to the blue sky    Curious doormat
    to eternity   When the wind ruffles its fur
    you can see how brown it was    How white
      Its body the points of a compass
Nights the road turns to a chessboard    Possum
    to Rook 4     Gray squirrel to Queen 8
    Raccoon to King’s Bishop 3    The crow
    with the clawed  bones of a feeble old man
    Butterfly to chrome bumper 2

© John McKernan



John taught at Marshall University for over 40 years. He lives in West Virginia and edits ABZ Press.