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Winter 2002, Volume 19.2

Poetry

 

John McKernan


John McKernan grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has been teaching at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, since the 1970s. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, most recently
Postcard from Dublin, which won the 1999 Dead Metaphor Press Chapbook Contest.


My German Grandfather was Tiny

Five foot scarcely one inch in cleats
The baseball bat in his hard right hand

The stories of his pitching skill grow larger
Year by year  No one in that central Nebraska
Semipro dustbowl league could make it

Home with John Nagengast chucking his spitball
Slowball fastball or dropdead slider curve
Past the stunned hitter's outstretched twilit bat

Looking at this chiseled 1918 photo

I see now how he pitched so well & lost
His bank   Twice   His right hand small as a grain
Of seed corn   Hurling that stitched cork knob
The size of a green pea past the quick blue eyes
Of men   Thinking in Greek   I can't lose   Can't lose

 

Sometimes I am Stuck in Only One Language

Or left with a silence
Which might erase a sundial   But
Mostly   I am the pause
After the beat
Of my surging pulse

As I stare
At another thread-size slice
Of new raw moon
Sinking into dawn

Here in my new land
Of exile
This serpentine green valley in West Virginia
Glutted with apple blossom
Redbud & that first electric green of willow

 

A Scarecrow

Looks best
At sunset

When
Performing
Its imitation

Of a whistle
& begins its disguise
Of the shadow
Cast by the blackbird

Like the ears of corn
Or the eyes of potatoes
Or the skin of the melon
Which are not here
Safe inside the crow's midnight nest

 

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