the poetry that matters

John McKernan

John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska in the middle of the USA– is now retired after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. 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.


Pavilions of pearls marbles and silver

Beautiful women waving gold spatulas

The service will be first class and free

72 wives with Black American Express credit cards

80 servants A fan in each hand

The roof will form a dome of pearls and rubies

Graceful women with wide lovely eyes

Much more than fluffy pillows and chocolates

Delicious wine served in ivory cups

Tall athletic women with toned muscles

Flowers and soft perfumes

Ballerinas dancing on silk carpets

Mountain streams with pure cold water

Maidens smiling at sunset & sunrise

Round windows flecked with gold and platinum

Intelligent women who actually enjoy smiling

Infinite joy Eternal peace Everlasting rapture

Sign right here Dip your thumb in a mix

Of jet fuel charcoal lighter bat sperm & goat blood

And affix a fingerprint to this blank sheet of paper





The tall blonde woman
Was nude and wore a blue hat

Carried a tiny puppy
She had named Orgasm
Told me my new name was Strange Moonlight

Kept singing
I am going to change my life
Joining a harem
Will be just like entering a convent

When she was reading my passport
I kept my eyes glued to her fingers
Something like this happened in Oklahoma
When I was in law school
And I ended up being elected Sheriff




It doesn't have the right tone The right style

The tunnel at the end of the light

Perhaps the answer might be a new brand
of flea & tick spray Some kind of relief

The intense desire to die To say adios
in ancient Greek or modern English

In a language with many rhymes for the word light bulb

Even the air kind of backs away a bit before
it gets sucked into some lungs

Most would prefer waving to drowning

I keep meeting people who look forward to
permanent residence in Dante's Inferno

They look at their wanted photos on billboards
or small ones in the Post Office

& say Tell me now Honest You like my picture?




Will begin with a period
End with a capital letter

Your name will star
In movies never dreamed of
Especially the adverb

Most of the vowels
Will be drunk
& start rhyming with each other
Especially the O Brothers

All the silent consonants
Will pull to the left side of the skull
& bow in quiet prayer
They will never have heard such a riot
Of noise thumping by on four flat tires

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                                                                                              January 19, 2012