White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
John McKernan
John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska – is now a retired comma herder 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 and many other magazines.
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John McKernan



She knows where


Where she will be buried


In the Talbott Churchyard     In West Virginia


When will they start to market graveyards like

              beautiful new cars on neon billboards?


Glossy four-color ads         Stereophonic music video


I don't have that road map


Timothy Leary slowly spreads through outer space

              What a trip man       Goodbye Tim       Goodbye


Weldon Kees must be lining the optic nerves of a

              dozen white sharks off the coast of Santa Barbara


John Berryman liked to drink his whiskey straight



John McKernan

He never should have tried to walk on air


Oh Nephrititi       We love your bouffant hair       Your gold

              jewelry       Your deep tan


My favorite jewels are the pearls Cleopatra tossed

              in a large cup of wine and watched them melt


Every first snowfall I can hear my brother Tom turn

              over in his sleep


What will it be like to rise from the dead?


What will people say about all the dust?      The tattoos?

              The huge piles of splintered canes?


Every spring the humble crocus & proud lily go through

              their bold calisthenics


They need deep mud to do their work


Some of us are leaders       Some are followers



John McKernan

Silence is the emblem of music's true intention


A window is often the best part of many rooms


Even now some of us are in training


We lead double lives        Like coins


You can buy a shot of whiskey or pay the library fine


Think now of the other wife      The other children      That

              city in silence across the harbor


How delicious to have two passports & dual citizenship


To think      Looking at something like an orange      Or juice

              Or marmalade       One might say       "Tomorrow

              I want you to meet my other wife       My tiny daughter

              To see my new blue Infiniti"


We don't mind it      When the room is choked with fresh

              flowers in crystal and that a ledge of music rides

               the sunlight from its casual horizon onto the oak floor



John McKernan

The invention of whiskey proves the Law of Unintended



In a few languages     The word for Hello is the word for



Where are you going Irene?     Come back    It is not even

















Copyright © John McKernan. White Whale Review, issue 5.1

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