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CROSS COUNTRY TRIP
By Janet McCann

 

 

CROSS COUNTRY TRIP

Signs on the highway, next exit
The marionette museum!  The bargain outlet!
The ice cream factory! But you do not turn

And you think, maybe you need never exit,
Just ride down this highway, stopping at
Oases of gas and keychains and donuts

And tasteless burgers, even sleep there
At the rest stops, start up again at dawn.
Once when I’d committed to something unpleasant

I was told, “You need to think of an exit strategy,”
but I couldn’t, and finally the enterprise collapsed
Leaving me gasping on the shoulder.  If I kept driving

I would get used to the inrush and outrush of strangers
At each stop, prefer one donut to another,
Speak to the vendors like old friends. In the car

I would listen to the world. Cruise control
Would allow me never to have to speed or slow
And I’d be aware that if I wanted to talk with someone

I could, though probably I would never do it.
Year after year of driving, until the final exit
I n the middle of nowhere, highway’s end.

 

 

REGRETS IN B FLAT

I understand the drive to hoard,
Hoard anything: cats, newspapers,
Every book I ever read, buttons, photos--

I am not exactly a hoarder, you can
Get around my house without crawling
Over boxes, but the rooms are round

Because the corners are full, and there are bags
Of clothes in closets marked “Salvation Army”
That never seem to get there, and no one

Anyway would want the big pink robe
( I certainly didn’t) or the Tarot Deck
That’s missing the Queen of Cups.

It is sad and hard to move out of a life
And into something else, whether the future
Chose you or you it. Last night I dreamed

All the walls fell away, and all my things
Went sailing out in a swirling greeny wind.
I lay on the floorboards in the empty room

Feeling bereft and free, without even a pillow.

 

 

TO THE DESIGNER

the world must be a touch screen.
anything and anyone you want.
would it be boring.  touch the gray sky and say blue.
dial back yesterday and the children’s parade
with drums and horns. touch your face, call back your hair.
lift your tired breasts.  now it is 1945
and daddy is back from the war, gray faced but whole.
everything has a shimmer on it.  you can be in Russia
for the turn of the old century.  does it matter,
this shimmering surface.  will some day
the screen go blank or will it just
go on like this for you, the world an unformed welter
forever and every day. not a day
but a fish-flicker of time, of endless here.

 

 

THE GRANDFATHER I NEVER MET

I finish William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience
as my grandfather did one hundred years ago.
The book was new, he had to cut the pages .
He must have hurried, some pages are ill-cut,
some pages carry a slash of the facing page.

It says 4/13/16 in his round hand.
My grandmother would have been pregnant
with my father, would have birthed him
when the leaves turned. As he read, he would have
called her in to read her passages

which he marked with one, two, or three checks
depending on importance. She was pretty
and vague, she would have nodded,
setting forth plates, thinking about the baby
inside her, worrying about money.

He would have read it every night until
he’d finished, reading bits and writing comments:
Read this. True. This is very human.
He’d almost drowned in a swamp when he was ten,
I have the article. When he was fifty-one

he killed himself, using both gun and rope.
His father was an alcoholic butcher,
my father was an alcoholic chemist
and this man, in the middle, a nondrinking
Methodist, and they all failed one another.

In the wedding photo grandfather ‘s young face
is beautiful,  gentled by innocence
and faith. My grandmother beside him
luminous too, the chaste pearls
beneath the lush corona of her hair.

I never met him but I knew her well;
she lived forty more years in poverty
and bitterness, dodging a child’s questions
as she uncoiled the golden braid each night
and set her pearls—she kept them! on this book.


 

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include KANSAS QUARTERLY, PARNASSUS, NIMROD, SOU'WESTER, AMERICA,  CHRISTIAN CENTURY, CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE, NEW YORK QUARTERLY, TENDRIL, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. She has co-edited anthologies with David Craig, ODD ANGLES OF HEAVEN (Shaw, 1994), PLACE OF PASSAGE (Story Line, 2000), and POEMS OF FRANCIS AND CLARE (St. Anthony Messenger, 2004). Most recent poetry collection: THE CRONE AT THE CASINO (Lamar University Press,  2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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