Friday, 8 April 2022

Five Poems by Janet McCann



I wonder if the trees mind being

Forced to wear these tortured forms,


A box, a sphere, a corkscrew,

Along a perfect path of white gravel.


Do they dream of rogue branches

Poking out between trim tailored ones,


Grabbing the butts of tourists

Who stroll by with Pepsi cans?


Do they dream of woods swallowing

The castle, the kiosk, the refreshment stand,


Of a healed earth, all its conflicts gone,

Its nasty fiefdoms, under a green blanket?




Masked, smiles do not register, or

Grimaces.  Or teeth, or lack of them.

New styles develop on these false

Protective fronts. A jewelled rose,

A sneer, a snake.  Here are two cats

Sitting together.  I sit in the corner

In my folded nursey mask, as usual

Part of the wallpaper.  The music

Though dim is a bit edgy, even

Lurid.  Maybe soon we will all

Jump up and dance, the cats,

The jewels, the American flag,

Even the old nurse. We’ll be

Bobbing around six feet apart,

Nobody touching anyone.

For no one is dying here today;

That Gremlin with blood running

Down his arm was only grazed,

And he’s quickly taken away.



Just Wondering



Is my heart's altar empty?

 I can see it up close

 like the priest's hands in the online Mass

 the white cloth spread and the Chalice shining

 and the blunt chubby fingers with the close clipped nails.

but is there any other presence in my room 

or is my heart's altar empty

Has age stilled the breath, the wind

 that came in from outside? 

Have the symbols split from their meanings

 flying off in different directions,

 the cross becoming merely

 the place of the accident where someone died?

 Is my heart's altar empty? Are these only the shadows of clouds?

 Is there nowhere my tired flint can start a fire, and if I call, will anything respond?

 Is my heart's altar empty

 or is it that with my dull vision can I dimly

still see the presence and the light?



3 a.m., wakened to diffuse sadness

After a rocky dream of childhood.

I prefer stories with happy endings,

They must pretend to reality though

And then there’s, hey, what’s happy?

 Cinderella learning princesshood?


Or maybe the old lady with cats

Who converses with them, but she has

No story, only bits of others’ stories,

Like the blankets she knits

From leftover ends of yarn, angora,

Nylon, cotton, blue, purple, green.


Still, it’s a blanket, and the cats

Sprawl at her feet, and it is not 3 a.m.

The art is whatever you frame, the world

Is what remains outside. And if you cut

A corner off the frame? And if the art

Drifts out of the frame across the wall?


Frame for me a few moments of light,

But true the frame and make sure the glue holds.





A flash and the tube light darkens.

I sit at the table, perplexed.

Is it the tube itself, or perhaps

The current up there.  The fan

Does not work either.  I sigh,


Find two lamps in the dusty garage,

Brush off spiderwebs and bugs.

The old bulbs glow when I plug in

The cords, and two golden circles

Intersect on my desk.  I like this light.


It is mandorla, the eye of the soul,.

Mandorla, almond, the shape of the

Shared space.  Or is it Vesica Piscis,

The fish in the overlap, from Euclid,

Sacred geometry taken by Christians,


Or two young lovers walking in the rain,

Side by side, under their umbrellas?

Or maybe just part of a Venn diagram,

Waiting for the third circle,

The one which will clarify everything.


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. Most recent poetry collection: THE CRONE AT THE CASINO (Lamar University Press,  2014).

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