Rachel McGahey



We pinched an hour, and the clock is older now

at dusk.  My neighbor has already called his dog.

The sidewalk cats slip in and out of sullen light.


A yellow brilliance squares the building lids

and sharpens far black foliage.  Bright beads pierce

horizon treetops, dimming slowly, snuffed out


spot by spot.  On gravel minced below my sill,

wine bottles bristle from a bin, and Spanish moss

collects like feral manes around their necks


while bicycles in fetters at the metal rack

jut angles, glinting, snarled in spidery ranks—

a few wheels gone, their stark frames mellowing


in sundown shadows.  Resting here, with elbows

on the ledge, I hold our canceled time in mind

and store it, calmest since I gave you up.





            Oklahoma, 1939


My mother, four foot ten, would teach

a room of farmer sons and snotty

toddlers, thawed by one wood stove

and tethered by McGuffey's First

Eclectic Reader:  Răb.  Ann.  hăt.

cătch.  sēe.  See Rab!  See Ann!  See! 

Rab has the cat.  Can Ann catch Rab?

She had a switch, and if they gave her

sass, believe me, she would use it.

She wouldn't take mistakes from anyone,


not even her own children. When I left

to marry John at seventeen—a leap

across the empty lentil fields

to Illinois—she sold my old piano.

Then she lived alone.  She slipped

and cracked a hip, one winter, coming home,

and no one came to call until too late.


            Chicago, 1999


Yes, I heard you call, and heard you

leave a message, twice, but couldn't

make it to the phone.  I fell, I guess—

was sitting here on the bed, and must have just

fallen over.  Fell right over, right

to the floor.  I don't know how.

I must have been here all day long—

I don't remember.  Not so young

now, John, that's all.  You didn’t

have to come from work, I'll really be all right.

Just stick it out, my mother used to say.

Tough hide, hard work, bean soup,

no salt.  John.  I can't move this side.




The excess city clings

to the Schuylkill, heaping roofs

along the river's length,

casting spans across

as horizon skyscrapers grow.

On one side's rising shore, houses stack

up streets, staggered on the steep

incline.  The towns chain tight—

Conshohocken, Miquon,


Manayunk.  A train

comes tunneling out to ride the bank

by gaping factories and brick,

by broken doors, by leafy



At Wissahickon platform,

in the harried pack, a man

trips up the boarding step

with a frayed suitcase, clawing           

for a grip.  He fills a seat.  The people gaze

no place—at Time, a purse, a fingernail,

an oval pane, a SEPTA map,

a wallet.  Dollars, cents,

receipts—he thumbs distractedly

for more, all pockets vacant.


She clips his ticket, shakes her head:

"It's not enough.  We'll ask you to get off

at Allegheny," moving by

to other rows.  The city blurs.

The train car clatters, jolts, but she

keeps ticketing, not even

reaching for a hold.


The level river runs

outside his window, brown

and low, no trouble on its changeless face.

Rachel McGahey is pursuing her MFA degree at the University of Florida.




Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Email this poem Printer friendly page

A CLOSER LOOK: John Koethe

Bruce Bennett

Jane Blue

Debra Bruce

Phillip Calderwood

Ann Cale

Michael Catherwood

Christina Daub

Nancy Devine

Paul Fisher

E. Laura Golberg

Erica Goss

Paul Grayson

Gabe Heilig

Heather Hughes

Rich Ives

Rose Kelleher

Douglas Korb

Mary Ann Larkin

Lyn Lifshin

Doris Lynch

Katie Manning

Laura Manuelidis

Bonnie Maurer

Joan Mazza

Judith McCombs

Rachel McGahey

Claire McGoff

Joe Mills

Jean Nordhaus

Scott Owens

William Page

Rhodora Penaranda

Jacklyn Potter

Oliver Rice

Elisavietta Ritchie

A.L. Rodenberg

Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Tania Runyan

David Salner

E.M. Schorb

Lynda Self

Janice D. Soderling

Jim Solomone

Jack Stewart

John Surowiecki

Sharlie West















Last Updated: Feb 22, 2020 - 12:30:13 PM

Copyright 2005 - 2020 Cook Communication.