John McKernan

Winter 1964, Fremont, Nebraska


Years ago

Our family came here

One 4th of July


A small boy drowned that day

His parents both drunk

My father stayed the day but never came again


Today the gravel quarry lake is frozen white

Except for one ring of blue

With a solitary duck that seems asleep


The bird's feathers   

Red & blue & green

A species of some rainbow


The ice is thick only along the shore

Covered with snow

A full moon still up there in the blue sky


What am I doing here I say out loud

I scare myself a lot of times now

Looking at this frozen lake


If I would walk out

Onto cracking ice

Towards that bird


I would definitely sink

Remembering the firework show

Those calm umbrella explosions


Of red & white & blue

That chocolate cake with ice cream

My father's smile    My mother's laugh

John McKernan—who grew up in Omaha Nebraska in the middle of the USA—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 titled 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.



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