Listening to the Book of Dirt

John McKernan

I wanted to hear

The syllables of dust

I wanted to hear

My father’s shadow

Wear the alphabet of earth

I wanted to listen

To water freeze

Below a field of snow

Glowing with its midnight blue ice

I have never minded waiting

For the tornado which will scatter

Rye Oats Wheat Weeds Alfalfa Clover

Across the whole state of Nebraska

So I can’t hear a thing

Not even my name stapled to a granite temple


John McKernan, who grew up in Omaha Nebraska, is now a retired comma herder after teaching a long time 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.