3 Poems by Joshua McKinney

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3 Poems by Joshua McKinney

A Morphology

The wind taught me that I am not a hawk
the oak that I am not a squirrel scurries
circles up a tree

flames too
spiral trunk-bark toward the
crown of smoke thick
where the sun drowns

dark-veiled I am
not the wind the hawk I think
blames me for this

is the fault of the mind the wind
moves the smoke yet drives the fire
the moral of which is ash is

change in form aims to be always
never what it was its kind the same

First appeared in Volt 20 (2015): 187.

Prayer for My Daughter

The nervous, hurrying
bird ahead of us says
something that isn’t kill
deer. O ear of my ear,
hear what throat-flung
comes  incalculable
through bright air to bless
the continual and misspent day.
It is fair beyond my wanting
and my fear. The names for it
fail all underfoot and above.

You see its murmur
in a foreign tongue, such
strangeness as was mine
a little while, in a parking lot
where hot cars inflame
your green why’s softly
are keeping to shine. O eye
of my eye, see the looking
bird’s inquiry even here,
and eye of my eye, shut
every window with an apple tree.

First appeared in Volt 20 (2015): 188.

Small Sillion

in the meantime the earthworm’s tender
            overthrow unperceived
                        in the ground I strode on whose surface
            sensitive to touch reflects
the eye’s mute logic the invisible
            shape of smells
                        excreted castings—
            the gizzard-worked grit-
scoured ochre scored over
            the cheeks of men
                        themselves become loam

we shall

                                                each creature            
                        inside the soul
            of our own flesh

plough a small sillion

                        and unperceived

First appeared in Colorado Review 41.3 (2014): 146.


Joshua McKinney is the author of three collections of poetry: Saunter, co-winner of the University of Georgia Press Poetry Series Open Competition in 2001, and The Novice Mourner, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize in 2005, and Mad Cursive (Wordcraft of Oregon 2012). He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Saunter (Primitive Publications, 1998) and Permutations of the Gallery (Pavement Saw Press, 1996), winner of the Pavement Saw Chapbook Contest. His work has appeared widely in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, New American Writing, and many others. Other awards include The Dickinson Poetry Prize and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative American Poetry. He teaches poetry writing and literature at California State University, Sacramento. A longtime student of Japanese swordsmanship, he is a member of Senkakukan Dojo of Sacramento.

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