joan mcnerney, two poems

this long road

mud and muck
our feet pull themselves
into next steps so many
sharp curves, cliffs paths
leading nowhere but
decay and sorrow

the wrecked poor working
out ways to eke out a living
fighting over nickels and dimes
showing off their latest purchase

why did we dream up fine
endings as we spun our days?
how could we ever believe
that delusion? listening to
cats howling at night, seeing
flowers die at first frost

there is only constant hunger
that stabbing pain in our bellies
which makes us join long lines
for this bitter harvest of our lives


that dream which I cannot forget keeps haunting me HOW
can I unravel its meaning make sense of senseless?
when everything sorted or unsorted comes up EMPTY

logic is sinister HE wore a very white shirt starched
PERFECT and a light beige suit PERFECT white man
tall, erect, domineering, determined PERFECT

YES with a chiseled face and condescending air
as I pleaded with HIM to give me more TIME
more TIME more TIME with a difficult math test

had I been late or too slow to finish? pleading
I’ve been sick but HE said I don’t BELIEVE you are sick
just as I glanced one more TIME at the difficult math test

I left but fell on the ground either clumsy or faint
I don’t BELIEVE you are sick I don’t BELIEVE you
are sick HE repeated that austere math instructor

walking pass me other students marched single row
behind HIM but towards the end when HE was gone
a few huddled around me saying in whispers

you will get up again

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