Four poems by Joan McNerney


Did you see that woman falling
from the escalator at Grand Central
Terminal?  Lying in dark circles of
blood?  Begging the police not to
tell anyone?  She would be alright
when she got up.

What about her?

Did you see that woman screaming
in front of the newsstand? Hear
those screams of hatred spewing
from her face?  Notice her eyes….
burning slits of light?  Maybe
she can’t be tranquilized anymore?

What about her?

Did you see that woman walking
across the street?  Wearing those
special shoes?  All the toes
on her right foot cut off?  Isn’t
it awful?  Watch her getting on
the bus, all that pain on her face.
How much longer can she keep going?

What about her?

Did you see that woman?  Ashen
and still as a corpse.  Lying
by the side of the Palisades
Highway?  Her hair so grey,
her legs so straight. Lying
in the short grass.  She was
always running off schedule
Always trying to be on time.

What about her?


The Waitress


Sally thought everything was
up to luck and she had zero.
Her chances got swept
away with yesterday’s trash.

Every day working in this
dumpy dinner slinging hash.

There were the regulars
who knew her name and
left good tips.  They had
no place else to go.

Her feet swelled up at
the end of lunch rush.

Sally wiped tables filling
ketchup bottles, salt shakers,
sugar jars while staring out the
window at pulsing rain.

Waiting a half hour for the bus,
winds tangling her hair.

She stopped at the market to
bring a few groceries home.
Struggling now to open her door,
only cold rooms would greet her.



She hoped some would leave,
rise above dirty factory gates
past plumes of smoke spewing
from the cement plant.

Occasionally when discussing
great American novels, the walls
shook. Ravines were blasted
for more rocks to crush into powder.

She wished they would not become
clerks for soul-less chain stores or
cooks in fast food joints where
smells of burning grease lingered.

What was the use of teaching literature
and poetry to these children who would
soon grown listless?  Their spirits grinded
down like stones in the quarry.


The Blue God

The blue god of war
is so strong
he can twist trees
with the tip of his tongue.

You better not defy him
scream at him
lie to him.
He’ll explode and beat
the hell out of you.

He lives on nothing
will die for nothing
makes us children
shivering all night
crying in empty winds
turning our tears to ice.

The blue god of war
is so strong
northern winds bow to his will.

He doesn’t dig
your moaning
and groaning.
You better shut up or he’ll
make mincemeat out of you.

He laughs at everything
has respect for nothing
makes us afraid to fight
when he spits in our faces
turning our tears to ice.

So we watch in silence
waiting for the coming light
when he will hold us
in his burning hands
and we will be born twice
once by fire
once by ice.


Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Warriors with Wings, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 

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