John McKernan


Exhausted My
Father lay down motionless
On a couch in late afternoon for a nap
My brother & I playing barber
Not even our giggles & snorts could wake him up
Rubbing his hair Snipping away with mother's scissors
"We could scalp him" I said "Yes but
No" Mother swooping in whispered "Outside numskulls Outside"



My Father read
Arcane Social Security
Guides and coaxed my Mom's Dad to work nights
For two years collecting tolls
On the Iowa-Nebraska Bridge driving
Him back & forth He may have lost two banks in the 30's
Been evicted by two daughters
But his eyes opened wide each month at that unbelievable check



My father had
Been driving with my mother
Around Omaha looking for house lots to buy
Ignoring me in back July
101ยบ No AC Then he stopped at Frank's
Gave me a dollar to go inside & buy "two iced beers"
The clerk smiled his loud slow chuckle
But would not sell a beer to me "Go outside and get your Dad"



My father was
Quiet as the four fish hooks
He slowly extricated from deep
In my left hand I could almost
Hear him say the word How over & over
Then the word mercurochrome but I was stunned to forget
Any pain at all by a silence
He held within him like a large picture of the pure blue sky


The warmth inside
A snowy 2 a.m. January
Cathedral held colored candlelight
In layers of shadowed incense
Vast glass windows glowed red green blue
Filtering star & moon light Perpetual Adoration
My father & I are both kneeling in prayer
His silence more durable than these marble pillars
Buttressing a roof one hundred thirty feet into the sky
I always held my breath so it wouldn't fall