Today I saw a heavy set woman
Wearing a gray felt hat
Like the one father wore
The night we drove him
To St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Past the train station we drove
And father asked, “Are we going
On the train to Chicago?
I like Chicago.”
There is nothing here in West Virginia
But coal which the Governor crows
As lighting the temple fires in Japan.
Lord. It is cold in Nebraska.
The weather report tells the world
It is fourteen degrees below zero.
Oh the kamikazes in Kyoto!
I have buried a part
Of my past, of what is “me.”
In the loneliest coal mine
In Pocahantas county
Not far from the Virginia line.
They load the coal into hoppers
All day and all night.
The trains move slowly south.
To New Orleans to be loaded
On barges to be carried
To Japanese shrines.
Sometimes one can put the past
On a barge, on down the river,
Out to the sea, all the way
Over to Tokyo? I wave a pink hanky.
Strangle it slant eye. Strangle it.
Read the introduction to feature poet John McKernan by Founding Editor Askold Melnyczuk entitled Where is My Lariat?: The Poetry of John McKernan. (1975)