Two Poems

A God

Thumb-heel at the back of my neck, nails in my stubbly nape,
You wrench my head back and my mouth wide open.

Usually I’m no fiery vessel; usually I’m as unburning
As a stone-pile in dawn frost.

But you tear me from tongue-root to pubic-bone.
Lightning-rod, I spark and flare.  Even my knees glow.

O incandescence.
You want to speak all the time now, I not at all.


(Sonnet for a) Blue Devil

after Cruikshank

Noon, but you don’t fret about your shadow:
The Lord’s Day sky is wan and damp.  Naturally,
I’m late—born that way (four days).  At the window
Table, you tap your goat’s-foot.  Unnaturally
Red, your goatee burns, a single flame.
A look of no surprise (What were you
Expecting?  Horns?  A pitchfork?), you’re the same:
Listening like a confessor.  But this time through,
I sin.  I omit jeering imps, and black-
Clad beadle, and—head-strapped, mallet in fist—
Coffin-maker, his burden on his back:
All your boys.  Then, over eggs, you list
Your favorite snares—the tongue, the pen—for me:
I feel a chill where my soul used to be.

—James Scannell McCormick, Rochester, MN