The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Kathleen McGookey

Instructions for My Imposter


Do not burn bridges with the school secretaries or the

librarian who lets you use her copy machine. You’d drown

in a minute if they didn’t keep the boy’s migraine pills in a

drawer, unauthorized. At home, you’ll need sharpened

pencils, dollar bills, and a place to store permission slips.

People call and hang up all day long. When stillness fills the

house, scrub honey off the counter, sweep sugar off the

floor, and glue the yellow gauze butterfly back together.

After school, the girl drops it in the Goodwill bin. Almost

everyone will speak to you from the living room while you

wash dishes. Don’t try to sleep when you’re mad. Instead,

spread peanut butter on bread, wait for sunrise’s blurred silk,

and make a list of what you’ll accomplish today. At the top,

write Forget About Time. It doesn’t care one bit about you,

while three kinds of blue--wind, water, sky--rush past.



Kathleen McGookey

Why I Did It


I was lonely tired bored broke. I was hungry sad wistful

scared. I was nauseous. I was numb. Who can think

straight under those conditions? It was snowing. It was

sleeting. It was raining cats and dogs. I didn’t plan to. No

one stopped me. No one got down on their knees and

begged, especially not you. I felt a fever coming on. I

wanted something pretty for a change. Because the doe in

the road was mostly dead when I swerved around it while it

rubbed its chin on the yellow center line, eyes still open.

The car ahead pulled over. Because I am not the type to

stroke the deer’s neck and speak to it, even softly, while it

died. Are you kidding me? Nothing in that dark morning

needed me. I’d already taken the van in twice to fix that

rear-wheel squeak and it still squeaked. You’d think I’m the

only one doing chores around here. I felt like I’d just given

blood--dizzy and sweaty and thirsty. I dreamed I died at

work. The opportunity presented itself. I’m not getting any

younger. I learned from a movie. No one was watching me.




KATHLEEN McGOOKEY has published three books of poems, most recently Heart in a Jar (White Pine Press). Her work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West.  She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.



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