The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Jim McGarrah

The VFW Rededicates the War Monument
On the Courthouse Lawn on Memorial Day



An honor guard from the local chapter, old men
bent from time, hard work, and memories, fires
a salute from even older rifles, seven times three.

Uniforms pressed and creased neatly,
They unfurl the flag and snap it in place above
the marble names carved at perfect attention.

The gestures crisp, the sun bright, the words
sincerely spoken all bring the crowd to tears.
A solitary trumpet sounds the final note of Taps.

The dead, not looking on from anywhere
and with no recall of why they died or why, despite
their sacrifice, the list grows longer, remain dead.



Jim McGarrah

Poem About Writing a Novel


Every morning I sit at my desk and think about writing
the great American Novel, not the ones that Wal-Mart sells
or drugstores place on swirling metal racks, not Fifty Shades
of anything or with a protagonist private detective, especially
no ghost-written sci-fi apocalypse or daddy-diddled me thriller,
but rather a simple story that may benefit future generations
if we decide again to ever teach children to read more than
a sound-byte on a gray screen.

I’d like my novel to be chock full of leitmotifs and metaphors
with characters that develop and a plot unafraid to complicate.

It’s possible that my novel will contain some mystery, perhaps
a snowstorm in the summer or a woman who looks like Jesus.

In keeping with contemporary and mostly postmodern rules,
the hero may be male or female or a combination thereof,
short or tall, thin or fat with some low self-esteem issues,
and born into any race so long as I don’t appropriate culture
from one other than my own.

My novel will go on and on for several hundred pages appearing
as a slice of ordinary life, but with a dark resonance that may never
be fully understood, just as my own life, by neither reader nor me.
After a long struggle, the book will win some sort of prize
and be published to critical acclaim. Sales will falter quickly to mark
its brilliance and I will be forced by poverty to work as a teacher
in some prestigious program for young writers of mediocre talent
until death brings me the fame I deserve.




JIM McGARRAH is the author of ten books. His latest collection of Poems The Truth About Mangos was published by Lamar University Press this year. McGarrah's poems and essays have appeared most recently in Bayou Magazine, Cincinnati Review, and North American Review among others.



Previous | Next