James McKee


MP3 Audio File LinkHear James McKee read “Confessional” here.

Friends, I’m having one of those days.
Everything’s bad and getting worse.

It’s obvious by now that for all the valiant
and selfless striving, most of us won’t

change fast enough for it to matter.
The trash, the cars, the meat, the water:

do your part or don’t, trust science
or that guy on YouTube, it’s the same. Friends,

as a poet I shouldn’t be writing this, but
my mood’s in no mood to worry about

how it makes me sound. Well, challenge accepted.
Ask yourselves this: what were you expecting

when you breezed in here past a title
like the one above? Something squalid and personal,

all binges, breakdowns, and performative trauma?
Sorry to disappoint, but in my disclosure

the catastrophe on display is you, not me.
Fact is, friends, I’m ashamed for our species,

and for most of us as individuals too.
I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. Boom.

So you can understand why I’m always
coming back here, this bright noplace

where I’m never too proud to remember
kindnesses shown me when I was poor,

or lonely, or foolish, by someone with nothing
to gain. Because here, the rinsed light of morning

never quite fades from the view out over
green quiltworked fields, orchards, a river

sweeping grandly off toward the sea beyond.
And today you came, which makes me glad

because why shouldn’t it? It does. It will.
Here I wish you, I wish us all, well.

James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, New World Writing, The Ocotillo Review, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

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