Three Poems by Robert McCarthy


Countrymen of Bones


Wretches of the earth we are, all of us,

here on earth, as it will be in heaven;

abraded, displayed, physically alive

but civically expired; fungible,

porous, the half-invisibles, we are

the see-throughs, the static-y holograms,

hardly more than interferences of light.


Our papers not in order, we share

the same face: half-vizard, half semblant skull.

Wretches of the earth, we interiorize

our skins, those deformations from ideal

types our declinations a cardinal sin,

repeated failures to accomplish brightness.


Patched, pealed, we loll, chained, in chain-linked,

weather-reproofed bungalows,

in tents made of bedsheets, in foot-sore

caravans, ditches, in newly dug graves.

We rehearse our exequies in cathedral

basements, in lightless rooms where broken food

is compiled, dished-up, ‘til the gorge rises.


The cold-slowed blood turning, our catarrhal

voices left behind in hallways, vestibules,

in corridors and entryways; the footprints

we abandoned as we struggled up

from the sea are blotted out by tidal

sweepings, susurrus of wet sand and wave.


Elective affinity between ourselves

and force; we its nourishment are, natural

food and teleology, fueling

the hyperbolic fecundity

of violent murder; the flaying

and flensing of our tedious, detested

bodies, abominated even by the Furies

who pursue us nevertheless, having

mistaken our identities (even so,

we beckon and beseech the kindly ones).

Monotonous desolation our result,-

or has in us resulted; force’s object

and incitement, our flesh its addiction

its irresistible target, its plaything.


A mark is placed by a name. Thus cancelled

is the name’s bearer. Our faults in our stars,

ourselves, in the darkened countries of our skins

that we must live in, deported to blackface

homelands, bantustans, banlieues,

interim Guantanamos. Our first flights,

our airport introductions, return us

to Tartarus just lately escaped from.

We bed down in former earthquakes;

we spread our blankets in stratigraphies

of coprolites. We the wretches who have

lost our shadows, stolen, bartered, earmarked

for the abyss. Present, we are alive

but undetected, the ghosted ones

they pretend not to see, until pretense

becomes reality, an accustomed blindsight,

holes in the fabric of being, we,

our personalities, lovely differences,

idiosyncrasies, quenched, snuffed-out,

a too-expensive luxury, candle-wicks

stinking of fatted smoke. Ours a prosthetic

existence, though each prosthesis connects

only to another. Our mouths empty

of words, of breath; haggard teeth biting

on air our betters have claimed the retail

of. A corpse in being, a zero sum—

witches nibble pieces from my face.






Outside the barred gate,

under the shedding tree,

you wait,


moss-stucco’d garden

gnome) all but


Suiter not rejected

so much as overlooked,

un-denoted, never a part

of the longish queue

here to regale the she

all, notionally, are here

to woe, or woo.

An imprecise presence,

yours, submergent, a shape

in topiary perhaps,

trained by clips and tugs,

standing ‘neath a window’s

partial view interior,

of loveseat, fireplace,

and happiness, as you

might think it was, scarlet

bright, plucking from its heart

some arrow reciprocal.

While in your own heart,

for sorrow, its fellow

lodged, showing what another

reaped, though not so lyrical.




Spring and All, 202_


Spring and all.

The pure products of America

have gone crazy, and all the hospitals

contagious,-- from which the pure products have

been warned to stay away, not to visit,

to steer clear of, to bide awhile alone,

at home, there’s no place like it after all,

like a womb perhaps to shelter in no

not like a tomb you wander in from room

to room to room.

                                    April is a meadow

you are fenced from, protected from your harsh

realm, razor-wired, ditched against dioxin

breaths, the budding trees keeping their distances,

tender of their leaf-wombs, green hairs unfledged,

they shrink from your dry-cough-punctuated

passage, bearer of a blight or rust, bloody

flux, gloved touch gently parting branch from branch,

though still they shy away wind-whipped, boughs

shaken, seeking to dispel exhalation

of corruption from mouths that fill the air

with what will not disappear, miasmal

trails, droplets laden with emissions you

imagine a noxious mephitic smell

from caught breaths trapped behind a paper mask,

a soughing smokey crepitation

from bed-queues of the unventilated

barging white-garbed corridors, a sighed gasp,

a gulp, a sound like dice rattling in a cup.



Alone on my terrace,

two-dozen floors above

earth’s flat potholed surface,

I watch this season strain

to succeed its winter

predecessor, as if

I were predeceased or

something other, a male

Rapunzel locked away,

with insufficient hair,

dumbly peering at Spring’s

display of specimens:

ice-glazed skeleton weeds

under glass, hibernal ghost

grasses. How far away

yonder seems to recede,

the park, the thicket trees

thinning, branches unlaced,

gaps in the dendritic

frieze the axons shout across

vainly, for the void is

interstellar, the cold

stars gone black, winking out.

A sessile point alone

I root in my terrace

squat while suspect air drifts

in from Hampstead Heath, from

the Dry Tortugas, the veldt,

from the ice at the bottom

of the world contagion.

The street’s dark flat of asphalt

to the horizon leaps.

The broad river becomes

a sinuous green string,

my view measures itself

in parsecs, in blue-shifted

vanishings. This is Spring

now; new life no longer

simple, inevitable.

Does earth still spin around

the sun? Or is motion

the illusion, the merest

side-to-side disturbance,


idling in place?



Spring stealths in, brings a new sort of silence:

no voices echoing street-wards, no traffic

commotions, blown horns, the drifting fragments

of radio; birds and chirring insects

more voluble now, or more easily heard;

on streets a mere dusting of solitaires.

Fragile, violable man. Better to huddle,

each, in his cave of steel. Mine, a rectangle

thirty-six paces from side to side to side to side

(if I hug the walls, and I do, I do).

Meat-animal karma; caged so tightly

I can barely turn ‘round.

Platonic shadows

flicker, silhouettes of iterations,

copies of copies so threadbare the light

shines through all that worn-out pallid matter.

And see-through self salutes the ghosted other;

white-walkers; stutter-stepping planetoids

tracing ellipsoids on sidewalks, street corners.

Visors down, the eyes suspicious above

smokey masks; dragon steam escaping from

notional nostrils, presumed mouths, each self

encased in a droplet-shaped thought-balloon

of doubt.

“Viewing,” not “seeing” or “touching,”

those are the words – the minimum social

distance is twice the length of a sword.


Shuttered playgrounds, abandoned swing-sets

fluttered by gusts of wind, spragged by ghost feet.

And streets are lined with anchorites; plinths judder,

lofty, into deceitful air. And I feel

as if made of estrangements, losing substance,

pieces pared away, thinned out, weightless, prey

to the viewless winds. Like the citizen-

bodies on the sidewalks, hides or husks flensed,

membranes leached of dimension, runny

watercolors painted on onion skins

that flake away, avoidant specimens,

tissue-culture slices sandwiched between

glass plates.

Meanwhile, on TV, hazmat-suited

praetorians surround the shrinking

perimeter, like the ice-wall presumed

to engirdle our flat-earth magisterium.

O protect me from edges, folk-science


A voice inside my head

begins to mutter: Stay safe, slay the stranger!

And I wonder, isolate (the meat-lockers

chocker, the cemeteries replete), how

soon it will be until words fail me;

how long before I forget how to speak?






Robert McCarthy is a writer living in New York City. He prefers to use formal means to achieve lyric ends. Robert has published poetry in The Alchemy Spoon (Summer 2020) and Dreich Magazine (S3/D4, August 2021). His work has also appeared in the Fall 2021 issues of Yours, Poetically and Neologism Poetry Journal; and will appear in forthcoming issues of Words & WhispersCelestite Poetry and the Fahmidan Journal.


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