Poetry: Jim McGarrah


The English Professor Reflects on Career Choices

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
– Bob Dylan

My friend Matthew stuffs figs with goat cheese and bakes
delicacies from countries whose name I can’t pronounce.
We are having a party. I laugh as I drink gin and say
to no one in particular, “It doesn’t get any better that this.”
I heard that cliché an hour before I got here. A truck driver
said those exact words to some indifferent waitress
I was trying to impress with my erudite air as he handed
her a dollar bill for his burnt coffee and then vanished
into the diesel-driven night, his shadow limping after.
Now, I wonder which of us is sincere or if irony even matters
since we’ve both spent our lives hauling someone else’s freight
over miles of chopped up highways, hopped up on caffeine
and loneliness, and hungry at the wrong times.
Sometimes life smells like gasoline and cheap perfume.
What does it matter if the road is paved with asphalt or ideas?

Lunch Time at the Blue River Inn

A Wandering Jew navigates
the wilderness of duct work,
bearing green leaves on a silent journey
around avant-garde art and Betty Davis posters
like the goat of Azaziel once carried sins
into the ancient night –
without knowledge, without desire.
The cook stirs wild rice soup.
A young farmer sits on a stool
and reads a prophecy of calloused
monotony in his own palms.
Coffee cups string along the counter top,
unstrung pearls, as Jean, the waitress,
pours coffee with a trembling hand.
“I was going to be a dancer,” she says.
“fifteen years ago.” Her left eye twitches
as I roll silverware into paper napkins.
Our work ethic will nourish the noon crowd
while dreams echo around us all, like the rain
that splatters above on the tin roof and then
rolls off, disappearing in the dry, yearning earth.

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