2 Poems | Jill McDonough


We can make each other happy, Harry Nilsson screams

from our speakers, and I say, Oh, Harry: no we can’t.

We turn it up, drive up the coast with the windows

down, sing every part, even the wack-ass Whoa–oa-oa

-oa-oh!s. I had never heard of Harry Nilsson, being

younger than Josey, a fact I mention as often as I can.

Like me, it never gets old. So I knew all the songs,

didn’t know they were all by one guy. This makes me

happy, makes me remember, or invent, a babysitter

who played this tape in her black Trans-Am, wore

feathered roach clips in her black feathered hair.

Probably now she’s Josey’s age. We were happy then,

we sigh sadly, when we hear ourselves remember

anything out loud. Remember when we caught all

those mackerel in the harbor, saw a hundred seals?

My two men from Cameroon, your guy on Flexeril?

You didn’t know where you started, where I began.

Too broke to go to the movies, we biked a Bustelo can

of coins over there. The ladies’ room at the Meow Mix!

The Independent, election day! The Swedish doctor brought

her perfect breasts to your house and said she loved you.

You said you didn’t care. We were happy then, we say, making

each other so happy, trying and failing to keep a straight face.

Fawn Bleat

Linda dabs on Pure Earth smell and waits in a blind,

whispers what to do once you shoot a porcupine.

One was the size of a baby seal, its chubby corpse

a five-buzzard one. Undertaker beetles, black and orange,

live in dead animal bodies, invisible to us. Problem solved.

We look online for perfect calls to imitate: Rabbit Screaming, Fawn

in Distress, Rabbit in Distress—Rabbit in Distress? It drives us

crazy. I need to hear that again, Josey says, while the rest of us

cringe and moan. I dated him in high school,

Rachel says. Linda tried out her Fawn Bleat call

by suggesting her friend try it at Mary Baker Eddy’s

coyote-haunted grave. Why not? We make the Fawn Bleat

so many times—Michael is terrific at it, Michael Kusek

is the best—Susan and Rachel send me a whole set:

Death Chamber Grunt Call. Witchy Woman. Squirrel, or

Wet Willy Box Call. And finally, my favorite: Squawler.

Jill McDonough is the author of Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), Where You Live (Salt, 2012), and Reaper (Alice James, 2017). The recipient of three Pushcart prizes and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry. She teaches in the MFA program at UMass Boston. Her fifth poetry collection, Here All Night, is forthcoming from Alice James Books.