Three Poems by Eric McHenry


Misreading Pennsylvania

When the seventh salvo of silver flashes
cued the blue floaters for the seventh time,
blotting the smaller letters from their sashes,
I mispronounced “Miss Reading”—made it rhyme

with “misleading.” Pissed off her press agent,
Miss Information, who steamed out to smoke.
But the style writers covering the pageant
called it an unconscious masterstroke.

So I became the Master of Near Misses.
The work kept coming. “You must be Miss Taken,”
I transproposed to the Pork Products Princess
panel, and you should have seen Miss Bacon.

They at it up, though. It was liberating.
Within a month I didn’t even need
my malaprompter. Cheating was creating.
Believing anything I couldn’t read

I crushed my quadrifocals. People shed
their crosshairs and acquired a layer of fuzz.
Consequence came uncoupled. What I said
I saw, and what I saw was what I was.


Please Please Me

I don’t love the Beatles. No one need
ever publish or anthologize
this poem now. To those who manage to read
this far into it, I apologize.

My girlfriend has said, not knowing she’d
end up in a fifth line, “Them’s fightin’ words.”
I know. I know they gave me Alex Chilton,
who gave me the best of Big Star, through the Byrds.
I know their sound and am not ignorant of
their catalogue. I know it begins with “Love
Me Do” and takes a slow turn for the sallow,
maturing toward those white and mustard-yellow
albums everybody says are golden.

That’s why I’m confident no one will see
this stanza. By now I’ve lost even readers
of poetry, who love their losing battles,
but not quite as much as they love the Beatles.

I believe in the many primacies of taste,
and in doing nothing to dislodge its nest
from a dependable cleft in the soul’s one tree.
That’s really why I don’t love them: because
they make me feel like it’s only me,
which is so unlike what so much music does.

Larkin at Sixty

I did the South Bank Show today. It went
no worse than expected, though they spent
rather too much time talking
About four-letter Larkin for my liking.

What will survive of me will no more live
than an appendix in preservative,
and now it’s clear to me
“They fuck you up” will be my Innisfree.


About the Author:

Eric McHenry is an American Poet who teaches at Washburn University in Kansas. McHenry’s books are published by Waywiser Press. Potscrubber Lullabies, where these three poems were first published, appeared in 2006. McHenry’s second book, Odd Evening, is due in Spring 2016. “Please Please Me” made its first appearance in Harvard Review. “Misreading Pennsylvania” was first published in LitRag.