Three Poems | by John McCracken


In the waiting room, this docudrama on mute
is showing a real life re-enactment of
a home invasion.

I’m sitting on my hands wanting my
mother to come out and tell us something
different already.

I am ten years old and for some reason
my favorite movie is Halloween.
It is summer.

With closed eyes,
I fantasize about sneaking past nurses,doctors, and guards.
While sunlight cuts through the shades,
Jamie Lee Curtis tells me to stop chasing her, but I can’t.

She is hiding
in the tubes and wires
that keep my grandfather alive
and I want to cut her out.

I place my hand to my face,
to feel the plastic mold
gluing itself to my skin

I cut through tubes
with wires tangled
and blood flowing
across his gown.

This blood smells different:
a mix of stale coffee
candy corn
and the dust left on VHS’s
underneath his nightstand.

I taste static when I open my eyes.
Each time the tape skips,
it skips for years on end.




When you whisper sweet nothings all I hear is you speaking in tongues but

it is the smell of rhododendrons
that keeps me awake
with you falling asleep
with your hands
tucked away
neatly at your sides,
pulling at these
turquoise velvet vines
that crawl between
your hands and mine,
and I can tell there
is something sour
about the way you
sleep with your fingers crossed
and your eyes rolled back,
and your tongue softly twitching,

I watch your shadow sit up and pour a glass of water in the kitchen while you lay stiff in the bed and I wonder why we need these candles burning in the first place if you just leave the lights on, and I wonder if the whole world breathes when we do or if is just our upstairs neighbors gasping along, and I wonder if your knuckles get sharper can we sell your body to science before you die as paid time off, and I wonder what black ice looks like under a white light, and I wonder if I can still see your silhouette pirouette when I close my eyes, and I wonder if they still call you Cottonmouth, and I wonder if the dreams you have make you consult a woman who reads tea leaves and has a slight cough, I wonder why it’s called a grave mistake when you meant to die, and I wonder if this is another lazy Sunday where we leave the car running and sleep in the garage.




Monster Mash

There is a cartoon witch
dj’ing in my parking lot.

Her cauldron rises
at the sound

of small devils playing saxophones
on her shoulders.

A three-legged dog with devil eyes
scratches at her heels

while a black cat with a chipped tooth
moves around the edge of the black pot,

I watch her play a four on the floor beat
on her casio keyboard.

Beneath the howling,
the bellowing,
and the rising spirits in her cauldron,
I see fear in her eyes.

She mouths the words to me,
tells me she is doomed to an eternity

of playing trap beats to suburban
nineteen year-olds, and only true love’s kiss can set her free.

I go to the window
and there is no one.The bar next door
left the patio radio on.

I shut the window
and taste sulfur on my lips.




John McCracken’s work has appeared in Glass Mountain, Panoplyzine, and Yucky Poetry Reading Series. He is the Co-Founder of Rare Byrd Review, a journal for young writers and artists. He hosts a podcast interview series that focuses on local writers through Tone Madison Magazine in Madison, WI. He can be found on Twitter @jmcjmc451