Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet. She is the author of the poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired, 2021). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Muddy River Poetry Review, Impspired Magazine, The New Verse News, Chiron Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in teaching and a BA in political science from the University of Louisville. She and her husband live in Louisville.

Twenty Years

have passed since the morning fell to rubble
and the Hudson River filled with dust.
Since conversations fell like teardrops into
night-shadowed Lower Manhattan and the air
collected dreams between Church Street
and the West Side Highway. 

Who have we become.
Such hate. Such indifference. 
Such unnecessary meanness.
Typed-out insults behind screens,
then shared memes of God and prayers.
The ghosts are watching us.

The firetruck from Ladder Company 3 
still shines its sacrifice. Red as those men’s 
hearts inside the ash. And the seventy-two 
restaurant workers in Windows on the World 
never knew that day that they would turn a symbol.

Who have we become.
We left our humanity in the smoke 
above the steps of St. Peter’s.
Donated our minds to conspiracy.
Forgot that love and concern make us 
just as human as seething anger.
The ghosts are watching us.

It hurts to find poetry among 
these shards of glass. Below the 
blue of sky returned from burning.
It hurts to remember there was a moment, 
somewhere on the debris-covered sidewalks, 
somewhere below the crushed store signs 
and littered scraps of office paper,
the mass grave made from tombstone-steel, 
when we all felt the relief of sharing decency,
the clear breath of forgetting our corners. 

Sometimes the Sunshine Scares Me

Not in the I-wish-I-was-a-vampire sense.
Or worse, the 
I’ve-convinced-myself-I-am-a-vampire sense.
That lost-its-umph goth cliché,
as passé as parental controls
and a need for me now
…to have long-term goals.
Sometimes the sunshine scares me.

It reminds me I should be living time
a bit better. How I used to back when
I was dumb enough to truly live. 
Like when I went skydiving
and got things other
than ears pierced. Tattoo
branded no-care nineteen.
Went out dancing ’til the moon 
went to bed before me
instead of sitting weight-prints
into comfort couches,
butt-pressed into mediocrity.

I should learn more names of trees.
and which trees the names belong to.
I prob. should know all the rules
to soccer and football. And care 
enough to care that I don’t.
I never learned origami. 
Or how to snowboard. Not that I need to,
but they seem like things to know how to do.

Sometimes the sunshine scares me
because when it rains, 
putting things off feels more okay.
And feeling off feels more okay.
But when I’m given a clock
and I still don’t learn
to knit. Or purl.
Or learn to like bleu cheese,
or yearn to learn to like bleu cheese,
go to Yellowstone,
see Pearl Jam in person,
never had never-worry money,
never used Algebra,
understood how to do Algebra in the event 
I ever had a use for Algebra,
or ridden a motorcycle, or given a damn 
I haven’t ridden a motorcycle,
it’s all a bit more noticeable. 

Sunshine ups the volume of the ticking,
the inertia, the closing-in. 
The never-dones, the coulda-been-funs,
the undrank drinks, and ungone trips,
the followed-close scripts,
the why-on-earths, and wasn’t-worths.
the what-abouts, the inside shouts.
Porch-swing sorting time-to-thinks.
Constant worries, those times I blinked.
These now-confronting time punts 
in quiet shrills of gut-sinks.
Sometimes the sunshine scares me.

Gimme Those Good Nights

Gimme those good nights.
Those where ya wanna eat nights.
Those you decide this time, dammit, nights.
Those couch slouch, 
messy hair, 
bowl o’ ice cream share, 
watch something dumb on TV, 
holes-in-socks nights.
Coz those are the best nights.

Don’t want those constantly 
complex nights.
Those vexed, 
eternally perplexed, 
full-of-fights nights.
Those indecisive, 
shortsighted, 
always in crisis,
mixed up, 
ain’t-nothing-but-needin’-to-fix-us nights. 
Coz they lead to goodbye nights.

Gimme those mm-mm-mm love nights.
Those comfy-cliché, feel-good-touch nights.
Those when-things-go-wrong-
I-have-somewhere-I-belong nights,
those I’ll-have-all-your-strong- 
to-lean-on-when-I-cry—all’s-alright nights.
Coz when things get rough,
and they do,
and when days get tough,
and they will,
we’ll need nights 
when our We 
is somehow enough 
to help us 
get through.

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