Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the author of the poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired, 2021). Her work appears in Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, Chiron Review, Hobo Camp Review, Impspired Magazine, ONE ART, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Sarah is a teacher by trade and by joy. She and her husband divide their time between Kentucky and Ohio. 


after Allen Ginsberg


I saw the best hearts of my generation destruct under the weight of self-focus, blood-let, suspended, palpitating through the loneliness of days, looking for some numb to chill all feeling, anxious, insecure screen-squeezers seeking validation thumb to thumb
in their cozy emoji ecosphere,
who formed rock bands with neighbor kids, drumming in the velvet underground of their parents’ basements, tripping punk wires into the clash of night and daybreak,
who discussed Keynesian economic theory vs. Adam Smith, Ayn Rand bullshit at a university with a tuition tag that guaranteed lifelong indentured servitude for the privilege of a night-sob, crap-job degree,
who spritzed up, sparkle-polish glitzed up, knee-high-boot zipped up; danced sweaty and sexy, then lay smiling closed-eyed, open-thighed on some guy’s apartment couch,
who got high off holding game controllers, transitioned from Tetris, Minesweeper puzzle soaks to new virtual machine gun brain cell savagery, in a fog to the world that’s real around them,
who walked with signs for justice, tired, scarred, and crying, laying flowers upon the vigils, holding hands to stop the sirens and those stops that led to violence, while the closed-eared
around them held chosen-blindness fists.

who transitioned too easily from seeing friends in Friday fun out-on-towning, downing shots and laughing in pool halls, to posting look-at-me, look-at-me, look-at me selfies and no longer watching live-shots of a blood moon shine its awe.
who baked themselves in tanning bed coffins, diving into the throes of image, painting eye-lined, blushing caricatures, better-version doppelgangers sashaying cute-shoed toward the crowd,
who liked to show they got game, with promises of constellation evening precursor kisses and the sticky-sweet afterward I’ll-call-you-soons,
who talked Indy music through tongue piercings and eyebrow, nipple, lip, nose, clad in mohawk-pink-haired individuality or goth-black lipstick, exactly as all their friends did, chilling barefoot on the carpet.
who harmonized on mountain curves in South-bound tasty road trip, wearing young-fun spaghetti strap freedom, jamming a cappella in five-girl-crowded Hondas dreaming sand dune carefree future.
who claimed to have wokeness like the young folks, but did so through keyboard clicks of judgment while sitting comfy in their squirrel socks, watching others march the streets. Name-call, cookie-crumb army of stay-in brethren fighting the good fight with each impassioned typo,

who wrote poetry to calm their nightmares, instead cementing them into sour tear duct canyons, where insomnia-scraping memories toppled upon each other into a mosaic of moonlit broken ventricles,
who pointed shame-on-you fingers at those old gas-guzzle driving, cheap coffee folks, as they sipped superiority through five-buck fair trade mochas while shouting about economic inequality and awaiting the arrival of their latest cardboard box,
who struggled through their heartbreak, the hurt from their own stories, crying under arms too strong; their pain would stay a river, blue current always frothing,
who stumbled into the kitchen ringing in another New Year, promising the beer in their hand that this would be their year for better scruples.
who rewrote monologues on their computers from pages they’d scribbled in the park because trees made things read less stupid. And warm grass felt like creative freedom.
who stomped into schools with pomp and purpose to tell off their kids’ teachers for having expectations, with shiny I’m-right teeth, mommas electrified with argument, no room for wrong or nuance.
who inhaled menthols in the tired light of dusk, blowing smoke up their own asses, patting one another’s backs in the prickly pear of know-all.
who worked without a pension under boulder-weight of debt, choosing food instead of doctors, as they fought through feels-like failure.
who cared for aging parents, crying fear into the nighttime, figuring out the cost of childcare, measuring out the price of hope.
who raised their kids to believe in their perfection, sanctified umbrella protection, shielded from every drop of pushback.
who swallowed pills to rid their stomach knots beneath rainbows of bygone promise, fly-to-the-moon dreams puddling muddy on the concrete, wondering what happened to the possible,


What wreck of a people chose self above all, stuffed good of humanity, like lemons up the holes of chickens?
Joy! Disgust! Evil! Broken! Floating glaciers through the rhythm! Fathers catching breath inside their parked cars! Children playing in the sprinklers! Workers standing in line to eat!
Joy! Joy! Gut-punch of Joy! Joy the dying! Forced-teeth Joy! Joy the guillotine bucket!
Joy the can’t-grip pegs! Joy the still-there bruises hiding between legs! Joy whose refuge is unknown! Joy the architect of light! Joy the ever-sought but hell to find!
Joy whose messiness is refined! Joy whose disease is that it tempts! Joy whose garden stays unkempt! Joy who loves with smiles and shame! Joy who hopes that Self remains.
Joy who swallows joy’s own song. Joy whose cupcake candle scent smells strong! Joy whose calculator stays on zero sum! Joy whose streets hum baritone and light glows green!
Joy whose baubles string in sexiness! Joy whose music is always turned up! Joy whose dread stays tongue-tied! Joy whose loneliness pretends not to be! Joy who survives with heart!
Joy in whom I tread lightly! Joy in whom we stall progress! Holy in Joy! Fucked-up in Joy! Closed-up and deconstructed in Joy!
Joy who penetrated my death-wish! Joy in whom I am a chamber without function! Joy who ridiculed my analyzing too much. Joy whom I question! Hold tight in Joy! Burdens traveling through cities. Farmers working exhausted to meet ends.
Joy! Joy! Wood-rot barns! Busy avenues! Sanctimonious characters! Sweaty foreheads! Dirt-covered hands! Public spectacles! meanness! cold showers! unpaid bills!
The forgot-her-name-as-they-ridiculed-her Joy! Machine, crayons, lollipops, roadkill! Change-making into the lavender twists of sunrise!
Big lies! Treachery! Sweethearts! what-the-hells! sass! devoured by the proton charge of dusk!
Hearts! dreams! Thread-opening seams! challenges! everyone staying in their corners!


Dierdre! I’m with you in Kentucky
where you drink gin in the darkness

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you’re sicker than I am

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you eat doldrum for breakfast

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you smile through your bleeding

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you unfold your prayer hands and drip candles with ether

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you hug tight your mania, then cry charred a lost feather

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you weather the time beats

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you lie in bed sorting hospital bills, wondering how the hell you’re still living

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you scribble veins on papyrus, hoping one day someone sees
screaming is all that each rhyme is.

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you chain-lock the door and listen to hawks track their prey
through a concert of windchimes

I’m with you in Kentucky
where you calibrate moon beams, and sit on your porch behind a now-barren factory

I’m with you in Kentucky
listening to your words, pointing to clouds, so you still know there’s sky

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