Two Poems By James Scannell McCormick

Chorin Abbey
Brandenburg, Germany
You’re less at ease the further north we ride.
Through drowsy towns, past lakes too small and old
To name, I watch you darken.  We rest beside
A meadow wild with sunlight.  “It’s still the Cold
 
War here,” you nod.  “Or worse.”  A path of chunks
Of lime – an ochre glow through beechwood leaf –
Then a cloister’s Neo-Gothic brickwork.  The monks
Are four centuries ousted; I’ve no belief
 
In loitering souls of the dead.  And you’ve no trust
In the hearts of the living.  Scored clerestory, panes
Removed.  Chancel black and altar-less.  Just
A quiet, like patience – forgiveness even – remains.
Covid Saints I: St. Christopher
Dafoe began by counting burials – nine
In St. Bride’s, in St. James’s, twelve – but soon the toll
Grew to toppling, bodies carted spine
To cheek, cheek to kneecap, and tumbled with pole
 
And pipe-smoke into a moonlit pit.  Ending
As way in.  And through.  So tongueless numbers, grim
Hindsight.  Amidst, though?  Underway, bending
Into unshaped oncoming?  Pelicans’ trim
 
Shoreline regatta.  Fly-strewn, a window sash
Stuck, undusted.  A novel’s jacket, its rows
Of praise, its grimacing photo, curling.  Ash
Saplings and dock in grass.  And a medal that shows
 
A tale of an unbridged flood that slapped and swelled,
Of a giant, who gasped and sweated to keep afloat
Weight become otherworldly, weight upheld
By one childlike belief that gripped his throat.


James Scannell McCormick lives and teaches college English in Rochester, Minnesota.  His third collection of poems, First of Pisces, has just been published by Kelsay Press.

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