Joshua McKinney’s most recent book of poetry, Small Sillion (Parlor Press, 2019), made the short list for the Golden Poppy Award sponsored by CALIBA, and is a nominee for the Northern California Book Award. His work has appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, New American Writing, and many others. He is the recipient of The Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, The Dickinson Prize, The Pavement Saw Chapbook Prize, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. A member of Senkakukan Dojo of Sacramento, he has studied Japanese sword arts for over thirty years.
Its meaning: to carve footholds
in a cliff. As for technique,
one climbs closer, as decades pass,
toward perfection at the summit.
Don’t be fooled. Pause, contemplate the view below, then
turn around. Look up. Start climbing.
When Smart fell to his mad knees,
in public, and prayed aloud—
a deranged, unfashionable,
sad animal—they locked him up.
Here am I, Lord, shouting in this madhouse, though
I’ve yet to rout the company.
Two whole days I stand staring
down into the round black hole
I have bored through the lake ice.
Ice mountains blaze all around.
Inside me something cracks in the stillness.
Two trout lie gutted in new snow.