Home by Now

Home by Now

by Meg Kearney

The characters of Meg Kearney’s gritty second poetry collection travel the shadows and edges of modern life. Searching for home and knowing that, once found, home might dissolve without warning, Kearney carves a richly lyric poetry. You will hear the voices of this striking book right in your ear, telling hard-learned lessons that are as unsettling as they


The characters of Meg Kearney’s gritty second poetry collection travel the shadows and edges of modern life. Searching for home and knowing that, once found, home might dissolve without warning, Kearney carves a richly lyric poetry. You will hear the voices of this striking book right in your ear, telling hard-learned lessons that are as unsettling as they are necessary.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2010 L. L. Winship / PEN New England Award—
Publishers Weekly
Fluent and easy to like, serious in its take on the American life course, this second collection of poems for adults from Kearney (she's also the author of young adult verse) looks hard at the troubles and changes of Kearney's own experience, as an adopted child, as the daughter of an ailing father, as a sometime New Yorker who relocated after 9/11 to northern New England. The first—and perhaps the most verbally brilliant—poems depict the ups and downs of her teens: “When I got my head stuck between the porch rails/ I didn't know enough yet to hate my body, but I knew/ a thing or two about smoking my father's cigars.” Later she portrays herself as a grownup adrift (“Rum & Coke & a New Apartment”). In the city, “The bike-shop bag goes scrish-scrish/ against your leg as you head home,” even as, in Wyoming, “your father's hand trembles, reaching/ for the water glass”; in New Hampshire, “we're street-smart and wary/ enough not to let our Lab run the woods/ at night alone.” Defiance mixed with caution drives her conversational lines. Kearney (An Unkindness of Ravens) neither finds, nor seeks, great innovations; instead, she presents her life as representative, an occasion for tangents, for sadness, and for joie de vivre. (Nov.)

Product Details

Four Way Books
Publication date:
Malcolm McDonald Series Selection
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2009 Meg Kearney
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-884800-94-8

Chapter One

CARNAL I suppose squirrels have their hungers, too, like the one I saw today with the ass end of a mouse jutting from its mouth. I was in the park; I'd followed the stare of a dog, marveled as the dog seemed to marvel that the squirrel didn't gag on the head, gulped so far down the squirrel's throat nearly all that was visible was the grey mouse rump, its tail a string too short to be saved. The dog and I couldn't stop gawking. The squirrel looked stunned himself- the way my ex, The Big Game Hunter, looked when I told him I was now a vegetarian. We'd run into each other at a street fair in Poughkeepsie. The hotdog he was eating froze in his hand, pointed like a stubby finger, accused me of everything I'd thought I'd wanted, and what I'd killed to get it. "HOLD FAST" -the motto of clan MacLeod, Isle of Skye, Scotland Inside Dunvegan, the clan MacLeod Castle still reigning over Scotland's scraggly shore, beyond the roped-off tapestries and glassen-cased kilts, past pewter goblets and family portraits (more kilts, a legacy of mutton-chops), narrow steps twist down to a hall that leads to what had been the kitchen; and in the other dank direction, the dungeon's ghastly pit. Cuisine being what it was in the 14th century (wild boar, deer, the odd cabbage), cooks' tools strung above a caldron appear fit for their task: a dozen unnerving knives, the handy ax, a wooden ladle that might also serve as shovel or varmint-whacker. No one knows which devilish ancestor devised the dungeon next door, its vented wall an abuse of aromas-seasoned stews, baking bread, venison roast. Shivering on his slab of stone, the prisoner must have dreamed of his wife, her dark eyes' flash as she turned from the evening fire, steam veiling her face as she set the bowl before him. She'd wait for him to lift the spoon, for his nod of pleasure before she sat down beside him. If only he'd been content with that first bird he'd poached. He was nearly to the forest's edge, nearly home free when that second pheasant stirred the bush, preening like a queen in her dappled robes-oh, he could not say No. And coughing in his cell, he knew that love, like hunger, is a covetous ache for a feast just out of reach. Yet, what he'd stolen sustained him: memory of her downy breast, and her body's oil, a balm still seeping into his hands. CONCEPTION, AMERICAN STYLE I. I'm a lady's man I'm a cherry intact I'm pulling into the rest stop unbuttoning my blouse I'm twelfth-hour whiskers I am tongue I am breast I'm pussy throb and neck aflame I'm zipper and the other zipper I'm steaming all the windows I'm delirious radio, stockings run amok I'm finger, hand, a nipple, another I'm breath and I'm muscle again, again I am salt I am musk I am slap-it wet I am murk and egg and the fish shoving my head in I am already dividing I'm multiplying oh pious mother, oh charming father. II.

They've returned to the parking lot: dim light reveals a sheen of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. Her Scottish skin is blotchy, as if she'd had a drink. He lights her cigarette, regards her in the match glow, while her eyes linger on a tuft of hair- she'd kissed him there-at his shirt's open collar. She is trembling; it's time for her to go. They stand by the car and he takes her hand, kisses it; she presses her other hand to her heart. Then they notice her blouse, something askew- she mismatched the buttons, and they laugh. It was her first time. She thinks he has made her a promise. He must have known that. He leans, kisses her. Wherever, whoever he is, he must have known that much. FUNDEVOGEL "Fundevogel, do not forsake me, and I will never forsake you." -from the Brothers Grimm Perhaps father is another word for sleep. My dead father sleeps without rest, crossing between this life and the last. My blood father sleeps in Florida, or Budapest, or anywhere I am not. In his sleep my dead father glides through the window. He is young again; I sit on his lap while he reads The Frog Prince and Fundevogel, the foundling baby carried away by a bird. In his world, my dead father reads the Brothers Grimm. We dream up a happy ending. In Boca Raton, my blood father dreams, feverish, grinding his teeth, murmuring a story that his wife, propped on her elbow in bed, has strained for years to catch. Watching him, she knows the dream is about to end: he twitches, swallows, says, Come back. But the woman and the little girl wander hand-in-hand into the forest. He opens his mouth, closes it. He doesn't know their names. This is where the story ends. He wakes. My dead father goes gray in my room, closes his book, kisses my forehead. Margaret, he says, it's time to sleep. But Father, what to do about this meddlesome crow, pecking at my window? SEPTEMBER 12, 2001: VIEW OF DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW The amputee insists her legs are still down there She feels them burning- She knows when the smoke clears they will be standing INSTEAD OF GOING STRAIGHT TO THE DANCING BEAR INN East Glacier Park, Montana After burgers at Two Medicine we head to the saloon: six wooden stools with cracked leather seats, a roughhewn table near the dart board in the back. Johnny Cash smolders through the smoke. She wants whiskey, asks for rye, but all they have is bourbon and an eye for women dumb enough to step into a bar with no windows and a plywood door. It could be 1978, not 2004-we could be in my parents' basement, after my brother strung the chili-pepper lights and raised the floor. We'd pass around the reefer and chug warm beer, then trudge up the hatchway stairs to piss. I tell her this while the Glacier boys rise around us like a flood. One with his eye on her wants to know where we're from. "East," she says, as I slip her her purse. We leave our stools twirling, slink out to the street. Our hair stinks in this mile-high air. She says, "We'll always be alone." A star spits across the sky, then it's gone. We swear we'll never go back there. Meanwhile, the cowboys inside ride the guy we just ditched. "Goddamn flirts!" he shouts, then turns back to the boys as they slug 'n smoke 'n curse. VIRGIN In the playground of idle minds I'm riding a blue bicycle. My girlfriend waits behind the jungle gym, mixing orange juice and Seagram's sloe gin. This is how we learn to be sixteen: cotton-candy liquor and a smoke on the slide. We radiate patchouli and musk; compare our breasts; share this secret cocktail while our tongues turn to grenadine, syrupy with boys. My bike cuts a figure- eight sexy enough to catch the Devil's eye. Now here he is, shinnying up the monkey bars and he wants me. Just like I'd imagined. Just like mother promised. FIRST BLOW JOB Suddenly I knew what it was to be my uncle's Labrador retriever, young pup paddling furiously back across the pond with the prized duck in her mouth, doing the best she could to keep her nose in the air so she could breathe. She was learning not to bite, to hold the duck just firmly enough, to command its slick length without leaving marks. She was about to discover that if she reached the shore, delivered this duck just the way she'd been trained, then Master would pet her head and make those cooing sounds; maybe later he'd let her ride in the cab of the truck. She would rest her chin on his thigh all the way home, and if she had been good enough, she might get to wear the rhinestone-studded collar, he might give her a cookie, he might not shove her off the bed when he was tired and it was time for sleep. FOR DEAR LIFE We did not wake my mother from her naps. We just didn't. But that day, when Mrs. Reuter held my right arm in her tanned tennis grip, I knew what I had to do and she could not keep me from it. She thought I wanted my father-to go to him, sprawled and bleeding from his mouth and nose into Keller's summer-brown lawn- but I pulled free and surprised her, dashing past Dad, past the bicycle still in the road and twisted like his face, past his glasses, silver frames smashed into a squint, glass spit and sparkling in the gravel, through Moershell's yard and Strickland's, past the can we kids kicked every night before suppertime, then into our own driveway, around the garage to the backyard where my mother lay snoring softly in the hammock, arms folded across her flat belly, skin scented with Jean Naté and Scotch, and I did not hesitate, I snatched her hands in mine and shook them, shouting, Wake up, Mom, wake up.


Excerpted from HOME BY NOW by MEG KEARNEY Copyright © 2009 by Meg Kearney . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Cornelius Eady
“Meg Kearney’s /Home By Now/ is a brilliant, hard-won second book that will remind you why we go to poetry in the first place; not to be soothed, but to learn. These are smart, tough,
sure lyrics. I love the sound of this book, the music she so slyly installed in these poems. I read and marvel.”
Linda Pastan
“Toughness and vulnerability rub against each other in these poems, and sparks fly. Meg Kearney’s /Home By Now/ is a strong and moving book.”

Meet the Author

MEG KEARNEY is the author of the poetry collection An Unkindness of Ravens and The Secret of Me, a novel in verse for teens. Her poetry has been featured on Poetry Daily and Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” and has been published in Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Meg is Director of the Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, as well as Director of Pine Manor’s Solstice Summer Writers Conference. She lives in southern New Hampshire.

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