JOHN HENNESSY

HERO IN THE CHURCH OF UNREST

Revisiting the hero of this church
through Vailsburg all morning
and right across Newark, down neck

to the Passaic, the Ironbound’s listing
dark foundries—the cleft of my chin,
adventurous shaving, bumper-kissed

pate an eight-ball, I’m quick as spit
polishing black Frye boots, chains
on belt and ankles, jaw to fist

thinking of Yusef, left for dead,
the rest stop in Camden, his tables
covered with cloth from Cape Verde,

wine-simmered mussels, steam-cracked
longnecks, garlic soup from the Portuguese—
in catacombs full of candles, wax

effigies, beneath the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, I’m minking
my long leather jacket, packing

umbrella—I’m breaking the frame,
mixing it like Whitman—

Turnpike Peleus one minute, quick Thetis
the next—shifting through kills
and meadowlands—then both at once:

muscleman and creatrix
wrestling on the river beach—
become raven, cypress, spotted tigress,

I’ve prayed distillery fire, shunted offerings
through smokestack—hemped
and tied, extravagant knots—slipping

myself across, through, betwixt
myself, the Butch, the Femme, the Switch,
equally remixed,

a real marriage of mind and body,
I’m great with great Achilles,
my cave beneath the myrtle trees—

Or: just seeing clearly what’s
always been there, the world
a mirror I’m moving toward,

and it anticipates me,
my Caeserian changes in mood—

and from here on it’s buttered rolls
at breakfast, cream for my coffee, beans
and toast for my Vailsburg of the soul.

Come on, come to Newark with me.

Speak to me like Pushkin to his horse
and we’re catapulted, unsaddled, drinking
ourselves catalytic, ecstatic, more

Heroic, more filled with love
for the world, we love it so much
we won’t settle for it, the way

it’s been done. We’ll go birding
for Sweeney, le Cardinal
in the Church of Unrest—jumping

on tables, crunking in crosswalks,
incanting slowly down HOV fast-lanes—
get the mayor on the phone, the devil!

No, I won’t go back to Cryan’s alone,
where someone’s always falling off
the barstools, the hero’s pint

is just a spot of head
at the bottom of his glass, bartender
nowhere in sight—I’m hard

as sea urchin, wet as cave walls—
I’ll listen now, I’m listening now—

There you are, speak to me friends,
forget Achilles, never mind Thetis,
here’s my son, and look, he’s armed

with his brother—we’ll overthrow
the cranks on Olympus, Broad Street, or any
of the heavens, still moving

at the lyric’s zero Kelvin—reinvent me
(with a head full of fire) even after I’m gone—
call Pushkin’s blacksmiths, address me

as one of them and I’m as good as become,
stripped to the waist, torso darkened
by soot from the forge, Baltic sun—

listen, we’re digging a trench
through Newark and filling in a horse-path,
a sprint across the bridges—with a flask

and cold chicken in my saddlebags
I’ll leave us sheltered
under cranes, galloping up the docks.

John Hennessy
179978_10151722303143465_565576739_nJohn Hennessy is the author of two collections, Coney Island Pilgrims and Bridge and Tunnel, and his poems appear in many journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2013, The Believer, Poetry, Fulcrum, The New Republic, The Huffington Post, and The Yale Review. Hennessy went to Princeton University on a Cane Scholarship, and he received graduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Arkansas. In 2007-2008 he held the Resident Fellowship in Poetry at the Amy Clampitt House. Hennessy is the poetry editor of The Common, a new print magazine based at Amherst College, and teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.