John McCarthy

Noise Falling Backwards 

​I’ve been told not to come here—to this tool shed of memory,
where everything is as old as it is useless. Inside, a scoop of millet seed

             balances on a mulch sack. There are garbage bags full
of crushed Natural Light cans exhaling. Trespassing, I feel

like everything is a discovery—the open slat window, the salt licks

meant for nesting in the laps of tree stumps, the way the dust meanders
through the light like a premonition.

                Outside, mare’s tail clouds run wild and smear the sky orange
at the end of a long day, and a hummingbird feeder hangs from the mulberry.
            No one has come for me yet. Silence is just noise falling backwards

           from the future, and I don’t know what to do with it.
I haven’t lived through it yet. It’s like wiping my eyes in the rain.

 I can’t see clearly. I can’t get a grip on anything. Alone here,
            I linger and thumb the empty hull of a shotgun shell. There are more

long days ahead. For now, everything is quiet and mutable.
           I wish the present could stay like this—​​in its place and hidden.


John McCarthy is the author of the forthcoming collection Scared Violent like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which was selected by Victoria Chang as the winner of the 2017-18 Jake Adam York Prize. He is also the author of Ghost County (Midwestern Gothic Press, 2016), which was named a Best Poetry Book of 2016 by The Chicago Review of Books. John is the winner of The Pinch 2016 Literary Award in Poetry, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, Copper Nickel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sycamore Review, Passages North, and Zone 3. He received his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.