John McCarthy

Our Once Content Father Wakes Up to a Flash Flood Warning

Voicemail: Hey John just thinking of you today been about two months since my last message I think Ethan was in a dream I had last night but I won’t bore you with a boy invisible John the dream John it had something tender to it that’s all I’ll say John it feels weird talking about those kinds of things for me John I’m no good at it no good since my boy’s dead anywho it started raining real hard and it hasn’t stopped for a while now and the fields are starting to bend to the shape of a small lake John and I saw that you put new pictures online yesterday you look like you’re all the way south on a beach somewhere bright sure looked like fun John just wanted to say hey I saw your dad a few days ago at Jim’s diner he seemed good he told me hey from you John said you was on a work vacation well I hope your vacation goes good John it’s raining real solid still it’s raining in that kind of way that makes you look back on a lot of things




Our Once Content Father Recounts a Whole Decade of Crying

Voicemail: Most days the sun comes down through the wind and the clouds like something bright caught in a river current and it feels good the little bit of brightness and the breeze John it is as clean and simple as that but then I’ll see a wild animal like a opossum or a fox run and hide because it wanted to see what I saw too or the wind will stop altogether as if all the big men in charge finally cut down all the trees and the sun will make me sweat in that way that makes me tired beyond all reason John or I’ll just realize that in the fifth and quickest decade of my life I ain’t got no one left to wait on and then I’ll remember how Ethan would cry over something small like a stubbed toe or a broke toy and then I’ll think how Shelly and I both cried for a whole year John when our boy died and then I’ll think how Shelly cried when I was weak and selfish and couldn’t do anything but sit still or shirk away and that makes me want to cry again for a decade John maybe even two whole decades all because Shelly and I needed the same things but didn’t have anything to give John that makes me wish on my mother I could have held her forever maybe then the sun and wind would have come back I hope you never know that feeling John but you sure might John you won’t make it out of this damned life alive either




John McCarthy is the author of Scared Violent Like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which won the Jake Adam York Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2015, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, and TriQuarterly, among others. John is the 2016 winner of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry. He lives in Illinois where he serves as an Associate Editor of RHINO.