Home By Now

    * Winner of the 2009 LL Winship/PEN New England Award for Poetry.

    * A finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize.

    * A finalist for Foreword Magazine‘s Book of the Year.

    About the Book

    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.


    Reaction to Home By Now

    “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.”
    —Cornelius Eady

    “Toughness and vulnerability rub again each other in these poems, and sparks fly.”
    —Linda Pastan

    “What I love about Home By Now is the variety and mixtures of tone. Beyond the delicious music and the vividness of scene in this collection, there is a distinctly surprising grasp of voice. These pieces give more than they promise. At times, within the same poem, I found myself moved in complicated ways: being saddened, for example, by the tenderness of an elegy, but feeling roughed up by the same poem. Meg Kearney’s poems begin innocently enough, but there’s a shadow growing behind each line. There’s a kind of quiet take-no-prisoners toughness here, but something big-hearted, too. These poems have real teeth, but you’re already bleeding before you feel the bite.”
    — Citation by Tim Seibles, judge of the 2010 PEN New England Award for Poetry

    “You have a wonderful, personal, feisty voice that unifies the book & makes the poems sound like no one else’s. The amazing thing is not that there are a number of terrific poems in there, it’s that there’s no dead weight. I love to pick up a book of poems, open to any page, & just read. That’s the way I always start a book, & if the stuff is interesting I go to the end & then start at the beginning & get back to where I started. With your book it didn’t matter where I started; the book is that unified. I thank you and congratulate you.”
    — Philip Levine


    Poems featured in Home By Now

    Featured: CarnalHome by NowGeorge Says Stop Writing About Yourself Elegy for the Unknown Father


    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
    that 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.



    Home by Now

    New Hampshire air curls my hair like a child’s
    hand curls around a finger. “Children?” No,
    we tell the realtor, but maybe a dog or two.
    They’ll bark at the mail car (Margaret’s
    Chevy Supreme) and chase the occasional
    moose here in this place where doors are left
    unlocked and it’s Code Green from sun-up,
    meaning go ahead and feel relieved —
    the terrorists are back where you left them
    on East 20th Street and Avenue C. In New York
    we stocked our emergency packs with whistles
    and duct tape. In New England, precautions take
    a milder hue: don’t say “pig” on a lobster boat
    or paint the hull blue. Your friends in the city
    say they’ll miss but don’t blame you — they
    still cringe each time a plane’s overhead,
    one ear cocked for the other shoe.



    George Says Stop Writing About Yourself (New York, December 2001)

    This one’s for George, who urged take off those
    shit-kicker boots, leave your husband wrapped
    in the scroll of last night’s sheets, forget your mother
    sipping a cigarette, a Dugan’s Dew — forget
    your other mother, your other father, too,

    and the one you last saw in a coffin not looking
    at all like himself, so much not-him you couldn’t
    bear be near that body. Forget your first kiss —
    how it sounded like peanut butter, tasted like
    a train. Stop talking about the Alabama Slammers

    and four Blue Whales or those men you drove crazy
    with your push-him, pull-him love. And don’t speak
    of babies, about not having them or the ugly one
    who’s so much a part of your nights she must be
    real, her mongrel face breaking into sadness.

    Don’t talk about holding her above your head,
    calling her Sweet Girl, Mama’s Girl — how she almost
    smiles. Just for George, this poem looks beyond
    Sea Monkeys and that first Louisville Slugger.
    It opens the window to the stench, three months

    now of that smell, man-made, human, wafting
    from downtown. This poem is in the street,
    where war does its thing. See, there’s a man
    walking up Broadway: his shoes, suit, eyelashes,
    lips covered with dust that used to be a building.



    Elegy for the Unknown Father

    Maybe there’s a reason I was left
    without a map to find you, why

    the trail to your door has long gone
    arctic. I’ve sat here nearly an hour

    on the bench that marks the grave
    of the man who raised me. I know

    the way to this place, the back roads
    south of the highway, the pothole

    just before the iron gate. I know
    its sparrows and withering lilies as well

    as I knew the face of this father
    walking in the door with an armful

    of firewood or a fist of flowers. See
    the groundskeeper give me a wave?

    He knows me by name.
    I have never needed you less.