“Vestige” by Joshua McKinney

shark for joshua mckinney poems
Shark, by Joyce Polance

When my wife motioned me to the picture window
and pointed to the garden where
our daughter and son sat beneath sunflowers—
the dog and both cats
sprawled around them as they toyed with dolls in the dirt,
a honeyed eastlight washing over it all—
my first thought was to save the scene.
And perhaps because I was tired
of the digital’s immediacy, the ease with which
it erased my failures, or perhaps
because the moment demanded more resolution,
I ran to the hall closet and pulled down my old 35 mm
which had no film and then
ran to the kitchen drawer wherein were tossed
all things utile and useless and rummaged
among the screwdrivers and flashlights, the scissors and
tape, the twist ties and rubber bands,
for the film canister I thought I’d seen some weeks before
and sure enough
buried at the back I found it and popped the lid and
poured into my anxious palm two seeds or so I thought
for an instant before recognition claimed them
as dry buttons of blood,
the twisted tissue of the kids’ umbilical remnants
my wife had told me not to save (disgusting, she’d said)
but which I’d kept and hidden
and then forgotten for reasons I don’t understand and
then from the window my wife said you missed it
and even as she said this I heard the children arguing outside
and realized I could smell something foul
and that it was what I held in my hand
and that it smelled like what it was,
like flesh gone bad, like, like


Joshua McKinneyJoshua McKinney is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Mad Cursive (Wordcraft of Oregon 2012). His work has appeared widely in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, New American Writing, and many others. He serves as co-editor of Clade Song, an online ecopoetics journal. An avid practitioner of Japanese swordsmanship for over thirty years, he is a member of Senkakukan dojo in Rancho Cordova. He teaches poetry writing and literature at California State University, Sacramento.