John Jenkinson






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John Jenkinson’s misspent youth consisted of long years enduring low-end jobs -- gandydancing, tin-man hustling, drumming, taxi-driving, grifting, and grave-site peddling among them.  A late return to the groves of Academe resulted in an MFA from Wichita State University, a PhD from the University of North Texas, and a Milton Center post-doctoral Fellowship in Poetry at Newman University.  His most cherished degree, however, remains the one he earned at the School of Hard Knocks, where he continues post-graduate studies. 

John’s poems have received an AWP Intro Journals award, the Ellipses Prize, a New Voices Award, a Balticon Science Fiction Award, and awards from Kansas Voices, among others – and  appear in a surprising variety of journals and anthologies (from Slipstream to The Mennonite, for example).  He has published several chapbooks with B.G.S., Hard Knocks, and Basilisk presses, and his first full-length collection, Rebekah Orders Lasagna, has just appeared from Woodley Press.

John teaches literature and writing at Butler Community College in Kansas, where he advises the Chess Society and directs the Oil Hill Reading Series.  John spends his spare time balancing four children, his fiction-writing beautiful genius wife Catherine (who writes as Catherine Dryden), two cats and a dog – and has taken up song-writing.




The gambrel-lofted barns, worn siding painted in trade

for advertising (Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco fades

like the veteran who brushed it), fall to their knees

in axles and bundled wire, pigweed’s graying

spikes, and bow their hay-points toward autumn dirt.


They haven’t a prayer.  The new kids on the site

sport galvanized steel sides, corrugate sunlight

as it wiggles its hips across the winter wheat sprouts

west of Garfield.  Impervious to drought

or flood, the ravening of weather’s appetite,


they stud the tilled and irrigated prairie

fly-specked with huddled little towns where weary

farmers bunch around the Co-op to plan

late fall’s erections.  City-boys truck the new barns

in, drop them disassembled in the chaff.


But, all barns chew the same cud: honed tools,

new leather, feed sacks—and purge their bowels

of cogwheels, blunt hoes, old spurs’ rusty rowels.

Someone waits for love in a half-lit hayloft.

Out behind the barn, the kittens learn to smoke.


Originally Published in: Seems




Earth as a Place of Burial


In brindled file, the Herefords, Angus amble

loose-muscled, heavy boned, and plump

with the Flint Hills’ fading grasses,

as we loll at the barbed fence-line,

a clutch of broad-brimmed flowers

shooting the breeze around the weed stems

wedged between our teeth.


The cattle disregard our teeth.

Mothers curl their thick, pink tongues

against the matted calf fur

even though the calves stand near

full growth themselves and chew their cud

with a leisure known to those for whom

desire is just another bull beyond a fence.


Easing to yellow, bluestem battens

down another summer.  A choke

of sumac bleeds along the creek, where woods

gnarl up in gold and mixed siennas,

the lime-green snap of hedgeapples,

grapevine’s tough gray twist.


The world stumbles

into its slow season as manure steams

an age-old sweetness

across the pasture’s hoof-pocked surface

into morning’s hesitant frost.


Someone from the food chain glistens—

a bag of bloodied leather

emptied in a carnage of bottlebrush

where the meadow meets the trees.

This is what we remember of the night,

what the brooding herd repeats.


Jigging her bell in the morning haze,

the lead cow tolls what winter promises—

dormant frogs in mud;

the death of grain;

our earth a hard and frozen thing;

farm dogs and the loading ramp.

Originally Published in: American Literary Review


South of Red-Wing


I wake up on the wrong side of the equinox,

geese in isosceles stitches

trace a path down the world’s face, stop

to ravish the harvest’s sun-dried trash


piled in furrows and hedgerows.

A clatter of crows pleats the air

with black derision, brushes a red-wing

off the taut wire of her discretion.


Summer’s long truce broken, the mice

have returned to the catfood, gnawed

dank passage to that heavy yellow sack,

peppered our floor with their delicate scat.


This bounty of need, feeling

the leaves crack as the cat stalks

his own red meal, whiskers his way

through the crisp buffalo grass.


Something has burrowed into the half-assed

pumpkin patch—skunk, badger,

another hair-shirt mendicant

telling her beads along the food chain,


clicking the beetles’ lacquer-thin shells,

snapping brittle seed-hulls

in her frowsty cell, far from the sun’s ache,

taking no thought for the morrow.


Thin fires kiss the evenings now

beneath the railway trestle; and the men

with cardboard signs, trolling the highways

in denim and flannel, all drift south.

Originally Published in:
 Quarterly West

...also an AWP Intro Journal Award



Why Orville & Wilbur Built an Airplane


Life, as we suspected, is a bicycle

lacking a kickstand: pedal

along for a while,


then lay it down.  Some

of us glide serenely down

a long, easy hill on three-


pound Italian racers, scarcely

using any of their twenty-two

well-lubricated gears.  Others


must dismount to walk

these leaden Western Flyers up

that hot, steep slope, mugged


by heavy corduroys under a midsummer

sun, light from the heavy chrome

fenders kissing our eyes closed,


the bright air that clogs our passage

thickening with effort—the shaky

wire baskets filling with rocks.


Originally Published in: The Georgia Review






All poetry on this page
© by
John Jenkinson, 2006 


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