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John Hennessy

Panic Through the Refineries

Jersey driving    my sons Xmas-visit their mother

north up north    up the Connecticut River

only me flashing in and out    the white shock


the oil tanks and steel staircases enormously

circling    vault and scaffolding    another belch

of  steam   stack after stack    a white cloud


I’m here    not here    I’m here   the air

so frigid this New Year    petrochemical steam

condenses    vapor to fog   white lights stud

my vision    Turnpike ice   the white sky draining    

side of the road snow    the train over flatland    dark

creek    buried tracks    quiet curve click clack    but I

drive    this white car disappears    even the slow

lane speeds    I can see    I can’t see    I can see    I’m

coming from my mother’s    driving out of myself

my own childhood    and back into it    out of mine

and into theirs    I’m here    catalytic towers    out

of mine and into theirs    coker unit    not here


they’re north up north    tires whump the highway

seams    in front and behind and on both sides

the lights and    steam    and snow   the long bridges

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John Hennessy is the author of two collections, Coney Island Pilgrims and Bridge and Tunnel, and his poems appear in The Believer, Best American Poetry, Harvard Review, The Huffington Post, Jacket, The New Republic, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, The Poetry Review (UK), Raedleaf (India), Poetry Ireland Review and The Yale Review. Hennessy is the poetry editor of The Common and teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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