PoetrySummer 2018

2018 Sweet Corn Poetry Contest Winner: O’Hare: A Mythography – Mike Dockins

Born in a wide & lonely field, O’Hare was reared by Old
Man Winter, cruel bastard who never gave his boy gruel
or warm sunlight, & who would threaten to skip his little
airport like a flat stone across Lake Michigan—all the way
to Michigan!—& if he thought his Old Man was kidding,
why just try him. In kindergarten he skulked around
the sandboxes & swing sets & merry-go-rounds & jungle
bars, bullied by wind, by sleet, by trace elements, poor
little airport. Junior high was a mess—a terrible circus
of oily secretions & locker-side rejections & impossible
equations on impossible chalkboards, dismal report cards
dangling from his back pockets like spiders’ legs. No one
likes being a teenager, but O’Hare seethed his way through,
& he rebelled by moping in his room, blasting the music
of jet engines & of sleet pinging hopelessly against aluminum,
his moody hair hanging petulantly over his weepy eyes—
Old Man Winter banging angry melodies & holy sonnets
upon the door, shaking his brutal fist like a Steinbeck hero
in the face of the wide & uncrossable Pacific. Days & days,
years & years of such, until one day, sobbing in a bathtub
until the tub overspilled with saltwater, the young airport
had mystical visions & cosmic vibrations, O beatific airport:
he would learn to strum a guitar, & he would wander off
to college forever—to study geography, meteorology, physics,
& to join a lousy cover band. But after months of stomping
around on sweaty pub stages—the eyeballs of the drunken
crowds swirling like pinwheels, iridescent storms, & cursing
broken pick after broken pick, broken string after broken string,
broken heart after broken heart—he flunked out forever,
& spent his entire adulthood slumped over sad warehouse
boxes somewhere in the sloppy, sloppy suburbs, terrorized
nightly by dreams of flying. This was all long, long ago. Look
at him now: paragon of inconvenience, pillar of freezing
misery, a bitter old man himself who has fathered thousands
of little airports out in the wide, cruel, & lonely Midwestern
fields mercilessly whipped by the American Rust Belt—
too many unimaginable childhoods to even bother to name.

Author Bio: Mike Dockins was born in 1972 & grew up in Yonkers NY. He holds a B.S. from SUNY Brockport (1999), an MFA from UMASS Amherst (2002), & a PhD from Georgia State University (2010). His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, Third Coast, Quarterly West, Salt Hill, Atlanta Review, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch, & PANK, & they have been reprinted on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, & in the 2007 edition of The Best American Poetry. His critically-acclaimed first book, Slouching in the Path of a Comet (Sage Hill Press, 2007), after moving 850 copies, is currently anticipating a third print run with C&R Press. His second collection, Letter to So-and-So from Wherever, was a co-winner of the Maxine Kumin Award for Poetry, & was published in January 2015 by C&R Press. Mike is a singer-songwriter. Fame For Zoe, a full-length album from his acoustic-pop duo Clop, is available on iTunes, Spotify, & elsewhere. For the last 18 years, he has taught creative writing with Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY) summer program. After yo-yo-ing intolerably around the country for six years, he will be moving back to Atlanta GA in August 2018.

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