Issue 8 – Summer 2005 – Aaron McCollough

Aaron McCollough


from John Fahey’s America

“For what will it profit them if they gain 
the whole world and forfeit themselves?” Matt. 16:25-6

Jesus Is a Dying Bedmaker

‘I see right though my death’ to the limit
in the lotus blossom of the dust box
of this history           and that history
down the stack (arpeggios of good/bad)
what does it unravel in dry cornhusks
to long calligraphic comfort against
tribulation tribulation make me
make me bed me man of sorrows lover
I am old and deaf in cold clothes Jesus
in the country under INRI
of imperial wars firefight camels
although immobile as I cannot move
I rise with love and just peer past the sash
to all so splendid the shroud you’ve made me

so concerned was I with my own spirit
the details of the day went sharp brilliant
and they went sharp dark

so concerned I was scrupulously full
of care in the morning tight in my sheets
my pallor was my day the death in day

I am blue lord with pallor blue today
waiting for the countenance up or down
and the tuning of strings how can I pray
with these fingers or anything of mine

sick with seeing right through to the return
to my america in which I am
my nation’s pale blue shadow turning in
the sheets the fire in my shoulder the yard

the giant lawn of the nation body
prison way of being in creation

american prison of the soul, lord,
I love or not, how do I love from here

when I have seen you is it as others
see you cougar and crocodile entwined

to lover habitué marksman quote
as franklin’s etching of a broken snake

and the coiled don’t tread on me and the roads
of eisenhower with their stars and trucks

and warheads in the wild are you over


but my heart is a mess in my fingers
my country is no child I am no child

we are all in our middle ages dark
in the rain in the snow the rain the snow

my hearty neighbor built the retaining
wall before he dissolved the rain the snow

clinging to everything the dew the yard
and the man with the ax chopping the walk

that sheet of ice, lord, winter narcissus
sliding towards the muck four-lane cocytus

“Will great God measure with a wretch?” “like me?”
from curb to curb the car lengths to heaven

when I can’t look into the broken face
of my neighbor or even love him some
little bit on the massive pavement tile
he crosses with his note of something cracked
the distance isn’t much but I can’t look
as I am blind embarrassed   scared to look

out over the ledge of the box at dusk
where’s just enough room for me and my steel
and magazines    Lord, make up my living

blue in the full light of day to bluer
in the evening who’s all these strangers now

standing in the lawn    watering cutting
pissing seeding breaking taking in hand

Charley Patton, well
Everything has a source
Let’s go and meet him
All I ask
Lay me on the cooling board
For you to do for me
                                          brother ahearn:       I’ve got religion
I’m on my journey
Jesus gonna make up my dying
Stretch on him

Stretch me from corner to corner
Lord, break my heart for 
Stretch me from toe to finger
Kiss me on my mouth
I’ve got religion


When I crawl up in my dying bed
Let it 
All I ask for you to do for me
Is let it
Go easy, Lord

Everything has a source every river
‘when I saw rivers they seemed to be some
infinite thing, the water always 
running and yet remaining full’ rivers
at my feet, lord, a delta and a spring
crenulated like a leaf of waters
the plash of the wheel working my fever
to your cool hands Jesus your cool morphine
I may just shut my eyes for a moment

brother Claude Ely then (cousin ahearn):
              aint no grave gonna hold my body down!
              (because I got religion! the spirit!
              the great wheel of the spirit on the road
              of this land of the road of ELECTION!
              and I will stretch Lord for you to cool me!
                                     etch                                       me
              a great reception in the yellow skin!
                                                  th                    in!
              my grisly body will walk to heaven!
              my grisly body is a courtesan
              will twirl unraveling on the interstate
              of the VICTORY!)

sister betty ross:
              these five witches in the room the preacher knew
              and said now there’s five witches in this room
              so I want y’all to speak in tongues we spoke
              in tongues for some time and those five ladies
              got up and left but you should pray for men
              we all should pray for preachers these women
              will destroy them, that’s just devil no man
              can be expected to resist that ______
              thank the lord for all the hardship we had
              and all the hardship we don’t have I thank
              him, you know, the preacher said 1 in x
              of you has been molested, none of that
              (for all the break-neck-drug-riding we did)
              ever happened here I hate it when they
              say oh it’s flu season again every year
              I get the flu I say no, the gospel
              says you get what you ask for, you’re askin’
              it’s all through it like a whispering river
              the lord’s a gentleman… you have to ask
              before he enters
              but I don’t believe that

dacosta woltz:
              Have you been to jesus for his clensing POWER?
              Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
              Do you rest each morning in the crucified?
              When the bright groom cometh will your roof be white?
              Will your shores be ready for the mansion bright
              And be washed in the blood of the lamb?
              Are your garments stained with sin?
              Are you washed in the blood?

because there is a comfort in it Lord
this eddy of patience intolerance
obedience and disgust     more sweetness
so I cannot sleep without some mercy
bound by sin and loose from sin
compelled by sin to study my neighbor,
Lord, how can I look to myself without
looking away? OR Lord, how can I look
to my neighbor without looking away?
Do you stand there at my foot 
OR is it devil?
How dare you? How dare you ask me to bear
the sins of others in mind?     I cannot
face my own

my bare face

named this face

and care about love

and take stripes
and believe

(Benedict: ‘if you are worried, if you are anxious, look to
your loves, you are lacking in humility, you love yourself
too much, you lack obedience

you lack obedience     let go of this and that desire
you will no longer fear anything in this life
you will no longer fear your death
     if you get sick, treat it as an opportunity to live 
as a sick creature   you are a sick creature, get used to it’)

Lo, my american medicine of gigabytes-to-television-to-
it may be so

I am worried and anxious

In this garden I cannot see 



Aaron McCollough’s third book of poems Little Ease is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in 2006. His previous collections include Double Venus (Salt, 2003) and Welkin (Ahsahta, 2002). He has published poems in many journals. “Jesus Is A Dying Bedmaker 2” is a section from a long poem called John Fahey’s ‘America’ based, in part, on the rustic folk guitar hero’s 1971 album. McCollough lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife Suzanne.