NEA Literature Fellowships

Kerrin McCadden

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(2013 - Poetry)

If You Were a Zombie Boy

I wonder what would happen if you were a zombie boy
and I were a girl who loved you.  If you were a gray faced,
blank-staring boy with a limp and I were a girl who loved you. 
If you shambled up to me at the grocery store with your
arms out and I hugged you, you confused, thinking, insofar
as you could think, that you wanted to bite me, but then
came unhinged, and even unlimbed by my embrace--your arm
falling off in the process, me sweetly retrieving it from the linoleum
and handing it back to you, you not knowing what to do with it,
having no ideas, really, at all, but that I was pretty, I think. 
And you, looking hungry, like you sometimes do, that glint
in your eye that said sparkle to me, but, really, I think, meant
braaaiiins.  And everybody backing away, away, away, away
until all that was left was you and me in the cereal aisle,
me holding your arm out to you, and you taking it, your feet
dragging, your head bent toward your shoulder, confused,
you zombie boy, as ever, it turns out, by me and my kind. 
If you were a zombie boy who came after me, swinging
your fallen limb, groaning, and I ran away, laughing, struck
by how silly you are, zombie boy, until I tired, and you kept
shambling at me like zombies do, never needing to sleep. 
And maybe, after I held you, and your arm fell off, and
it was like there was no one left on the planet, or at least in
PriceChopper, we made our way among the perishables
and other provisions, me skipping, you lurching after me,
me so pleased, and you, you so focused on me until I felt
like the only girl for you, twirling in the haircare aisle,
tossing things carelessly in the cart.  Here, dear boy,
stock up with me.  Let's play house in our supermarket
stronghold.  I'll rest in the break room at night while you
shuffle the lunch meats. Others will come to claw at the
windows.  Don't let them get to you.  We have aisles and
aisles of seasonal products to play with.  Let's never leave.  

(previously published in Hayden's Ferry Review)

Kerrin McCadden is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, which won The New Issues Poetry Prize (forthcoming March 2014). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, American Poetry Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Green Mountains Review, Rattle, Poet Lore, Failbetter, Pank and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Best New Poets. She has received support for her writing from The Vermont Studio Center and the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund. She earned her BA in English at Saint Michael's College and is currently a degree candidate at the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Montpelier High School in Montpelier, Vermont.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

This is an astonishing level of support for a poet to receive. As such, it helps me believe in my work and humbles me as I put my shoulder to it. For decades, writing poetry was a mostly private pursuit. In recent years, I've entered into community with other writers and institutions. I am grateful for the friendships I have formed there, all of which have helped me grow as a writer. Each friendship is a kind of indelible support, proving that pursuit of this art form is vital. To receive validation from a jury of people I respect and support from the NEA is an increase of friendship far beyond the world I have built thus far. What this fellowship means to me is an increase of momentum. It sends me to Ireland for the extended home-stay I've always dreamed of on my family's farm. It helps me pull my writing even closer to the center of my life.