John Fenlon Hogan

That Much Further West


If there were no God there would be
no atheists—a small paradox my father

points to fondly and often. Some men’s
whole lives tender into a single sentence.

Others tender no sentence at all. We do
our best to defeat the insatiable inside

of us stretching out like an endless sky
gazed upon from an endless canyon

somewhere west of here. I’ve seen some
shuck introspection like a womb, some

shuck iron, others keep riding from rodeo
to rodeo. What’s weird to me: take away

the cows from the cowboy. He’s still a cowboy.
Take away his horse? You’re left

with a boy. If my saddle bags—slung
over my shoulder—strain their seams

from the volume and heft of my unbelief,
then through my unbelief I must be saved.

John Fenlon Hogan works in commercial real estate and lives in Virginia. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, and West Branch, among others.