These Pelicans by James Ross Kelly (Where I Live Poetry & Photography Series)

Originally posted on Silver Birch Press:

by James Ross Kelly

Four pelicans on a log downriver
Sit like squatting men
this crimson Sacramento River evening,

& one rises up a sleepy watchman
& slowly waves his wings,
As a good breeze blows up river,

Paired mergansers begin to move away
As I sit down and look at the pelicans
Whose white through binoculars
becomes pink for a moment
With changing clouds & sunset

I’ve never wanted flamingos,
I’ve been waiting
For these damn pelicans to show,
& they sleep on the log

All the while I’m sitting under cottonwoods
That release a snow like namesake floating &
Blowing up river, & mallards
Begin to sound and take air across the river

Two pair wheel & move up river
Then turn again, reverse & land
Near the shore below me
Across from the pelicans,

By me the wild grape from
The cottonwood hangs dead

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An Unkindness of Ravens

On the death of poet David Lloyd Whited

It has been over four fortnights since my friend
David died, his widow at his deathbed calling
Me & asking me to speak to him
Through the phone, he in a coma
Children and Marian around so, I panicked &
I prayed the only Christian prayer
I could think of, “Lord bring him back
We need him here, his good cheer and we
Need more of him and Lord don’t take him!”
I’ll apologize to no man for my panic

When his wife arrived from her
Work that Friday he first allowed that he’d not gone
To work as he was feeling bad, & minutes later he
Was on the floor, that Friday night
Having collapsed trying to sit up with Marian’s help
On his couch, didn’t feel good that day
& he stiffened up and went to the floor
I was 700 miles down I-5 I could not go
& there was no good outcome surmised by doctors
The Poet’s heart had given way

In Alaska I saw repeatedly every deer season
An Unkindness of Ravens as they are called
When in a feeding frenzied  group to
Herald every afterkill of blacktail deer,
A snow laden clamor of raven and eagle
Blood on white snow unsympathetic
As most obituaries but louder, & yet
I know only the antidote of fond memory

David & I as young men
Drank and read our poems aloud
& reading poems we crawled through bars & bistros
& fished behind the Snake River dams
& off the derelict sand barge on Maurey Island
& caught ling and true Cod & sharks out of the Puget sound
I carried him out of at least three bars & one night
Off the Tramp Harbor pier
This was the man that wrote:
“Sadness Drives a Fast Red Car”

He died Sunday morning after Thanksgiving
I did not go to the funeral, did not know of a wake
Cremated out of the hospital & as there is usually
These days, no acknowledgement of the body as a rite
A memorial in a church in Tacoma was due
Work friends, one brother, grieving Marian & son & daughters
I called her the morning of the funeral
& I asked her to open all the windows
In their little  house on the Puget Sound
At the mouth of Judd Creek
When she left to go to Tacoma.

My good poet friend David is dead
For this poison I know only the antidote of fond memory

Perhaps in Heaven

The universe as
We know it, may be contained
In a large room where doors
Open and close, & exactly
As Jacob observed, Angels
Are busily rising or
Descending to earth & perhaps other galaxies,
& that this, quite contrary to any cynical view,
Is the most important of rooms..
& our entry and exit—all of us..
Is well known

I will now state how I came to kill your brother

 The 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery had suffered severe casualties as part of the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road. Sergeant Peter Donnelly had gone out on a scouting mission as part of this offensive and had never returned. On 26th June 1864 Oscar wrote to the ‘folks at home’ describing the intense fighting and their discovery of Peter’s body the following morning (24th June): ‘…Next morning we found the body of poor Peter in the woods and buried him by the side of a gigantic pine tree.’ (George Oscar French Letter 26th June 1864)

‘How I Came to Kill Your Brother': A Confederate Reveals an Irish-American’s Final Moment by Damian Shiels

800px-currier-ives_third_petersburg“According to request
I will now state how I came to kill your brother.
We met on the evening
Of 23d of June on the farm of Dr. Gurley,
Some 5 or 6 miles from Petersburg.
I supposed him to be a scout sent out
To make a reconnaissance, and as that was my business also,
I ordered him to halt.
He defiantly refused
The second time and turned to leave
When I fired and he fell.
I went to the poor fellow and found him past speaking
And nearly dead. He made signs for water
Which I got him and he soon died.
He was a good looking young soldier, in an artillery dress,
Well clothed and equipped. I deeply regretted that I had no time to bury him;
But in the passing the same spot the next day,
I saw a new made grave which I supposed to be his
I am glad you have his body and can forgive me the deed,
As you well know it might, under the same circumstances,
Have been my lot to be slain by him.”

(Peck 1892: 421-422, Burlington Free Press 13th October 1865)

Anger of a Kind–after viewing a year of child massacres in Mexico, Peshawar, and Syria

Anger of a kind
rests in the contours
of our palms,

Anger of a kind
with clenched fist
demands hearing of
why & wherefores
to this satiated life

Anger of a kind
bleeds from open wounds
& wombs, distended
bellies, machine-gunned children
nerve gassed children, & children killed by suicide bombs

Anger of a kind
wretches at the politicos,
foreign & domestic,
whose wart-healing
short-term gain
infects itself & all
that it touches
with promises & putrescence’s

Anger of a kind cries to a limpid
unconsciousness not
to accept anguish, suffering,
murder, ignorance, nor placation
solely because they have always been
or, because they have always been  paid off

Anger of a kind stands
witness for all that come after, sometimes
having used a tempered edge for necessary deadly force
and final will for change, & that swift bitch–change herself

This anger is kind.