My father never drank by James Ross Kelly (Me, as a Child Poetry Series

Silver Birch Press

james_ross_kelly
My father never drank
by James Ross Kelly

My father never drank
While he was working
When he was not working
A bottle of Jim Beam appeared
On the dining room table like a Roman pillar
And when it drained down another appeared.

My father was generally working
Sixteen hour days in the oilfields
Seven days a week until
A well came in or there was a dry hole
In between in the moving of the oil derrick
He was off, & he would drink, in the
Mornings there was beer at Lyle’s
& later at the St. James Hotel
Where there might be a card game
& I’d drink cokes and stare at the
Huge painting of Custer’s Last Stand

On a barstool I’d sit & his pals
Would call me little Jim Beam, I took no
Notice of this but liked the smell of stale beer
& the…

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

Silver Birch Press

pelicans
THESE PELICANS
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
Coming

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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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..
Well known

Mall Santa

The crowd looms
& I’m a mild spectacle
Ho, Ho for dough
I smile, wave, & shout,
“Merry Christmas!” yes I believe & I
Tell some of the nose miners
As I’m led, that Christmas is really
About Baby Jesus, some of them know this, yet
I am forbidden to do this, by the hucksters from
New Jersey that run the photo business here,
The parents are generally having a good time
The Mall is reasonable, making
The concession folks let the parents take pictures
On their phone camera, without buying & all
Can sit on Santa’s knee, buyers or not,
The poor are challenged by the $40 dollar snapshots
Insatiable consumerism? Charlie Brown might think so,
Then, there are the little ones that
Really believe, the college students
Running the set are intelligent & need
The money, I’m old and still,
I think intelligent, & I
Need the money, though I can’t every time
Remember all the names of the damn reindeer
I rattle off the ones I do know at that moment & it always works
No one tests Santa, had I walked by this scene
& some other white bearded fat man was doing this, like in a Brueghel painting,
About Icarus, I’d take no notice, & the line of children daily winds around,
Some of children want toys that total more than
Two months pay for a middle class family & some, like a small smiling boy, from
A humble household by the look of his smiling parents,
Asks only for new slippers, and his thread bare brother asks for a new coat,
& hearing this my heart wells up and the parents smile & I know
They’ll get them & I say,
Why yes!  Santa knows you are good boys!”
& I say the same to most of them & even
To the affluent, knowing if the thousands of
Dollars of tabulated excess does not all work out
Disappointment will actually help them,
& near Christmas after a lunch break I stride in the Mall with
A confident “HO, HO, HO,” & a little guy streaks away from his mother
& runs a hundred feet to me as fast as his 15 inch legs will take him &
I sweep him up in my arms & he holds tightly to my neck
& won’t let go & the next day
This scene is repeated by another tyke exactly the same way &
Now, approaching 70, I may not do this next year as
I sometimes long in this exact same manner, to
Run to the arms of God & hug His neck.

Venus Void of course

Stepping out into

The crisp night air under leafless

Oaks, there is a clean

Smell that can only be

Had in certain places,

Venus shimmers off mountain

Horizon, I thought maybe

You were looking at her too

 

Glimmering off your Bodega Bay

The pliable ivory of your face

& red hair

& connected pervasively,

Venus occluded with moon

Four days ago.

 

While you know

I don’t buy Astrology

& for you that’s part

Of your faith & that’s all right

For you then

I wonder about now

 

Three days before this evening

I’m told of twelve people

Are meeting

Three of which believe

That they are from Venus

& have video tape of

Venusian space ship

Landing on earth

 

Life is preciously beautiful

& we are part & parcel of

Gaseous formation of the adjacent

Planet & I would never want

To break up their meeting, & laughing

Though I am

 

Knowing that voiding time

All of this is a togethered thing &

While Botticelli’s art

Which we accept unlike

The Venusian space ship

& how he

Put her so delicately

On the half-shell

With your red hair

 

It is more like

A dream this art as life

Than a reverie

But there in imagination

We loved each other

& shared our last name w/out marriage

no relation & states away

A decade apart our

Birthdays, yet the same?

 

We astonished each other

You were swooped off

To California, but

In this cabin, this damn

Cold Oregon December,

Your red hair spilled across

My chest, your smell like

Lilac must, your

Touch soft, is soft &

Warm air becomes heavy

Acrid smoke fills the air,

A cabin, or a cave,

Or a peat heated shanty above

A wind swept cliff & the sheep bells

Clang in the mist?

 

I saw a reflection in your eyes

Dim light, our bodies move,

& then we were still, & your

Touch again, it should not be

A dream, yet it was

& that’s all we had

 

My heart surged

Not from desire

But from wonder &

Though we never made love you

Were many times on

My arm & we many times kissed

Deep spit swapping passion

& one night we slept together

This imagination makes what it will

Yet you were always a person

Not to be worshiped

But to be known & we knew each

Other in some kind of morphic

Field that came together & said

Remember?

 

I don’t buy reincarnation either, but

The neo-paganism you seemed to love, hey

The playful part I get,

Masks &drums & the anthropomorphic

Notion of animals, like coyote, but

The old gods have always been

Flipping  dead

Pagan playfulness, still has a black ribbon

Running through it to the diabolic,

As did the inquisition,

Or any religious spirit

In every camp—waiting

For the wrong move away

Presence interior & from

Above simultaneously

 

The dimness fades

& the light grows

Too, too bright

I close my eyes

Black ice on asphalt & fire

On the moon

We were both void of direction

Toward God

 

& then I see again your face

Surprised

Then calm, your face changes, again &

Ten out of ten of us die

& you were eventually gone

Now, let-me-tell-you-this-story..

I was in Peter’s cabin in southern Oregon, in the summer of 1981,

Peter had finished Seminary in 1965, & having done a stint as a

Chaplain in the Navy, or maybe it was the Army, he declined  to be ordained,

& went to work selling books for New Directions,

In 1967, he’d been hitting up book stores for

James Laughlin, & he stopped in

San Francisco—took LSD, & tried briefly

To become King of the hippies & realizing there

Were too many pretenders to the throne, he

Then retreated to southern Oregon, where

He bought a very small cabin in the woods & went on forays

For Amanita mushrooms every fall and spring on the Oregon coast,

He’d dry hundreds of  them & step into an altered reality most every day, then

Run ten  miles &  in his mid-forties he looked like an athlete in his twenties,

Peter had an estranged wife in  northern California & a young daughter

& was dating a nurse from the Psych ward in  a Medford hospital,

When I met him, & the first time I was in his cabin, on a round oak

Dining table was a copy of Wasson’s, Soma: the Divine  Mushroom of Immortality;

An ethno-mycological study—the cover a stark-white layout

With two   bright red  Amanita Muscaria  mushrooms w/white spots,

You will see this entheogenic mushroom in illustrations

Of Grimm’s fairy tales & even Disney’s Snow White, but Wasson’s contention

Is that this mushroom was instrumental in prehistoric world religion

& that is widely held now, as a naturalistic explanation of religion

& the summer after college I house-set my English professors apartment in Cambridge

& read this book, & Peter, impressed that I knew anything about it

Proceeded to let me sample, his stash of Ammanita Pantherina’s which were not red

but the color of gold leaf  & fruited out in the springtime & stronger than the Muscaria, &

two weeks after I’d had several small doses, I came over one morning for coffee,

&  Pete fed me six dried pancake-size mushrooms

I went up on his roof  & about an hour later he gave me five more with water,

I laid down and looked at the forest, took in the madrone trees and Douglas fir

over Pete’s house & though slightly nauseous I began to get really high,

I moved slowly off the roof from a ladder &

I came down & made my way around his house & out to a postage  stamp size

Lawn of about hundred square feet that was adjacent his house, & then

Down a path, beside his driveway & a small pond he’d made, with a pole

Bridge arcing over the top & transplanted river iris in the bank where a spring fed in

& I continued up the path where there were  a number of  Washington Lilies, whose

trumpet shaped white flowers on stems five to six feet tall, exuded a fragrance

that can waft 50 feet or more & these radiant lilies are named for Martha Washington

& walking by this air filled  florescence in white flowers nodding  facing outward

pale-lavender on the outside & tiny purple spots on inside, tips slightly curved back

I continued toward & into a stand of Ponderosa pine with black oak & Douglas fir mixed in

& now a  dry balsam smell  & now I was about a hundred yards from Peter’s cabin

& suddenly there was a man walking ahead of me I’d not seen before

He slowed, I got closer and I noticed the man was in a grey robe &

He turned around & I saw clearly this man was Jesus, & as

He turned I noticed a demeanor that was not one of annoyance, but

Yet it was as if he had been distracted by me,  from some other more pressing  intention, &

He had looked like this was going to be a necessary explanation for a too

Inquisitive child, & I had said nothing  & yes

there was seemingly white light  when I got close, much like the lilies

“I’m going to show you something,” He said,

“that most people don’t get to see until they die..” &  then

He touched me on my forehead with the flat part of a right forefinger bent slightly inward,

His hand making a half fist, & instantly inside me & every atom, every molecule of every plant,

& every rock,  & every tree & the water, the air & the bright blue summer sky—became

Love, as a base of experiential reality more real than anything I’d

Ever known, or have known since, & love was very apparently— the construct of  everything

& it was all pervasive & all around me,

& in me, & then breathing deeply, Jesus having since departed,

I staggered back to Pete’s house where there were now three people sitting on his lawn

&  I  loudly announced to everyone that,

“All there is, is love!” & they laughed as

I  announced this over & over—& I told no one about the Jesus

Part of this story—for about 35 years,

& I do not think I was supposed to..

I did assume this was a drug induced phenomenon, a vision none-the-less,

This phenomenon in the charismatic world is called an open vision,

Then after having  again, my own subjective yet, extra earthly always unexpected

Sober encounters with this same Jesus, though not as Christophany, as I’ve described, so

Eventually, I discounted naturalism as a notion & a base construction of reality

& just accepted that yes, of course it was Jesus,

& yes, I needed that, & I needed to know this was so, once & for all & always

You see, one week before this encounter  I was in Rock Creek Canyon & I—a stoned hippie,

Had scratched in large letters, on a rock, “God is Love,” & I knew this was true, only as philosophy &

Left it there for someone to find, & that this Jesus found me, & straightened this out &

He has been finding me in my own wondering ever since,

Now a reality & then a notion, but that notion now brings barrier, while this other is

As faith, eternal sustenance, sure goodness, & loving  kindness, &

Because it really is true that despite everything else, really,

Love is all there is.