“My Car” published at Silver Birch Press

My Car

by James Ross Kelly

At seventeen I was driving my

Newly restored & shiny red 1951 Henry J

I’d worked on for 3 years,

With its rebuilt, “Kaiser Supersonic 6”

Down Highway 62, it is 1967 &…

Go to Silver Birch Press:

https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/my-car-poem-by-james-ross-kelly-me-at-17-poetry-and-prose-series/

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

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,
inexpressible

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.

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.

High above at this moment

The last two pieces of oak have gone

Into the stove

& it’s too dark & icy to get more,

Inside the stove a chunk to the right

Smolders & pops

To the left about thirty seconds

Ago the other said the same

 

It is getting cold—a jet

High above at this moment

Is taking someone

Toward a sad occasion

We all suffer

 

Iris in a water carafe

Is stupidly trying to bloom

In December

 

On the hot stove I dropped Frankincense

This after noon

& a Holy odor

Pervades this cabin

No priests on this mountain

Wind chimes however

Announce epiphany

Unrecorded

 

Lovers embrace in

Immaculate numbers

All over the planet

Genetic material furthered

To be exactly what they

Are, themselves, guiltless after Christ,

Either by love or some other reason

 

Life brings on abundant life &

His own purpose

& like the tides, surges connection

Recedes, then surges again.

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