Nearer Lights

October 19th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly




when sun eases its encompassing,
when smaller, nearer lights
bring us home.

on the verge
of wanting warmth before supper…

From an onyx lampshade,
the creamy beeswax,
sweet butter on sourdough,
a climax of leaves that light the road.

I want to make things:
bottle lamps and luminarias,
ristras and origami stars.

But this tender October quiet…
just to sit here and walk there
is effortlessly golden.





October Prairie

September 24th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



Rice Moon above,

no lightning, no rain since August…

the marigold garden holds the harvest

of wind’s lost leaves.

Clearly the sky was bluer

when leaves gave it green edges,

when framed in aspen coins.

For love of blue…of green:

time to follow the conifers

up the mountain.






Rock Formations, Full Moon

September 1st, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly

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a field of recumbent bodies,
where the sumac tastes
of tang,

where the cricket bells
and retrieve kept time,

and the moon yolk
far up the sky:

now it is a doe eye
in the dark,
an interpreter of beams…

and the lithic bathers cool,
to sleep
wrapped in lunar white.

Bat Wings

August 26th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly





Bats don’t fly out of hell
like a bat out of hell.

They fly into night—
a stream of avian gloves,
so many soft leather bows
stretched for flight.

Bats know exactly where you are,
exactly located.
But bats concentrate on their own intent:
to fly, to gather, to roost as
wing-tented families.

Like bats in heaven.





August 26th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly


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whose love,
molded like a brick, or a brain,
or a lollipop, or a double pair of lips,
will melt…but not






Talk Radio

July 1st, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



You’d rather be dead than rich.
You’d rather be dead than red,
or married to a socialist–

than to hold
two opposing thoughts
in one still mind.

In the belt loops
of your slacks:
two opposable thumbs.

What will you do with them?






June 30th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly

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It is summer
the love of a table fan
blowing my hair
and stroking my face.







May 19th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



Sometimes while you are talking,
look in my eyes.
No convection there,
or stillness,
or gap winds rising
can ever hide.

Masters and mistresses have forced
in your mind
instruments of alarm,
wired to warn in advance
of ambiguous signs.

Like seeing my eyes might
drag your tailpipe through town,
or flat your tires to ride clapping
through a village in mourning.

You’ve got to look.

Notice not only if lightening might strike
or if gales will down trellises.
Not only how changes in the sky
feed the plums, lengthen vines,
heat the stone of slopes,
and dry sweat to salt
on your sun-strengthened thighs.

Notice without measuring
the life in my eyes.

Notice like you did —
lying on a limb high,
young, behind a country house,
before you were trained to turn away
from the life within
eyes like mine.





Fresh Idiots

April 28th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly

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Do you watch the rising and rolling
of beads on her chest
as she breathes?
Do you sense the valley of
her belly
through her sweater?
Does a nuance in your gaze
cause her hips
to shift?

Forget it.

She sees the hair on your sternum
breathing like a pet
that, with luck, she will nuzzle.
She sees, you wear your keys
hanging on your jeans —
eye-catching unlockers.
She sees your chin rise
your wit winding up for a pitch.

Forget it.

The newly single
arrive here every day.
See, they embark and disembark
with tin smiles:
fresh idiots.

Hold your heart,
stash your bags.
Wait for me.


April 10th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



An inhabited nun,
face, the white of soft-cooked egg…

St. Agnes.

Agnes of the cross-your-heart
in white cotton
upholds a wooden ladder.

Her vestments pose,
but her face does not.
It reflects pink at dawn,
at sundown, gold-blushed blue.

She dilutes her tea with milk
but bathes in colors.

Agnes of the Sun.

A full-frocked priest
waxes and wanes at night
in his sliver of rhythm.

St. Wayne.

Wayne of the Censer and Thurible
carries a handkerchief.
Between his fingers, a scent—
the dereliction of joy, distilled
in the burnt myrrh
of duty.

He takes liberties.
He takes forgiveness.

Wayne of the Moon.

There is something in Earth’s turning
that will defy and defy
the cosseted
right out of their frocks.

Some taste the Sun
on their skin and drink it.
Others go off to chew
on tough shadows.

One day, baptism will be
will be by prism–
each color, all made of light.





The Grip

March 26th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



Perfectionism is an imperfect circuit
in the nerves,
evidenced by the quick twitch
of an eye.

Twist together the strands of an unraveling rope,
tight, tight,
or wring out the rag full of holes
one more time

If you let go
of even one end, then:
nothing but frayed strands
in your hand
and rag-threads too weak
to reweave.

Hands want to build a rope bridge
tear-wet, warped floorboards.
Hands want
to repair the torn
red ventricular fibers…

Let go,
let go with them.
Loosen the starvation grip.

No righteous tightening
or even lengths of weave
will bring us to our senses—
only now, and now, and
our warm, uneven, indefinite breaths.

Clarity reclines
on peripheral vision.





Doors and Windows

February 18th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



The door behind me is half open.
To turn and close it
is to forfeit you
and face a fall so hard…
internal bleeding of
deep, thick blue
and a rhythmless heart.

Your door is half-open behind me,
though a rock through
a blinded window
pitched glass underfoot.

In every room, hungry ghosts
and gaps,
and you, wrapped
in a wardrobe
of memory skins.

How to go in?

Beyond me, a door,
its paint sweating.
Behind me, a door,
its paint peeling…

I will be out of doors awhile,
oiling my flesh with balsam,
watering my parched stars.

I will be out of doors.




Jabaliya, July 2014

December 31st, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly

Gray donkeys tied
outside a school,
soft necks in slack ropes,
hooves in desert dust,
grasses twirling slowly
in their whiskered mouths.

It is only morning.

Young sunlight on blankets,
milk in small cups,
years of fingerprints overlap,
on the children’s books.

Shelter is nothing when
missile thunder inhales the sky,
when bones explode in shards
from donkey flesh, and child flesh…
where the sheltered die.

Scent of pulverized concrete,
singed skin,
tones of nursery songs
burnt by the precision
of Bibi’s bombs.

Tear the uniforms
from invading forces backs.
Leave hoof marks
on their chests—
round like a sign for shelter,
round like mourning mouths.

Stolen gardens burn
in simoom-winds
that blow through cabinets,
scorch halls.
For blood and bones,
the only sacred wall is shelter.

Shelter is the only sacred wall.





Old Hands

December 6th, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly


Your palm still lusters–
a bioluminescent bay,
an abalone bowl,
salty warm, round
as a girl’s.

The dorsal side contracts
on five ridges–
sepia patches, and blue,
on thin slopes, where
knobs protrude.

Hands rising with the Moon,
all light and shadow…

an old child.





Composition 101

November 23rd, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly


Don’t say it, show it,
they always say.

But just do what you do
to make music
with words,
that enter through eyes
but are known in the ears.

This is the profundity of the cook
and the poet:
they’ve got their senses!

Show it, say it, sing it, taste it…
as long as you make me
feel it,
I’ll know it.



♦ photo is of an ink painting I made one night




Seeking Patterns

October 22nd, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly


Revision 18


Crazy-making’s what it’s called
when two labyrinthine humans get down
to deciphering love.

They knew each other and now they crudely decipher
patterns in each other:
deciphering fingerprints,
the veins in their minds,
the shadows they cast one afternoon,
a catastrophe in tea leaves,
the trajectory of encroaching vines.

They are mindless of the thresholds
they scuff at;
they disregard the splintering door.

Affection seems impersonal
and hostility personal.
On reflection, it all seems mechanical.

It is all love. And such love.
It’s all love. And such love.
There’re twenty people in this two-person room,
my love,
and we’ve got to make space
among us
for some wildflowers,
for the roots of evergreens reaching, inter being,
and our mystery:
where we haven’t  yet  touched.






Out of Joint

October 7th, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly


My bones don’t stack up some days.
The tibia juts, an acute angle.
The vertebrae fall like dominoes
across the kitchen table.
From my skull,
two jaw bones hang ajar
and my lips want to laugh…

Well, have you ever tried to put yourself back together,
bone connected to bone
and joints relaxed?

Some days I say,
throw bones to drooling dogs
sat out on the sidewalk.
They are glad just to chew and slobber,
but I have to try
to put myself  together.




Monsoon Migration

September 14th, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly


The desert during monsoon is greener,
like wetback hope,
how it overcomes acacia thorns
and trails through nettle,
how migrant feet outrun flash floods
through mosquito canyons,
how their ankles roll on rocks
and jump back up…
like cool tears pour from blisters.

Monsoon green shades resident quail,
quail and timorous rabbit.
Its blooming calls through corridors
and borders—
to orange butterflies, purple birds,
to people who follow on foot:
Mesoamerica in motion,
leaving to live.

When desert ocotillo forests yellow
and harvest moons ripen over orchards,
armies of ladders lean against trees,
waiting, chink-chinking change,
bells calling migrants again
through borders.

Irritable autumn wasps graze
on the affordable harvest–
a larceny in every meal,
a theft of hidden labor,
around so many heavy Northern tables.








August 6th, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly



Sometimes I wonder,
when our heads are wrapped in news of catastrophe,
are we shifting any karma with our minds?
are we doing any good?
eventually, might our being informed
heal an injured man, from our bombs,
an injured child, from our bullets,
the scorched women holding the injured
and the dead?

Their voices splinter themselves,
we hear them, but they are extreme and strange.
I heard too, I’m so informed…

Every day we fund genocide with our earnings
and our spendings,
and we begrudge ourselves peace.
Our guilt and anger are right.
But remember to live awhile
with the countless lives in our gardens,
where there is no religion,
no fumbling, lethal machinery of empires.

Remember, we give of ourselves unevenly,
like people,
like breath from a wave
on a windy ocean.

We need our gardens.
There, we will fill our muscles with heart blood
that will stir and strengthen us:
to true and beautiful action.





July 31st, 2014 by Deborah K. Kelly



They bombed the donkeys!

as they stood tied outside the bomb shelter.

They bombed the shelter!

Air full of concrete dust and the scent of blood…

they killed the children!

See the uprooted fruit trees burning in the night?

They crushed worlds and worlds within worlds…