May 1st, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly



Small weight on young talons
that hold my palm skin tight–
her eyes see my eyes
and make me wonder–
who is there and
who I am.

Feather upon feather
covert and beneath,
so still, and yet—
her eyes, two
apertures in sync.

A muscle along the right
side of her amber beak
jumps the width of a pin.

What is it?

A snake, silent as an owl,
launches from a branch
and chugs her down,
bone beak quill flesh.

I  ask for meaning,
something to cup in my stinging palm,
while the she-snake goes,
slowed by cargo.

A snake’s life senses heat
and swallows it whole,
and an owl’s life is flight and sight,
of tearing and tugging.

Perhaps mine is to think,
with a fork and spoon,
and sometimes a knife,
to think on the life I eat.

I hold out my hand, palm up,
and wonder.






April 7th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly

2015-07-23 09.41.42



Everyone reaches
down for life,
into water and earth.

Toward the creek
on a grass-furred slope,
cottonwood fingers hold the shore,
as lovers’ do     wending toward moisture.

Cottonwood, she drinks deeply
of creek and soil.
She prepares to leaf.

Her shed twigs
have been swirled to a mound
by over-bank waters,
are a hemisphere    of unified lines
gone round.

The mound repeats the basket
a fisherwoman now pulls
through the current.

While, leaning back on her arms,
a girl trails her toes,
though the water is cold,
as if she and the tree
were each other’s mothers.




Desert Wake

March 25th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly




If I had a visible wake,
it would brush the dunes
and I’d watch the ripples fill-in again,
where animals only go afoot
at night, and in the morning, before

there are beetle tracks, a fine design,
& slick-ribbed lizard belly dragged by
elegant claws,
& paws, the trail of a mustelid.

Here, desert shrimp
that shrivel into slough,
plump and fill and mate
from a several-decade wait
for that hydroquake.

Will it matter?
Does it matter?

That every trace, track, trail, wake
whisks together with all others?
Aren’t these lives, combined,
the only deities,
legs and wings causing streams
and trails in everything?

And my wake, when I move,
and my wake, when I die,
all fill back in.

Into complete,
into organisms and sand and rock that do not
reproduce, but who all are alive.






March 16th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly



I am a
flesh/blood sphinx
supine in the forest’s

My spine aligns
along a limb,
my limbs, untucked,
drape down.

I met a woman who said
she knew my silence.
Once, she moved away
to a bridge-less island.

She said, not knowing,
we become oracles.
Not saying,
we become wells.

So, we come to talk.

I only need to know the calls
of owls, now,
with the tones of pines, blown.

She disagrees.

Then, scrub the stains
from the pavement,
and I’ll adapt,

back to the
buskers of town.

But I will still
have some wordlessness
daily and nightly…

for the clarity,
the intimacy
of wordless sounds.






Winter Song

February 28th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly




Where I live,
warm tree sap on bark
thickens to syrup, or harder,
with sometimes scents like vanilla,
other times, of turpentine.

I’ve seen a pot of hot sap
boil to glassy shatters,
seen syrup pool to cabochons
of irregular amber…

some stirred with clouds,
some with arboreal litter.

My winters of tree sugars, root cellars
and tonics—
wine in pitched barrels of white grape
and spruce resin.

Scrub Jay in her juniper says:
spring is for greens,
summer for fruit, autumn for nuts,
and for winter, what’s saved.

For my provender,
some winters are a kettle,
some a solvent, some a fire.

Always, I cook what’s here–
even bitter, slowly to deep sweet,
or at least to digestible tender.




Two Married Poets

February 19th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly

photo copy

for M.S. and for Katherine


I read your poems now
and you read in your voice
from painted rooms
in Oaxaca

places that framed
your reading

now your voice
has shifted frame—on the page
to a train
in Brooklyn

and I know you’re there
in Brooklyn

from insomnia with lions
to a perfect robin
a worm in its beak

and Katherine

her certain pause
needed to see
what is between
a color’s name and a color

how she slips her eyes
into yours

I hear your voice
and I remember how
(I saw)
she loves your face,
your hand,
your gait

I read and hear
Katherine too

the luster of waves around her face
as she smooths and awakes
your daily nightly lake

having both of you
in mind

is knowing




Like Alebrijes

February 18th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly


You have to love life,

not merely love to live.

Then, even your darkest iterations

stand, elegant,

in direct relation to light.

That’s why true black

is so bright.


February 4th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly





life is a baited hook.

so, how to know
when i am the instrument,
the worm, or the fish?

and which is hungriest?

i would see everyone fed.

though, life is no nap
on the soft belly of love,
that ocean of fat, warm water.

many take up stances,
very wary of each other.
we will still all look,
listen, and grow older.

there’s potential here.
given time.
to know how
we’re in this together.





Local Diner

February 1st, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly




He’s  banging the pots——to get them clean.

He’s clanking a bowl with a spoon——for the melted ice cream.

Black cowboy boots guffaw across the bare wood floor.

Someone strikes the register keys waaaay too hard——for emphasis.


Slam! Ka-ching! Its all such overkill.


But, when I was a little girl,

I loved to run across the waxed linoleum

in Sunday shoes, in a high-ceilinged room,

pin balling off clusters of adults——in patent-leather stereo.


We’re all playing, you know?

Though, we must admit——some look awfully serious about it.







Water Girl, Spring Break

January 29th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly


For all those girls on their way to that party.


Snail curled by shell,
embryo curled by bone cradle,
a girl is born on sand, on belly,
sea tones in her eardrums.

Bare on the grit,
on skin thin as an eyelid,
ventricles swim in her ribs–
just-hatched jellyfish.

Water girl has no shell,
no fur, no land or water parent—
but hungry gulls, who scold
dogs and the coiled serpent.

More exposed than a gastropod,
the girl grows into tall heels of plastic,
into shamed and angry boys,
and a mask of purloined makeup.

Drunk on the beach,
dreaming of a scallop shell and goddess,
protection, she says in soused sleep,
did you…?



Suite on a Mountain, for Earth and Cello

January 29th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly



After a performance by Cellist, Ruth Boden, in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. http://tinyurl.com/j5j2qew


Cellist, practitioner of hours on chairs,
climbs up-mountain hours in boots,
goes to raise the polyphony
of Bach’s own prophesy, in G.

To walk is andante,
an unhurried tempo, steadily,
like up-mountain with a cello,
its shifting case across her back.

On the summit and snow,
her wrists are looser, her fingers lighter.
Her bow strokes in plein aire…
the acoustics of ice and fire.

Notes pitched on tones of granite,
notes on wind’s palette,
their radical counterpuntal
sieves down the steep forest.

Suite for Cello,
with Bach’s foretold allargando.
The notes fall, feeding willows,
before dark at a quiet seep.



Writing Desk

January 19th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly

IMG_1182 (1)



My table is papered with pages of curled edges,
dog-eared, with pen-strokes
like nail clippings and eyelashes.

Among perpendicular phrases
there are underlines and just cross-outs,
zaggy scribble-outs,
and loopy lines–the wings of flies.

Such blotchy circles of coffee sweat,
fingerprints of newsprint,
smears of resins and oils
salted with lily pollen from a banquet…
the color of saffron spreading
in a ring of purple wine.

Steam from a soup bowl liquifies
this chaos, that evaporates
into a cloud that looks like
the willfulness of watercolor
without outlines…it is…
where stuff happens.




Poetry Curriculum

January 18th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly


After a poetry workshop with Eileen Myles


I was afraid of poets:
(scary scary)
bishops’ hats on lances
declaring red ink.

Eileen said,
“fucky fucky–sitting with god”

Yeah, I was sitting there
scared of a dumb god.

Look, pens are
death and birth and sex,
see their vulvic fountains?

Fill them with any color.



Walking Oaxaca

January 15th, 2016 by Deborah K. Kelly





Crowned pig on a talavera tile,
one solo puerco insignia
set in the stone church stairs…

why? what?

on the steps where
two puppy bulldogs attract girls
to the boy sitting,
whose corn on a stick pops, bitten,
’til its honeycomb’s dry.

Church doors of slabbed wood,
long hanging slices of carne separating.
Four hundred years of drying
on iron pins…for someone’s carnality,
and still the church pigeons pass scat.

Look: an iron ring in a colossal stone,
fat as a fed snake,
it fastens some supreme possession…

but, I ask: who forged in the heat?
who hammered it-in to no applause, chingon,
and who ordered it placed?

Crowds step around it and,
on the street, the spindly trees,
when this racket:

someone set loose from loosely piled cages
what won’t be captured twice:
an outraged macaw
pursuing its native fruit.





Fractured Floe

December 22nd, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



I’m on a fracture in an ice floe
and the night is blue
and the far white suns remind me:
breathe through, breathe through.

In whale water, whales shake
my ache from their heads, and make
a new word meaning both
“what?” and “why sakes?”

Half of this ice floe
could really hold two.
I’m on a fracture in an ice floe
and the night is blue.





In Abiquiu

December 9th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly




Sandstone bone,
this is where I return to the rim
of our mother,
and ask for her blessing…

to return to my falling
now, with wings.

walking is falling
between toe-off and foot plant,
breathing is falling
like an up-tossed hat…

we all fall…
even riding our fall,
flying our fall,
to give ourselves back.

in this birthplace
I ask for a blessing:
to be like a cat with wings
licking her paws for the landing.




Disaster Divinity

December 6th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly




God never changes, as far as I can tell.
The chemistry of belief burns
and its smoke-clouds of war
thicken with ballistics.

It is disaster divinity, as far as I can tell,
and my arm aches from throwing and catching,
throwing and catching,
arguments for and against,
the adherents or the doomed,
over whose corpses are blessed.

Don’t offer food to gods,
to hungry gods,
gods of threats and promises—
divisive, voracious.

Until our nows, united,
are a tumble of love and more love,
It, He, She…The Unnamable ego-demon
never changes.





December 6th, 2015 by Deborah K. Kelly



The Chinese word for headache is tong.
What gives me a headache is also tong:

wagging tong
running tong
restless tong
spurious tong

especially the shield of tong
the command performance tong
the brilliant tong
even tong in cheek.

sometimes tong clangs
like a spoon on a pot:

relief for the harried tong!
freedom for tong!
respect for tong!

What a headache, this tong.




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.