The Grip

March 26th, 2015 by Deborah 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 steady lengths of weave
will bring us to our senses—
only now, and now, and
our warm, uneven, indefinite breaths.

Some clarity is smeared
on peripheral vision.





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Doors and Windows

February 18th, 2015 by Deborah 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.




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Old Hands

December 6th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



 Revision 49

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 like a moon,
all light and shadow,
warmed by a sinking sun…

an old child.





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Composition 101

November 23rd, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



Revision 10

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




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Seeking Patterns

October 22nd, 2014 by Deborah 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.






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Out of Joint

October 7th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



Revision 15

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.




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Monsoon Migration

September 14th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



Revision 74

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.







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August 6th, 2014 by Deborah 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 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 stir us:
to true and beautiful action.




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July 31st, 2014 by Deborah 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…





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These Skies

June 24th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




All afternoon clouds grew overhead
the vapor of mountain chill against prairie heat
and vice versa

I watched them roll east from sundown
and made prayers for rain
the release that animates and slakes
as it descends and rises

Just to see them smell them
to listen for thunder
is contenting

Often still skies are near-silent static
that command—
make  something  of the day

not this

This evening’s skies gave a blue rain
as chill and heat spread out together
on the garden

orogenies at rest

Where i live
clouds roll off mountains most days
I need do nothing




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The Firegigglers

June 2nd, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



On the annual conclave of The Ancient Order of Firegigglers–mad musicians, singers, and poets–and the placement of
Crazy Cloud/Michael Adams’s ashes.


River reeds dry by bonfire

for tonight’s song flutes.

Their in-breaths taste burnt sugar,

black earth;

their tones, night birds’

in the indigo copse.


We sit and sing to woodsmoke,

to auroras in the fire,

to the shoulders alongside us

that sway and shake like ours,

fail and square like ours…


Singing blue notes and lightning,

we affirm to the owl, the mockingbird,

we’re here, we’re still here…


Yet, someone on the hillside is laughing–

a crazy cloud, side-lit by sundown,

dances above his own cairn.





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On Colfax

May 13th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly



On Colfax today,
the aproned grocer asked about my pendant.
Were the copper characters on silver
the seven chakras of the body?
They say the central Tibetan mantra, I said,
that there is good in everything.
He wore a beaded mala on his wrist,
a string of buoys on a blue pulse,
as he gave my rolled oats and receipt,
calm as a cushion.

West on Colfax,
the bookstore cashier said,
–wherever your journey takes you, may it be truly beautiful–
And I thought, where ever my journey takes me,
it may be beautiful.
He only said the truth, he said.
I thought, this pond floats the lily.

A young man’s hair waved
around the collar of his woolen coat.
He held open the door for me,
as an in-breath sees its exhalation,
as brother eyes see a sister on her way.

Here, on the retail strip,
where so many receipts
pass through so many hands
and get it over with.
Others go empty.
Today, it seems everyone could be fed
and filled
from the cups of each other’s palms.
We really must come back again,
like this, tomorrow.

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Waiting Within

April 23rd, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




My waiting

is for something

I am not waiting for.

Fertile waiting is somewhat blind like that.


I don’t wait for thoughts that ride the narrows

when the canyons flood,

that scramble en masse through tamarisk,

on collisions of rocks,

or where one stops in mud,

dry but not dry enough.


My hope is for some thoughts better

than matter snagged

by woodier, stonier stuff.

Not something grabbed

like that.


It’s for the eloquence of canyon light

along its own blue shadow.

It’s the planet’s age alive in ancestral rock.

It’s for someone who knows like I know,  this:

that the wren and the wind raise songs

when we aren’t intent on them,

that bees and bats make us bloom,

that ravens gorgeously outsmart us…

each other.


The planet thrives on beautiful tricks

played on our vigilance:

delicate flickers knocking their skulls through trees,


a cat’s firm selfness dissolved to a liquid slink

by a mouse in the garden…

same cat that looks at our eyes,

just no more deep.


Tricks like this clear the way.

No thing good comes whole

through a closed door.



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A Lump

April 8th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




comes from somewhere
and sits in your throat
like a wad of dough
a dumpling swallowed whole
that no vindaloo
no berry fool
can wash down
and no cough can force out

it’s tired
sticky in the narrows
and somewhere it came from
it must go 

to find this place
you sleep for days
dream behind doors

while waiting outside
is anger proud
thinning to a ghost

the master with a cane raised
drops its arm
goes wobbling
in a dumb trundle
and is gone 

then un-choked
your throat blows breath
and your tongue
rings on the lips
of its oiled bell.




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April 1st, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




Don’t dig the brown sapling from the yard.
It was transplanted last year,
is in shock,
but its roots could give
a fresh shoot.

It is too soon to cut the dry one down.

Every day I see it
and  make a meditation on beings,
our various ways of passing by,
and away,

on potentials that realize themselves
in our efforts,
though we claim the successes,
on failures manifested in individuals,
but which reflect us all.

The green shoot may come,
grow bark and branches,
I would care for it,
but now, while the brown sapling stands,
it is my teacher.

Neighbors may misconstrue it
as an eyesore,
just as I do,
briefly, but every morning.



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Gratitude for Nightmares

February 24th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly





Nightmares come
and force me back to the life I left,
to be stalked by the vapors of battle,
to choke on sweet mornings.

But nightmares lead me
to shed skin in my sleep.
I  sometimes awake refreshed,
a peeled peach.

Nightmares prodded me repeatedly
through years,
through Midwestern temblors
toward a harbor of young mountains,
toward breadth and awe.

Belonging to no one,
nightmares go where they want.
I don’t know where or when they rest
for such a vigorous vocation.

To nightmares, then, my gratitude
for their  guidance and compassion.
My thanks, and a sack of oats.


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February 22nd, 2014 by Deborah Kelly





i am waiting for air to clear
i am waiting for greed’s extinction
i am waiting for eyes to stop only searching
the surface of the water,

to see
below where worlds of sentient beings
shape themselves in connections
changing shores in inevitable tides
of breeding and dying. 

i am tempted toward the surface
yet i rely on the water to breathe
and must balance my mind
on this:
dunno if it will.
that’s okay.




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The Fly

February 20th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




The fly wakes up in a pond of warm air
left by a cascade, a chinook wind,
pushed by a chill wind
through mountains to our high plain,
where it pools warmly, briefly.
The fly makes me recognize it,
announces its trajectory,
then returns to rubbing its filaments
on the soggy mat of grass
that is our garden.
So moist a sky today
it drips a semblance of Wisconsin,
and a slow tune
to an audience of napping birds.
It makes me look for flocks of ducks
returning to nest in the North,
but this is not the Midwest.
I live on the Eastern hem of the Rockies…
as crazy as a fly
with only minutes
to be awake
before the dictates of
the one or two last snows
of the season.

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Remaining Silent

February 12th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly




The remaining silence holds on
to the last
before morning

then stretches until thin
with rays warming
our wooden floors

and silence fades first

while lucky-me
coffee made for me

I pursue content
in a tangled Net
tune to radio-tangled noise

journalists are almost silenced

Cronkite is gone
with footage of
foreign killing fields
but Scahill will show us

Murrow is gone
with questions smoking
through the cathodes
but Greenwald will tell us

I want this
telling truth to power

with my morning coffee’s
fragrant steam
and yet

welcome it
silence visits
the afternoon
near the turn
around two
when hush happens

and silence
is at hand
when night
across our bed
in down-soft shadows

when we light fat candles

all right
’til just before dawn

and we cannot
be made to remain
in sweet silence

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January Pumpkins

January 16th, 2014 by Deborah Kelly





The big one was plumply lopsided in October,
unevenly expressed fertility or turpitude,
was an orange thick bloat of seed-belly smeared with summer green
stationed as season-greeter by the front door.
It harmonized with Aspen’s leaves, more yellow,
the Maple’s, more red.
Nothing fazed it.
But, when lifted from the concrete step in November,
it left
a puddle.
Inside, liquified.

The little one was bright,
the right shade of pumpkin for table decoration.
Darling. Symmetrical.
On the cloth of harvest feasts
it was nonplussed, convenient,
and when relocated to the November garden,
it left no stain.
Inside, it had dried to fiber.

Freezes followed frosts.
Big ‘kin sat on limp grass
and the little one atop it.
In the yard, we watched it.
They blanched, alike, to lighter skins,
the effects of warmth and cold were softening.

Lookalikes now, there they sit…
seeds for a thawed garden.




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