Devin Kelly - Two Poems

Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of the collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence (Anchor & Plume) and the forthcoming collection, In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (ELJ Publications). He is working now on a collection of poems inspired by Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. He works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches poetry at Bronx Community College, and lives in Harlem. You can find him on twitter @themoneyiowe.


It began with a river & its crossing,

     a whisker of grain pulled out of a dead

boy’s mouth, fur strung tight & propped

    with bone. A gunshot, a silence, 

& another. Believe me when I say

     I was raised alright. You can

forgive a marriage for having a child

     but you cannot forgive its love.

It began with want & ended with more. 

    I wanted to lower the horizon line

until it hovered before my toes, so that 

    I might step into sky & be bluer

than a feeling. You can say it began

     with rib torn from body; you can 

say clay; you can say dust. Who is it

     you want to excuse from evil?

I was taught love is patient & kind.

     In this, I was taught love, simple

& burning, exists. I am a fool. It began

     with my hand on objects. It ended 

with the way an object can hold a soul,

     become a kind of body. Look around. 

There is nothing here but the high fever

     of waving grass as far as the eye can see. 

There's no room for shadow. When I wanted

     to hide, I had to crawl inside my body. 



Last night in the glow

of an empty parking lot

I stood, the haze of water

hanging from a storm burnt

to orange, the night’s plum

bitten open & left for flies.

I wanted to sit down, wet

my ass on pavement, feel

the purr of everything

buzz against my cheek,

& think of the way my father

sometimes stood for too long

in his underwear looking

at nothing but his own reflection.

When I believed in God

I used his name to stitch together

what I didn’t know. Maybe

I’m wrong about everything –

that the murmur of electricity

singing through a wire singed

by the slow burn of time

is a kind of god. That the hush

of a cloud shying behind

the dark cloak of night just minutes

after crying is a kind of humanity.

You know that feeling too, don’t

you? How you sometimes cry

without crying & how one day

you are struck by a desire

to go home, simply, & sit

by the window near your bed

& do nothing but hear yourself

breathe. You are alive, I know.

Here is the parking lot of your

existence. Notice how the empty

spaces puddle with rainwater,

butts of cigarettes little boats

that know no shore. Here is

the light hanging like dust

caught in another room you

remember now. Here is a memory

of your father in that room. Here

are his feet, the ample simplicity

of his body, how there are days

where you know nothing

but the longing to be held.

& who taught you that? That

the difference between want

& need is only how you make

up your mind. It’s alright,

I want to say. To the lamp,

the throb of a car starting

somewhere, the scream

of someone screaming along

a song through the window

of a bar. I am not always kind.

There are days I give up. The night

thrums like silver dropped

from some great height. I once

held a baby to my face & kissed

her nose for the longest time.

To be wide & soft, to lay

your body down & feel

the gentle moan of everyone

ending their day atop you –

if you told me I could do this,

I would believe in anything.

When I was little, I held

an ear to my father’s gut

just to hear him breathe.

I needed to know

there were others

somewhere in the midst

of all this dreaming.

Life is big & I don’t know

what to do with it. If I have

to sit down, tell me

you will sit beside me.

We will eat each other

like plums. We will hum

a melody that never repeats

itself. We will put our ears

to our bellies, be still, & listen

to the throb still throbbing.