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.
AT THE END OF EVERY HARD-EARNED DAY
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.