CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
The Outlying Counties and Then Some
Everyone had a mother then, a working train set,
and a nearby promenade to daze among flowers
whose names were difficult to pronounce.
The sun was turning as we turned, though we couldn’t see
either very well and the sky held its grayed-in glass (unbreakable),
waiting for the steam to settle, what little talc clings to the neck.
We were talking about the smells of the flowers,
how they never seemed right for the specific time of day,
how the ladies who brought them in wicker baskets
and never said so much as mornin’ honey or hi there sweetheart
made you flush with a homespun affection that only seemed to exist
on the radio, in mahogany voices. Summer didn’t last forever,
as many said it wouldn’t, and despite the children selecting less colorful pajamas,
we could still rely on a few stick-bearers to find that patch of wet cement.
So why this quaking in the trees, the winter sidewalks so quick to melt?
We were circumspect and felt every reason to be: some background
of the thoughts we thought then, laden with parasols or peacoats,
a clean bordering on magisterial that we had acknowledged years before
(we were conscious of doing so) made the rabbits tamer, the squirrels
vaguely harmonious. So much for the rapture of wheat fields, the ones
far enough out we’d have to pack a thermos and several spare tires
before the arrival on a scene of sparse trees, sparsely situated
in a forgiven landscape, the landscape itself a reflection
of the grace that gathered elsewhere. This was, of course,
long before the shortening of salutations,
mauve to midnight and slowly back again,
long before any of us could remember.
Poem with Contrails
June’s last maidens, strolling daybreak.
Tulip-prim, tenor wind
in the flue. The air expanding then: my mother
small along the water.
Who knew the month, the friendly weather?
I was thinking somewhere else so
I was here. Stray maidens, stay.
Pray for all my other times of year.
Chimney crumble, bright brick.
Mother and flowers flying and clear.
A plane raking its own snow.
The fields of Lancaster
Awake in lavender, tilling
Motions in a low sky:
What goes from tree to somewhere
Tree, what runs beneath
A buried bridge.
At a far enough distance, everything
Silent, silent is. Leaf-smear
The train window, Amish girls
Singing in a silo & I
Once heard a buzz saw sunk
In an ocean my
Eyes were full cups closing
In the sound—thinnest blade—
Ears opening for all
That circle-green sea.
to J. R. Lottes
dawn, a meeting
what we feel
before it’s how
some next dawn
orchestral and willing
any color please any
your speaking hand. How
it stencils the air.
Timothy O’Keefe is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Utah. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, New American Writing, and Pleiades. More of his work is available at the Electronic Poetry Review.