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Three Poems
by Gary Keenan

Rotary Devotion
Summer and we hungered for bone, for clouds,
the restaurant was crowded and everyone cared,                    

hours of light, minutes of shade:
organs cool in the dark body of time-

spices, bias silks, sky full of iris
and no city in sight--other routes considered

then engaged, carrying bits of a picture
floating in the frame, almost winded, almost wired;

at the curb someone sighed, heads turned,
for a moment all we did was breathe,

all we burned between us
still lighting the passage: no one came by,

so amends were pointless, if still seductive
in draggled velvet pantaloons: no truck

with humors ill or good, just thought
tasting salty citrus in the mouth of drought,

or, as one chained by choices might have voted
often enough to be party to a higher order,

elect in name only, calling, calling
louder than habit allows, not at all

ashamed to hold winter close at heart,
fully vested, vetted, any perusal

cause for arousal; thus we slept late
into night with nothing covering our eyes,

gardening where the wise posed constellations
of roses blanching on a black trellis,

greater song, lesser song in every rolled shoulder
and pivot: o mute assemblies, intimacies

tendered with every full tank, no one at fault,
no one to thank for that; we went quietly

into discomfort, page after illuminated page
crammed with proof of unbounded life,

before noon plopped a greasy paw on the counter
and demanded the manager en fricasee:

sometimes blurting traffic stopped beauties
before the spectacle of goatees at brunch,

but as often as not the power stayed off,
we could touch without sparking a laugh,

we could really wear what we wanted,
mother's muttering mattered not a whit:

we were free, stupid in that blessed way,
neck aching from ice cream, plumage

riffling in the butter breeze, greater song,
lesser song--our lips knew no difference

The Limits to Self-Observation

Can a picture contain a full and precise picture of itself? ...On a finite canvass this is impossible, except in the trivial case that the picture is the picture of itself. (Then the picture is also the picture of the picture of itself, and the picture of the picture of the
picture of itself).

      --Thomas Breuer, "Limits to Self-Observation"
You find a spot you think begins your end
and sit and watch the sunlight stab through clouds;

the red-wing blackbird's flashing epaulets
illuminate the rushes where it flits

attacking sparrows. You're hung-over, sore
and bruised from pounding on the doors

of perception: no one's home. The mansion
in a moment will be chalk, the world mere tons

of excrement and offal. Still, the coffee's
warm. Art and work can wait. A single bee

flies slowly, flower to flower, in the cool air,
and in the guitar's buzzing strings you hear

laments of Appalachia and Roscommon,
the blues of Willie Brown and Charlie Patton,

the truths your throat cannot emit except
in tones unlovely, hoarse, nasal, bereft

of any music but your own; and yet you sing
before you speak to anyone. Nothing

in your stomach but caffeine and bagel.
No thought in your mind. Feet on the table.

A blade of sunlight bisecting the garden,
a few faint insects hovering, wings applauding

mornings spent in idleness and rapture
that won't be framed, repeated, painted, captured.

Variable Rates of Change

     for Bek Andoloro

As the avenues fill with afternoon light
So, too, do my hands become acquainted

With the volume of your radiant presence
While you occupy rooms that barely fit

The life your mind demands of your body.
Cartographers of lust may claim that dawn

And dusk are but borders, customhouses
Wherein light inspects dark, and night, the day,

But I would prowl those zones alone
If that meant a purer light for you, a deeper sleep.

I do not matter, and what I have, I give
To the furnace and compost heap.

These bones are mere wicker,
This skin the antimacassar of a mind

Worn thin with indecision. I cannot
Be followed for more than a day

Without collapsing beneath the bluster
Of it all, the rage to say, "It is thus," and then

The urge to deny even this. Once written,
My thoughts construct minds of their own,

And no doctoring will make me whole again.
I think of you often, or shall I say, we do so

With a gentle regard I learned in your care,
That this compassion might operate

In the world, and with it, and through it.
Such thought never ceases, so long

As hymns are carved into clouds
And rained into gutters.

No one listens to me without wondering
If I am all here, for good cause-

I've never been more present nor more removed
From the ideas we hold of one another,

And in my middle age I've grown
Fond of the view closer to ground.

The silver haze of December lingers
By the parking meters. By the time I think,

"Can I use this?" I've been used.

Gary Keenan lives and works in New York City. His poems have appeared in various literary magazines including Southern Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, oblek, and in such online publications as Pith, Isle Review, and Lynx, and the November 2000 issue of In Posse.


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