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Kelley Jean White

Every poem I write for my father is called twilight | Tied

Every poem I write for my father is called twilight

Clouds make shadows on the mountains.
I walk through their green darkness. I want
a wind to silence thought, a storm to drown
out prayer, electric stillness, the promise
of breaking. You can walk three days
into woods and not find a single birch

worth a canoe. I know. I have done it.
I have loved slender saplings peeled white
and mourned for their cracking death
in ice. You never trusted your canvas
to my hands, never taught me the courage

of rapids. But I learned to read cocoons
and the wings of beetles, spider silk
and the veins of fern. I can follow bear
spoor studded with blackberry seed,
walk through thorns and not care if my legs

are bloodied. I have knelt on bruised knees,
mouth to rough water, asked the snake
to rattle your path from his one rock.
I want to remember dawn. I will listen for
the hawk to fold his wings.


I have to admit I never liked the tree. Evergreen,
but a kind of khaki color, prickly, shapeless,
not pointed at all like a Christmas tree, scratching
at the brick walls of my tiny back yard. When it browned
I wasn’t bothered, just needles dropping, maybe
too dry, maybe soil worn out, maybe some toxin; it had
never been a beauty; but it was odd how sharp the rusted
line appeared, the lower limbs spreading out further
below, upper half crunched and brittle — I asked
you to trim it, to cut the whole thing down — and you
found a subtle line, an indentation, bark curled
and grown within — a balloon string, it must have
been your fifth birthday, I remembered the party,
cupcakes and paper cups in the back yard, treasure
hunt with toys and candy buried in bird seed — I thought
I was clever, so environmentally sound. You remembered.
I’d hoped you wouldn’t. To kill a thing by too little
caring. To kill a thing by forgotten joy.

Poet's Biography:
  Kelley Jean White is a New Hampshire native with degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard Medical School. She's been an inner city pediatrician for more than twenty years. Her work appears throughout the small small press and in journals such as Nimrod, Poet Lore, Rattle, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Medical Humanities, and most recently in Melic Review. She has several collections in print, most recently a full-length collection, Late from The People's Press, Baltimore. Living in the Heart is forthcoming from WordTech Communications. She currently serves as poetry editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal of the arts.

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