Sherry O'Keefe



THE YEAR OF THE TREE

You wondered how long it would last, this fresh
Ponderosa, cut from the forest where the two of you
hiked the morning side of Moose Creek.

Your boot print fit inside the hollow of his,
your alto countered to his tenor.  
You both knew the three verses of Joy

to the World.  We'll call this the season of The Tree,
he said, catching you in the moment. You with your
mama-in-her-kerchief ways and he with his bit

of Dickens.  At first, you thought to savor more,
so you developed the pictures from his camera.  
Photos of warm bread rising, a midnight

kitchen lit with flash, a candid moment of you
rolling out pie crust, edges spreading further
with each press. You thumbed through shots

of the creek and the saw, the slope and the snow.
A bundle of strewn clothing.  Skin against skin
in a drift. But that wasn't your leg around him.

And so. When and why and then you learn how
it feels to leave the tree up until March, until the last
needle drops. You learn there's four verses to the song.


WILL

She drew on end pages torn
from her father's books. Charcoal shading,
thick-penciled lines of a tired horse,
someone's roper boots. Rugs on a clothesline,
bloody feathers on a block. She pressed
these papers between chapters
of Mathew, Mark and Luke, learning
to ride bareback instead of attending school.
Sixty years later, Will was born,
her ninth great-grandson and I named him
from my heart. At his baptism, she placed
her Bible in my hands, told me about her
sketches, about a brother I never knew she had:

I was twelve when he rode out,
looking for a stray. Found his body
in a coulee between Salt Creek and Battle Bay,
a boot caught in a stirrup. We beat the rugs,
dug up beets, killed chickens for his wake.
Life must go on my father said, so I rode
my brother's horse, did his work, and learned
to carry on. Not until you named your son,
have I said my brother's name.


WRITING A POEM WHILE MY BOYFRIEND WATCHES

I tell him he should write a book
for how to cook creatively in a studio apartment
with a kitchen so small he washes his dishes
on the stoop of his back door. (Strike that,
he says: the front and the back are the same.)
He makes good use of free mangoes
in the courtyard basket and groomed rosemary
waiting to be pinched as he walks to the corner
store.  His oven allows him to roast a turkey
wing. This is just as well—if he had a roasting pan
he'd have to store it in the back seat of his car.

And there are days he can't find it at first,
what with parking being premium, one block
away from Chuck's Diner, one block
from the Pacific shore.  When I fly
down to visit him, he asks
what day is it, today? If it's Friday
that means it's parked on the Thursday side
of Sabado Street, two alleys and a block
from the lemons he picks to bake the fish
he catches from Belmont Pier.

He heads out to find his car, whistling
as if Connie the Corsica is a horse from home
that comes running when he calls. (Tell them, I miss
Montana. Tell them you named my car.)  He keeps
his guitar in the car trunk so he has space
for a toaster and the bread machine
he's re-geared for small loaves of sourdough.
He wants me to hear the chords
he made up without looking at the music
book I sent him months ago. He likes
to think he invented D minor.
(Strike that: he did.)



Sherry O'Keefe credits her Irish-Montanan Pioneer heritage for much of the influence in her poetry. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in The Tipton Poetry Journal, Main Street Rag, Two Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Sow's Ear Review and Soundzine.








                                    

 

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