Cheryl Keeler



Bird song pierces the meadow;
sun speaks like a friend, low and soft,
makes me almost believe winter is over.
Nothing stays.
Everything moves on, as I will, as I am—
ferns unfurl beside me.

Jet trails streak while Maxine scrabbles for voles,
then sneezes when dirt clogs her nose.
She digs with passion but little luck,
unless her luck is the act of digging,
her tail wagging, joy in her backbone.

Heavy rain all night, periods
of bombast & surcease: now
mid-morning the sun in intervals.
Virginia bluebells glow against the gray
flannel of the South River as rainwater
rushes into it from the Blue Ridge.
Ten years ago, I found the breast lump.

My neighbor has mowed his part of the meadow,
leaves lie chipped with grass bits,
a luxury of humus. Dogwoods display their calm
white blossoms, nod into the cleared space.
Dandelion seeds are lollipops.
In the black walnut a finch couple mates.

My dead friend’s husband
who lives alone in Vermont,
is remembering last spring, the time
she fell coming into the house and couldn’t
get back up, lying on the ground, gasping,
this mountain climber, this bike rider,
this ice-fisher, this so alive
woman, lying on the ground, and he
standing there, weeping.

Red clover blooms in the kitchen garden;
last night I picked rhubarb.
The asparagus beetles are back,
suck strength from new spears.
Hops wrap around the purple martin house.
A bright green spirit in things—
generosity in a leaf,
goldness in the air—
as it comes,
as it goes,
as it is.



Suppose I could live more
outside my own small heart,
occupy a larger mind,
pad past pettiness—
my worries about cancer
my frets about authority—
place myself in a bigger
Suppose I could shed fear
shrug it off like a winter coat,
step out with nakedness & imperfections
like my husband after his shower
drifting through the house
unhurried, unconcerned,
in his middle-aged shape
content to be—
and then not to be.


A tsunami of weariness
crashes into the village of my mind,
cars and shops creak along on its flow.
A dumpster tips & trash floats out.
House lumber splinters,
roofs bob. People watch
from high places; the water is black
and swift, it curls into corners,
fills space, makes everything buoyant.
A bus overturns, its underbelly viewed
by the camera, a pornography of sorts
as I sit behind my screen in my warm
dry world to watch it.


Wendell Berry reminds himself
to make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came
There is too much noise in my head,
tedium yakking,
odes to smallnesses,
not satisfying small things like warm socks,
but petty littles
like the commotion next door
or the long newsletter staff receives each Friday,
paragraphs of exactly how
to do every little thing we do,
exactly so.
I do not fit exact,
I overflow.


Another short night, awake at four.
It may snow today, an inch.
When we walk in the damp
gray air, an obese beagle
meets us. Hypochondria
crowds my head—is my left
breast too dense? Three weeks ago
when the radiologist thought he saw
something & later thought he
didn’t, was he right the first time?
Why does my friend send
links for anti-cancer foods & fads?
Why is my new hip stiff?
A yellow cat delicately pads through
our frozen backyard.
From the south, the Blue Ridge
lingers, a soft ancient frame
to my blue view.
Gray January rules a damp sun.
Only the Blue Ridge is bright, a cheerful
blue. I sip white pomegranate
tea & imagine leaping
from ridge to ridge, nimble,
light, a feather of exultation.
Oh, to leave behind this mid-winter
heaviness, this sinking sameness,
this routine of duties! To
soar, to catch a current
to live in a land of light—
Sun on the Blue Ridge I see
through the winter trees. A dusting
of snow in the fields intermediate.
Brevity & light. Darkness.
This life. This morning. This now.
A mosaic of frost on the panes,
so I cannot see the Blue Ridge:
it’s a womb in the room: I want
to sink & sink
ask nothing of myself
but be warm under my wool wraps.
Almost a spring day:
sparrows busy themselves
in the boxwood,
a vulture glides over
the meadow.
Caw of a crow.
4:12 am—awake—hours before the alarm,
my mind on library issues, the powerhouse
branches, the tiny poor branches.
What is my work? Why do I not wake
@ 4:12 am with a phrase in my head
that starts a poem? Why do I wake
with branch politics demonstrating in my head?
In Egypt, demonstrators dominate Tahrir Square:
Mubarak, you’re down! Leave!
I get up to read Egyptian poets.
Perhaps I can make my mind bigger
move it away from library doings,
join the wider world.
I read pre-50’s poets, post-50’s
poets, women poets. I sip
coffee, huddle under the woolen
throw, plug into BBC News from Cairo.
My husband wakes.
The dog pees.
Lights go on, Monday morning.
It’s cloudy
this last day of January.
CHERYL KEELER raises heirloom vegetables, is taken on brisk walks by her rescued Jack Russell, thrifts madly, and has books stashed everywhere. She opened and manages a branch library in the small Virginia town where she lives with her husband. Her poems have been in or upcoming in 5AM, The Dirty Napkin, International Psychoanalysis, The Mom Egg and Hospital Drive.

Read more by Cheryl Keeler:

5 poems in The Dirty Napkin
3 poems at International Psychoanalysis