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Clyde Kessler



The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.


---J. Paul Getty---


Near the ground, there are more ghosts.

They roam up drawing the tangle-briers

into jay-birds. They scurry down wildest

against the dirt-colored blooms of ginger,

where real hungry ants pull heaven,

and real lost things tarry in another coldness

beyond our words.


It might bring stars against a distant ridge,

then drop them through the roof, all of them

like a mountain that rolls through closer in mirrors,

yet it stays like all our dead blood-kin, shivered

against the sun, drawing dogwoods, halberd

violets, and all our cattle hauled off in trucks, 

while we fight our land being sold right out 

from under us.





Time is the real creature on Mars,

in its orbit, in regolith, across every chasma,

every planitia, dry ice sublimating atop a ridge,

one thin blood-wrinkle across Paris, the horizon

slopped from your eyes, and you so deep-hungry

you’ll drown in your calendar, three days watered

into starvation, protesting whatever you would die for,

and I don’t remember, and you won’t say. It’s a garrulous

creature threaded over your face, shrunk with your poor French

with which you swear a real telescope should reveal frozen candy,

or maybe frozen moonlight, drowning all the sky. The American war

that you dodged, and you never came home, the young mind you dodged,

and then never came home. The world you are pinching from jail.

You watch it like a heron skulking along the Seine River.

You see it like a watery precipitated stone fretting with Mars.

So now it makes sense, you dreaming, you parachuting through

a prison wall, a Martian materializing into your body, so much sun.



We sneak the angels home

wearing their wings inside lightning.

October keeps them like a fattened bear

slurping from a salt block near the barn.

January wrinkles the horizon with one

snowflake, then a zillion, and each one

is like an angel’s eye fringed in blindness.


I don’t know how to talk to a snowflake

and never to an angel, or a ghost, or a wall

that has broken from a mountain and severed

the world. I think the noise of coal trucks

is about all I can say to them. I think the weave

of electricity in my computer as I share this

is all I shouldn’t say.



There was a brain that cooked the sky.

It held its blue flare like spaghetti

deep boiling in a skull.


There was one neuron scrubbed into a city.

It fleshed the sun into a zillion computers.

It chiseled sweet silence the same as words.


And long before the end of the beginning,

we shouted to our hooks, and to our eyes:

more please, placebo, placebo, placebo.





I never fiddled for any band

just sawed a few ballads by the creek

or amongst gravestones, like a fool,

or a drunk, or a kid that hopes a ghost

starves to be seen. I played and nothing

ever echoed from rhododendron or shumate

or from the dry, stumble trees of an old storm.


It took sixty-one summers for the songs

to turn blind to me. If one dark farm road

flew at me in a dream, I drove it wrong.

If it was the first of the sun on an autumn binge,

it left me to the weeds, the frost, my dead boots.


I sing now, and nothing sings with me.

I might have shirked it among coyotes and owls.

It ain’t what I want tonight, as if a band draws in

and the applause comes at me, then it roughs up 

the ground I might have owned.



My newest friend is mother of every war.

She’s stringing bullet casings for chimes,

she’s striking them together for the twangs.

Her father’s purple heart is framed under glass

on the fireplace mantle. Guadalcanal, she says.

Saigon, she adds. Dark leaking oil tankers arrive.

Auklets are listening along the Oregon coast.

Dry lespedeza fields dust off across the country.

How can I find peace, she asks.


Clyde Kessler has published in magazines and anthologies, most recently in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, San Pedro River Review, and Town Creek Poetry Review. Kessler lives in Radford, Virginia with his wife Kendall and son Alan. They have an art studio in their home called Towhee Hill.


Clyde is a founding member of Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an environmental education organization with programs in North Carolina and Virginia, and is a regional editor for Virginia Birds, a publication of the Virginia Society of Ornithology.



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