The Poetry of Gillian Kessler
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Calles and Vistas
I'm keeping this marine layer
haze, whirring lawn mowers,
men in white tees and jeans,
lamination of sweat and barbed wire.
I’m keeping the miles and miles you walked in
hot desert sun to shine like sea glass, tend swathes of grass, peach roses pruned,
bougainvillea lines stucco walls.
I’m keeping the jaunty polka
blaring from an old truck
beneath the rotting billboard,
long to intuit conversations
without straining to hear.
Hands on shoulders.
A dusty gold road,
We went there once.
The air was eucalyptic.
I’m keeping schema
starring tiny hummingbirds,
potted palms, windmills in rows and
dying on dusty leaves.
A pool net can catch just about anything:
toy boats toppled, darkening avocadoes, maudlin notes,
what maybe was. The blow-up dolphin lies
beached on her side, gates locked tight. These manicured roads with their stolen names: Avenida Pico and Vista Hermosa,
Via del Rey and El Camino Real.
Calling them in from the sun
The river rising, an orange
dog runs through the makeshift
marsh after a young mallard --
I enter my body of wild
chives and white lilacs, taste
buds purified drums blown blue
with flax, sweet grass, forgiveness
that’s not accusatory, her
echo heavy in an upturned palm.
The creek could be road, daughter
heron in a gold velvet hat,
son sage grouse, fast and close to earth.
Husband not bird at all but something
like the trees, the surety of seasons.
Do you have your compass? Do you wear
it locked around your neck?
The monsters have settled and
I held Lyra, not yet two days.
There is nothing and everything
under the bed. I can't keep up
with wildflowers. We buried
his placenta beneath the cherry tree
eight years ago, defrosted poppy
in a metal bowl, guarded
muscle in my hands. All I want
is this branch of starlight, bloom
girl in red chair, head still,
held in Aspen’s silent shudder –
they grow into families.
Out of mist she rises,
the way woodsmoke rises
Grasping for clouds, sun in your throat
I’m thinking about swell, a barrio,
bedraggled. Glass in an alley
alluring like making babies. Wife rhymes with strife
but husband rhymes with before, barefoot
and brazen, yucca and chaparral, sage
and hip hop. The skin doctor sears a piece off
my foot, earthen. The word in Spanish for jellyfish
is medusa, my daughter
reminded me because I never call things
what they are, only what I want
them to remove
from my past. I forgot the word champinion,
mushroom, and I see all these little
heroic fungi waving their caps in the June
dusk. Dusk made its way to my list twice.
Accustomed now: trees turned profile,
sky cobalt like my seraphic mind.
She just actualized an island -
imagine lichen languid in the damp
Northwest spring. I see sister and sister
is the sea. She once held a baby
bird in lean cupped hands at Bonny Doon,
wore a purple blanket like a field of stars,
a patch of night, the only cape that could
enclose her completely. I pretended
the waterfall on the cliff face was my shower,
invited Azure to the party, the little locust.
My boyfriend shouted of pestilence, saw us
slick with raw ravine, ragged and relentless.
I pushed past the spark and held earth.
The rest is deluge, suffering.
Gillian Kessler is a poet and teacher who lives in Missoula, Montana. Her book of poems, Lemons and Cement, is available for purchase. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in buying a copy. Check out Gillian's writing prompts and interview on our website.