He calls at work to say
he’s bringing a spider home. Not even
my favorite after-work drive
through darkened streets lit with living-
room lamps and red tail lights pulling
into driveways coaxes me this time to relax
and let the universe in. (Which is why we need
a tarantula, he had said before I disconnected.)
Now, still buttoned in my parka and laced
in my boots, I wrap my I’m-back hug
around his neck as he teeters on a stool
talking to Cookiegirl in his sleepy
voice. With tutu motion she hesitates,
then eases from his hand to climb about his chest.
Such delicate stallion steps. I try to pull away
when she regards me and my mittens.
Take them off and stroke her fur, he whispers
to my fear. See, he teases, how she laces
rosy ballet slippers halfway up each thigh? I bite
my lip and nibble on my list: sirens, wrecks, test results, giving
into trust. A car drives by. Cookiegirl shrinks. I slip
off a mitten and bare my skin. Invite
the world in.
by Sherry O’Keefe, first published in Making Good Use of August.
Editor’s Note: The funny title at first leads one to expect an amusing poem, but by they end of the first stanza one realizes that these lines have more to do than to simply make readers smile. By the last line, one realizes the possibilities inherent in inviting the world inside, and sometimes this begins with a pet spider.
And Not Forgetting Bees
I’m not sure where the sky begins,
where field turns to blue. We thread our way through
bramble grass and briar bush, careful not to walk
with heads pitched too far forward,
a tumble off the cliff only a boot’s step away.
We could be standing on the horizon, hundreds
and hundreds of feet above the valley,
where we are searching for lichen rocks
atop an unnamed cliff, talking about what is
and what is not organic. When does something begin
to change? My brother says it started for him
when they shortened the quarter mile
in drag racing how many years ago.
This startles me, both the leap to racing
and the false measurement, and now I cannot remember
what my own example would have been.
My life is not what it used to be,
and I’m not good at beginnings but I’m learning to trust
the path. The way water follows salt
or a coyote finds entry sometimes into dreams;
or how the land dreams of a king, one with feathers
and who is careful not to use the music
all at once. And when we find the stones growing
with orange, sage green and black lichen,
my brother on his knees, fingers digging,
I’ll think of clover in my front yard,
the rabbits, the blue spruce and the bird bath,
and—not forgetting bees—one new rock for the rain
to water, and realize we can’t take this rock
without taking home the cliff.
by Sherry O’Keefe
Editor’s Note: First person poetry is difficult to do well. It’s easy to alienate the reader with too much un-relatable introspection. This poem demonstrates a perfect balance of vulnerability and storytelling: the images and thoughts reflect a universal experience, despite the personal nature of the poem’s voice.