October 18, 2014


W.B. Keckler's Sanskrit of the Body won in the National Poetry Series, and was published by PENGUIN BOOKS

His poetry is forthcoming in Letterbox and other journals, and in the Sulfur Anthology (due out shortly from Wesleyan University Press).



Here is a woman who sells heat for a living.

And here is an actor who sells his tears.
Here is a painter who monetizes clouds.
And this stuffy man hawks hawks he's stuffed.

This world is a cornucopia of sellers.
There is virtually nothing which cannot be sold.
Even "virtually nothing" is sold as philosophy courses.
Caveat Emptor. Let the Buyer Beware.
© William Keckler/Penguin Books

It is not easy to return heat for a refund.
You can't take back Pandora's box, if you've opened it
(even if you "peeked only the littlest bit" inside).
Paintings may be removed, yet remain like ghosts.
Wedding rings, it is true, can be returned or resold.

The moonlight that came with them, however, is a total write-off.


I hear the chainsaws of autumn
outside my window.
They're cutting back the wild arms
of the wild fruit trees
that stand behind the little house
where the old woman died.
She could make good things
even with horrible crabapples,
She would feed the stray cats,
and not scruple to pet
the most horrible ones,
the sickest.
She was alone with her laughter
in these moments with the cats,
kneeling down to the street
in one of her dresses
out of the last century,
to stroke them
with the joy of a child,
though her hair was white.
And she was alone nights
for nobody knows how many years
or decades, really.
She kept to herself.
She kept it to herself.
At least she died
before they came to take her away,
which is what usually happens.
Today, on the way back
from one of my long walks,
I saw a dead bird
left on her WELCOME mat.
Too late, too late.
Too sweet, too sweet.
You are remembered,
dear nobody
of the wild trees
and the wild cats


You want a rosebush to cosset you,
an inveterate rosebush.
This probably won't happen.
A rosebush will eyeball you,
and, at best, give you maybe
that condescending invitation
to "keep in touch."
To be fair to the rosebush:
it's aware how preoccupied it will be
with thorns and seasons, garden shows
and oh (let's be candid) infestations
and such. So don't judge it too harshly.
It just has a good radar for friendship,
and practical friendship, that bush.
Rose radar can be insulting, though.
Just don't let it be.
Rosebushes are common.
"My school is unfurling, dear," they say.
Things like that in interviews.
Rosebushes give horrible interviews.
Why would you want a rosebush's email?
The rosebush will only send you selfies
and only the culled roses,
the ones that lie about the bush.
I am a rosebush myself, you know.
Wild variety.
Oh, I see you shrugging your shoulders
and shuffling backwards now,
and doing a funny little low wave
which I will assume is goodbye.
Is it as if I told you I thought
I was the Queen of England?
Hardly. Not quite.
I mean I make the same rose flare music.
We have the same ichor in our veins.
Ichor is common.
Flaming in the rose sense is not common, I admit.
But the same blood that flows in those roses
flows in me. Mine is tangier,
since I am a field rosebush. Feral.
Probably you only like rosebushes
that grow on rooftops, tended
by persnickety mammals.
Roses that come out like red and pink xeroxes.
They have not the giddiness of the field rose.
Give me roses that feed on mountainsides.
Roses that feed on urban monoxides
and slyness catch your eye.
My roses get all tangled up
with other plants, catkins,
pussy willows, all sorts of oaths
and tendrils you can give names
if you are a funny taxonomist.
My roses will do just fine by themselves.
They do love to kiss themselves,
rose to rose, like adolescents
shotgunning potsmoke in a car
behind the school. That's us,
down home and country,
and keeping it real:
bugs in our hair and all.

~William Keckler

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