2 Poems by Kerry Shawn Keys


The Seer

We know or at least we want to know
that Homer, likely, did not write down
his tales, that he was blind, or at least
blind toward the end of his song.
Or was it Demodokos that did the singing.
I think it doesn’t matter, and so this meandering
in order to give myself the privilege
of interrupting myself and asking a few things
above all others that have captivated my imagination:
what was the last composition that he saw,
that is, if he ever had the gift of seeing,
and what was the last word he might have written
if he had ever written a word, and above all, for this
we surely cry out to know, what was the last sound
he made before he died. Was it a kind of music,
a lullaby of weeping charmed into a single phoneme,
or was it more like the sustained gurgle of a death-rattle
rising from a Hector or an Achilles battling
for air in the bottomless dregs of his lungs.

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Hoffers

I know very little of the Hoffers, Helvetian half-mast ancestors.
I know they were mountain goats and masons and not farmers.
Their mission was mortar and stone, not dung and fodder.
They spoke a language heavy like stone, a marbled tongue,
granite and limestone mixing guttural Bach with Palatinate,
Deitsch, Appalachia, jugband English and Scots.
I don’t know much more about them other than
that they were like my father, all of them orphans.
Their fathers and grandfathers, also doubtless, itinerant orphans,
persecuted in their homeland to be rebaptized Pennsylvanian.
Who knows, indeed, what happened to any of them, simply gone,
as all of us sometime, inhabitants of a dollopy land called Oblivion.
Though now and then they occupy my mind, craggy phantoms
building dry stone walls through the quicksand of my poems.

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Kerry Shawn Keys is a poet, wonderscript scribbler, playwright, and scholar of the mundane. He’s published dozens of poetry books, and translates from Lithuanian and Portuguese. Some of the usual prizes and awards. Keys’ roots are in Appalachia, and his work derives from there, and from Brazil and India where he spent considerable time. He currently lives in Vilnius, where he is poet in residence for SLS Lithuania, and writes a column on the poets and poetry in the region for Poetry International, San Diego. His most recent book of poems is Night Flight, 2012, Presa S Press.