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Five poems by Abigail Keegan article

 "The Work of Words"

                            for Lisa Wolfe


Writing with my students,

or in a room alone, I often

think of those medieval monks

copying, translating, illuminating

manuscripts at tables, hearing

the barely audible sound 

of their own beating hearts, always

at their work, while distant in their—

tonsures, long robes, confessions,

obedience—I recognize their hooded

silence and feel a kinship with

their longings to translate, to illuminate

to dwell (outside of plagues and papal

political schisms) in sacred hours where

light falls across a page of meaning.

I can imagine the feeling of being

a line drawn through the body

of god, of being placed on a page

seeing the whole of us who are

bound together, some of us

contained or trapped letters,

some of us full or lengthy words,

lines of us through history trying

 to move words toward the mystery

of transformation into texts that

invite the whole body

of us into the infinity of language.





"The End of Summer"


A year withering, grass, gold hues of dryness,

roads curl up in dust. The fires rose for days


from careless hands. No rain. No trees.

Just remembrance where they stood.


The god who walked on water looks over

the warming globe, gets down on his knees


saying, “I beheld the earth, and lo it was

waste and void . . . for this, shall earth mourn.”


Summer comes to its final day like 

the end of  a world, days shrink until defiance


disappears, and fears of a silent spring rise

in the wind and in the  roar of the human mind.


This year they say, unseasonal, but what

of the next year and the next as


dust swells in the stratosphere

of the higher mind.










"Summer of Tomatoes"


Planted early April. The tag said

seventy-two days. I reread

and waited out time. By mid-July,

I worried as I watched

for even the smallest fruit.

But Big Boy waited until

almost August to break open

his garden of tomatoes,

thick wandering vines, tiny yellow

blossoms like the stars in every

direction, tomatoes, every day,

morning eggs and tomatoes,

noontime rosemary, tuna and tomatoes,

evenings another harvest.


Some days I stayed home

to savor their acerbic wit.

At night, when moths and butterflies

quieted down in plant thickets

and crickets rose in song to conjure

tomatoes into ripeness,

 I sat up hoping to catch them

turning red, rather like watching

for a child’s first walk.

Finally, the cold October voice

of a radio gardener said I should

pluck them green, so I stacked

the cutting board full

with green fruits for frying.

I photographed them,

the many green collected

with one red gem;

it was like the last pictures

we rush to take just as loved ones

say goodbye after a long visit,

their nurturing secured

deep in the roots of being;

then suddenly, they’ve gone,

and the end ripening

takes place in such stillness.





"Highway Hawk"


We drive miles

of western fields,

searching for

something that

catches our eye

in the wide open

hawks hook on wire

after wire above,

swaying, swerving

 yet, holding

wires battered

by vicious winds.

Wings barely lifting

eyes bearing

down on the fields

hunting even as

gusts swoop us up,

on open roads

we drive precariously

between predator and prey.





"In the Old World"


In the Old World faces were built to last

a life of lines and creases increased

something my grandparents called

character, lines like the Old Master

W. H. Auden, wrinkles particular

as a bloodhound. Flesh is pared

away now, just over-ripened fruit.

Grandchildren in my yard,

their perfect skin, gathering grasses, stones,

& spiders from soil beds, mementos

of a visit they’ll cling to as the future

pulls them past my fading molecules

and gravity tugs at the corners of my mouth,

my face and soon the all of me.

In time biology will leave chronology

 behind, a sundial sleeping on the lawn,

children facing the perfection

of never growing old, roaming

uncountable among the leaves of grass.




Abigail Keegan is a Professor of British and Women’s Literature at Oklahoma City University. She has published poetry and essays on literature and served as editor for Piecework: a Poetry Magazine for Women.  She has published three collections of poetry: The Feast of the Assumptions, Oklahoma Journey, and her latest book, Depending on the Weather, was a finalist for the 2012 Oklahoma Book Award. She is currently working on a multi-genre book of poems, interviews and photography entitled, Transport.





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