"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.
We drive miles
of western fields,
catches our eye
in the wide open
hawks hook on wire
after wire above,
by vicious winds.
Wings barely lifting
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.