Wednesday, March 04, 2020

A Life in Black and White

—Poems by Kelley Jean White, Philadelphia, PA
—Photos from The Frosted Fox Cake Shop bu Kelley Jean White


The ice is still in. Breaking up but

I do not believe there is enough

clear water for even your single boat. 

I bent and let a few small pieces float

against my hands as I waited at dawn

at the dock. But when I lifted them raw

to my lips they ran cold water down through 

my fingers. Last night’s rain and morning dew

lit tree branches in the new sun. I am 

sending you a motion picture of sun-

light on the small waves kissing the worn dock.

I almost believe it is the golden 

sand beneath that makes the light. You are far 

away. I will never touch you. You. Your. 

John thinks the dirt floor in my basement is

a wonder. Nearly two hundred years old
and it’s dusty. Dusty! Not muddy. Dust
doesn’t track up the stairs. I have to tell
him I haven’t paid much attention. Walls
are grand old stone but the floors might be just
poured concrete and never swept for untold
years. He’s pleased they’re not mud. I don’t point out
the sump pump rusting in its little cement
broken wires crimped around. Might be out-
right dangerous. But today there’s no wet
and the stones aren’t crumbling, there’s no mortar
house held up by cobwebs in the corners.


fly now
wind through your forgotten hair
peony scent, lilacs

carry a little sand in your pockets
let it rain down when you pull away
that last layer of cloth

that binds your seeping bloodied breasts

when you open your arms as wide as your legs flung out
when you birthed me

but oh
you have no memory of that
you were anesthetized
unable to experience that moment you might have
wished to remember

oh, will you
remember your ragged
last breaths

please choose something else
to hold with you
as you sleep


And despite Boston speech I’d learned
Celtic was Keltic, like Kelpie, and I loved Myth.
And it was Pat who’d begged to be the museum
guard who turned to the ‘representative’ new page
each week of the exhibit, that even my parents drove
five hours to see. It was his parting gift. (I was already
sleeping nights in Patrick’s forlorn apartment,
in the derelict building with the scarred glass elevator
beside Boston’s Fine Arts.) A bit of a disappointment.
There was money, but it was old money, and that
meant it was going away.

So, a small manuscript page
in a neatly matted frame.
No one has known whether
Latin or Church Latin (or could
it even be Erse or Old Welsh?).

I suspect printed rather than
by hand, and the paper not
even that fragile. But he did
search for one with a picture—
a small man in the second column,

with an unreadable expression
and clerical collar clutching
a sturdy snake by the throat.

It hangs now over my boyfriend’s desk (I’m 62
and have a ‘boyfriend’) in his forlorn senior
apartment, suitable as he always intended
to be a monk but could not decide between
Trappist or Buddhist. (The boy who bought it
is married now three decades, childless,
to a High Episcopalian girl.) I’ve lived my life
in black and white. Oh to have some color. 

Today’s LittleNip:

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

—William Wordsworth


Welcome to a new SnakePal today! Pediatrician Kelley Jean White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in
Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books), and she received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. She says she is “basically an East Coast person with a couple of children living around L.A.”

Kelley also writes: “I stumbled across Medusa's Kitchen this morning (in search of 'kitchen poems') and there was Joyce Odam! Wonderful to see her work and so good to know her
Brevities is ongoing.” Indeed it is, Kelley! About her photos today, Kelley says, “I lived over [my daughter’s] bakery, The Frosted Fox Cake Shop, last year, and gained about a pound a day just by breathing.” Welcome to the Kitchen, Kelley, and don’t be a stranger!

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


—Medusa, celebrating new friends in poetry, as well as the joys of cake!

 Kelley Jean White

 Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.