May Day by Robert Kelly


In 2007 Parsifal Press in Toronto published Robert Kelly’s May Day, his most recent selection of  shorter poems (written between 2003 and 2005). Unhappily Parsifal Press has gone out of business. Happily Charlotte Mandell has just put up a pdf of May Day on her site — you can read the complete book here. Below, to whet your appetite, I reprint the first poem in the book (minus 3 line indents, impossible to reproduce in this medium, but indicated here with a double m-dash):


I want the new thing
the disclosure
men among the trees
crow feathers in their caps
protecting order,

the long legato of Vivica Genaux
embracing a castrato aria from Artaxerxes

reborn every morning
chanting at you dull as monks
prioritizing rapture

o such language darling
you whose spokes are longer than the wheel
so must spin in the air of agreement

-the sun is clear this morning,
bene volente – frictionless in almost

—— Beneath their Aqua Velva chins
the channelers grunt and strain to pass
a licit message – where do words come from,
Equivoque, where does the lighter get its flame,
plastic Prometheus of so many pockets,

you mean it’s ok to tell the truth –
only to your mother, and she is deaf.
Dead? Words, where from, will you,

—— A narrow place where everything is born,
they call it, freshness, the gap
between any notice and the next
– any moment you might be speaking Turkish-
truth touches you in the night
you roll over, truth caresses the pillow
where later you’ll fall asleep and dream,
messages everywhere.

The thing that happens is the naked mind,
blue sky after days of rain.

Central disorder
rapture bound around her ankles
strum the catgut she uses to connect
the botryoidal mindset
with her prancing feet – ripe ripe
and movely ripe, clusters
of frost sweetened grapes
chastened to the ice-wine
of November rivers,
I am yours.

—— You wait there
storming at the Sea Gate
enraged at me but still
sharing my pizza, one wedge
for two appetites.

But the air’s dry now, my sparrow,
and pale delight is back
the haunted shade inside your clothes

the pale shadow that is your skin
now tell me what divine opacity
casts that shade and from what light

Now summon from the yew trees to appear
medium demons of high magic, Saltarellus,
Sequoius, Quousquinus, they know their jobs,
they can have you on your back in no time
interviewing the immortal stars

to make them answer. They hardly know
what they’re saying, and you’re no better,
you live for these moments of pure jive
when every word is shining ruby
tail light in rain.

Circle me with light,
there you are, young glory,
one foot past the other
like a goat going over a rope bridge,
be like the bird but don’t fly,
be like the moon but don’t fall

as she my sister does night after night
excruciating slow.

In all those pages find me one new thing,
anything, name of an angel,
lips of a woman you (not I) kissed in dream –
a kiss is strange, a wordless speaking
in the other’s mouth,

and the sun writes only shadows on the ground,
tell me, lover, one new thing,
that’s all, fox in a thicket it could be, a hunter
dead beside his rifle, a green
feather in his hat band rolled from his head,
and not far away you hear a waterfall.


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2 Responses

  1. cveds says:

    1907 – hum Robert has aged well.

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