two poems

by Devin Kelly


& not the thing to occupy it or the vehicle
to move from one side of it to another no here
I am again trying to be distance that long road
the light travels to shine utopia’s rustic orange
upon the city’s brick that faint mist you glimpse
atop the sea that cloud the plane climbs into
& the air to hold it up & whatever gravity
stills it where it is I want so bad to be
all there is in 5th grade someone said
they’d teleport if they could & I nodded
afraid of how long they said a life would take
I only wanted to be there & not here
& now I am here & no longer know where
there is you see a humpback whale might swim
400,000 miles in its life which is enough
to bridge the world 50 times & I know
you might be a frequent flyer but have you
ever flown slow enough that it feels
like the plane’s contrails left simmering
in the sky are your arms holding the whole
wide weight of the world in a warm & kind
embrace I guess that’s what I mean
when I talk about wanting to be distance
how when I walk long enough I feel
in my ache a journey how each memory
pulled one by one from my mind tallies
a litany of miles how I have learned in my
running to still my breath to a hush soft
enough to barely bother a flower I hold it all
the way my father held me when he held me
for the first time the way when I accepted
each year as a loss & all of life as a counting-down
I learned we might never finish what we start
& what better way is there than this to love



then what is it     If not love     then who am I      On the bus two girls      trade new adages    holding them like they are older       & clutching even older       diamonds      Trust no one but yourself      & maybe two other people      one says       Outside       the Delaware River      curls its lonely passage        between the hills       I am lonely but loved       but forever lonely still         Isn’t this how it goes       I drank from many creek beds      & gave such water      many names       thinking what sustained me would be called the wide vast number       of things       Who is to say we are meant                  to be understood         It took a time before god        for this river to carve         its hollow into rock      & it lived       for a still long time        before someone came       to call it something       & another came       to tar a road along its slope       What I mean is here     & time      & love

& I will call tomorrow

with yesterday’s news       so we both know       the world we’re warring in       It’s big & at least   half in shadow       & most everyone        will never know our love       That’s okay        I swallowed the dust  flecked off a bird’s wings         & I feel like I can        at least try to fly        without making a fool of myself       This must speak                 toward tenderness        When you laughed        as I pulled the towel up to my neck        & paraded around your apartment            like a dinosaur       We transcend       is what I mean       This river will cut through us forever        The girls will grow up       & become our teachers  At least one person      will tell our story       as a warning of what       to do or not       Simplify         the bird in my mouth says         There’s so much involved        in flying        it’s best not to think          at all       Or do       Or fall

Devin Kelly is is the author of the books Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (CCM), and the winner of a Best of the Net Prize. He is the Interviews Editor for Full Stop and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He works as an afterschool director in Queens, teaches at the City College of New York, and lives in Harlem.

Artwork by: Timothy Gerken

Timothy Gerken is an associate professor of Humanities at a small state school in Central New York. As a teacher, writer, and photographer Timothy’s work calls attention to the presiding metaphors we follow—often blindly—and to the structural conventions they encourage.

Instagram: @timothy.gerken/