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Kelly Egan :: Four poems

penumbra of an intangible holiday

First time I saw the ocean
from the backseat of the family car, I didn’t know
the sparkles on the water
would disappear,

that I wouldn’t be able to hold them—


       Knowing’s a coming-of-age-dress
               I hesitate to wear.

That crown of street lamps pressed into the cliff 
       is a village where I’ll live one day

                                though I know it
           could only be a ship at dusk.

It holds me
       from your hand.
On the beach
the foreground teens 
       let off lanterns.

        Must be Chinese New Year?

                      Must be a pointillist hotel,
                    future tense

                              oh to comb it.




               Oh to comb it,

       a storm-stripped November, 
                         city wall to inner umber, 
              Christmas, that estate

       whose wrought iron gates 
               I have stormed, triggering timed lights, 
                          if only to be

               tip-toed up to sill,
                      a spy on the hearth,
       to press a cheek against

                      exhilarated brick

still life with vacation

Apocalypse impends but this beach town’s
already a ghost town, I am alone
with the roads and the water is    coming

This is a flavor of boredom
beckoning to be named   

If it’s an island there’s nowhere to run

There is only 
a little 
time to pretend

and that’s when I see the bird, 
peering sternly—

Was there something I’m supposed to confess?

It is a black bird with a stupid red stripe
It is a cheap lucidity like high definition TV
It is a flaccid near-death  I defer

to the lines on the road,
their rippling toward a useless edge—

How flat is the phrase nothing to lose
nowhere to go
all to myself

perpetual the smile
of organic pigment yellow 10

What should I do pirouettes
in the nude 
Is there anyone out there halfway

to horizon or
strip-teasing safely beyond storm doors?


I crouch by dunes at the end of it,
Makari Sankranti, shift into Capricorn, first day the light
first visibly returns. 

                            Another calendars lens
frames the ocean, as does a coast city’s

                                      inevitable pastel
                   spillway to the edge

          As though deep hues could be forgone 
for what washed out tones become
at sunset, for now it’s a desiccated bone.

          For now it is Saturday and I have either come 
or ended up here, as when wandering 
one navigates by pull—  
The last boulevard to cross Taraval before the beach 
is a double stream of cars 
I thought for sure would bounce me back,

          but it’s where my feet left bottom. 




          I open my eyes under water. 

And you are there or is it You            if both
runway and wake 
are made of the same stuff, it is what 

                                      the succulents are glowing with.

          It is a lilting of strings 
                   that hovers on the houses,                                               
the weathered, the tousled 

          flowerpots and decadent weeds, the carelessness
that love allows, 
          dropping things as it goes,

remembering them in spring—

          For now, it is January
and I am cold but sown to it, soon to face the ocean 
    in only a shawl—

          having reached, finally, the last row of houses.                                                
Facing outwards, their windows watch
the shore, agape for missing boats. 

Across the great highway, coastal flowers 
          cling to dunes—I crouch
          to watch the last of that day’s light. 

On the beach below, in the purple that precedes
silhouette, dogs bound by locals, 
          a hooded couple links arms. 

                   Think I know them,

                             think I know this

          winter sun smear when the planet upturned,
                                      when the ambient mauve
                                                sets off the breaks
                                                          lace embroidering

          It is a portal.

                     It is again             as it sometimes and spontaneously has been
                                                          the abalone hour, arrival
                                      only ever by accident— 
                                                                   I duly collect
          my allowance of longing, genuflect
                                      to the specter of boats,                       

and take what I have gathered back 
          to deepen the return 
                   along the length of Taraval. 

*                                                                                                                                                      *                                                                                                                                                        *
What presides is now mature. 
Blackened windows 
have blossomed into scenes.
Two blocks in, a watering hole: 
is it an outpost, or the beginning? 
Amphibiously, the blocks evolve 
away from the sea. The bar is redly lit, 
          and all the rest Chinese. 
On the other side of sunset 
it is Saturday night. Dumpling steamed storefronts 
contrast the intersecting avenues’
neural dark. On Taraval, radiating chapels,
and the light rail’s intermittent hall.
People walk to dinner 
          deep in neighborhood. They do not wake to me. 
                   Perhaps, if I ate food.
Though I do not enter strip mall 
          hardly preening, speaking 
                   plainly to the night, only cup
          my hands before its seraph-less font, 
                   ally to anonymity 
                             on a withering edge
                             Here at the head of Taraval, 
                   holy water precedes the nave,
          which is the Taraval of tonight,
                                      hot air balloon in outer space,
                   place I can only swim to—
given jewelry and a fictional name
The bracelet’s flipside
is more threadbare (than my mom would wear)
though still cleopatra—
I see you’ve laid out more
for me to try—on the windowsill
opposite the door, gold and ivory slabs
although I was to leave.
And it is somewhere in between
ancestor and acquaintance,
along the lines
of heritage and fashion
when you hand me the book, 
leather-bound inscribed with names
of guests, to sign that I was there—
Jane Eyre is too dense and less perfect
than the one I sign first 
then lose—to the pages a loose
strand of cursive

Kelly Egan’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Laurel Review, White Stag, and Denver Quarterly, and her manuscript was recently a finalist in the Midwest Chapbook Contest. She lives in San Francisco and has an MFA in Poetry from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. She likes to think about outer space and visit small towns.

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