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Charles Kell



I’m writing only to tell you
about the burning truck tire at the end
of the alley, grey smoke rising
in a clear December day.


We made it back in one piece, my

mother and I, and for the moment
she is all right.
                         She hasn’t had a drink

for two days. She had to stop on the leaf-
strewn hill      not to catch her breath

but because my legs won’t work…


I’m thinking in symbols and I must quit.


On the third day of our return from the city
mother stayed up drinking until 3:47 am.

She was working on my niece’s desk.
Sanding, varnishing, until it looked

just right. I laid in bed, in my child-
hood room, reading a huge Norwegian



No one any more sleeps.                                   

Sapphire cardinals
                              plummet from the sky
toward the frozen ground.

Christmas tomorrow. Mother, sister,
my niece. Each day in Ohio
is winter and more winter.


The gods have given me ears to hear,
fingers to write with. But they have not
given me eyes and for this
I curse them.


No one here, anymore, dreams.
The cape of shadows covers

us, the water we drink tinged
with rust. Her hands turn into a violin

of foam and pebbles. Behind her
bent figure stands a line of hills.

Happiness is trees, wine, wire,
the white lies of life buried

in the dresser drawer.  

Charles Kell
is the author of Cage of Lit Glass, chosen by Kimiko Hahn for the 2018 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. He teaches in Rhode Island.