Kelly Egan

commute through place of snakes

Red-hot looms refine billboards, brownstone
                    and the sleep you take even after alarm,
        cirrus spreading iridescent on the meadowlands.
You might have rowed to work on the waterway followed from the train,
   drowsy edge-place no one goes to
                       but the poets of utility, men in white
                                                        in the cigarette fronds—   

           You think of pitching tents in train yards.

How many years now, that half-sunken
   oil drum, twenty-minute
          buoy, precipice to a snooze–
                      Always twenty minutes til the tunnel
 when, just as you start to doze,
           a balmy city, field of poppies,
                        the halcyon edges of fuel–


If it is a spine
some giant is horizontal, face down, unconscious–
If a balance beam, I am on it,
on the bus, enthralled
by this welcome banner, warning song, anaconda
in the corner of the eye, though I can hardly look away.
I rubberneck
the jungle’s sexy collar:  underscore, frame,
what one needs to apprehend
a body: necklace, entrance
a paved road–
Oh view,
crimson flume, lung-clad esophagus,
organizing thought, collecting me, I seek a line,
am survey
god from capitol. Convey me,
oh midline
of black chakras, show me in.

basement ballroom

The basement is much bigger than the restaurant above,
secret level whose grandeur is subdued,
and this perhaps a consequence of time,
the yielding of a room to storage.
More primal than a prom, it is a field
of varnished wood,
faded with scratches of use,
warped to the horizon line–
That I spy the ballroom in it makes it mine.
The way a god reveals herself to the hero of the story
by virtue of his sight,
the way to the holy midnight
trespassers appears a condemned pool
in flickers as full of water,
so the threadbare pinky swear of our exchange,
so elation revealed as an endless return,
the night of the dance a vanishing point of wood
pearled in aftermath.
Which is the promise of the dance,
which is the dance’s ghost,
the edges of music floating out to the boats–
That’s where I was wanting in,
but what other place could there have been to be?
A ballroom, I breathe,
and the spirit of it blooms.


The gun batteries graffitied,
three-eyed blue women stare out
at a naked Pacific, minus

paranoia—ship’s bow tear
in the seam, what the brain does
with approaching brown,

hemorrhaging wound,
imperial world-stain.

For us, just a band of marine
layer undisturbed–

We watch it unconcerned,
minus expectation, horizon
a television

turned off, doubtful
to shudder with news.

We are bored.
Are we gods?

We don’t read the signs,
we don’t step outside
tourist lines,

and that foghorn’s
a shell
of a siren

sounding safe passage
to the ships
in the bay

in this city where we live
with the privilege
of a view,

where we picnic
at the edge,
oracularly chewing.


Summer in England made only four hours of darkness at night
such that when you arrived at the heart it, it was light
                             A gray-green matte diffused
                                            in equal measure across lawns
             A well-to-do part of town,
  park that turns
             fairytale when no one else is there
                            She was there, translucently allowed
Her skin translucent in a photograph
He whisked her like a summer curtain
              over city banisters        among ruins
                            inside castles    crouching by ancient stone
     A wine glass destined to be broken              Victorian passages
read aloud      in borrowed rooms
                Fence tips, frayed edges          skirt catching wrought iron entrance 
                                           (he caught her as she hinged)
                                                        They promenading like deceased gentry
so deep in the crepuscular, early in their twenties, so far toward the backs of their bodies
              so as to be         closer in species to ghosts or trees         as proven by one bird’s leap
              onto his outstretched leg
                            where they lay upon the lawn
                                                                        whispering so as not to wake
              the way things were in that moment    4am inverted afternoon, an un-planetary light
where to be awake was taboo & where to wade           bore some risk    Life was a lit light-green
                             spindle-fringed simmering
                                            tiny pond dread center stilling
                                            such a ghostliness how to put
                                            such a ghostliness down
                                            unable to recover, unable to extend
                                            past the wrought iron gates of a summer