How he recruited men, mechanics
and Mormons, itinerants
and immigrants, a Pharaoh
at the same time shepherd,
burned in flame, blind seer.

How they dug deep into earth, how
I had to help - let my son go -
my mother. All the men must help.
It is not culture, but command;
with tank tops, thick mats
of chest hair, my hi-tops join:

How many feet apart? We are nailing
forms together; we do not want
cement to run everywhere. Enough not to
bow. I hammer too much, ruddy hands
replace mine until I find pockets.

How much wrongdoing are pockets!
A litany upon my sloth, I
am on my knees shoving slop
while metal tub turns behind.
I cannot stop; no one does.

How can they keep going? I ask this
as they smooth the wet stone, I ask
nine-to-five, I ask my father - he
does not look to the end of sentences,
all moments less and longer than periods.

102 Men
from 2 Kings 1

The first trudges trembled
          leaving memories, not footsteps.
was no stopping the ordered saunter
onward to the daunting slaughter.

No mockery to
those flames lay heavy on the grass,
and knees feel the charred bravado

The return triumphant
set aside
                        that would not be

There Was Woman

She was stinging nettle about the bra,
itching for fair and right and just
in America, land of capitalism & coupons.
My manager shakes her head no,
we can't give her the green back

Even Chad knows she's wrong,
but we only fight behind backs;
there's too much on the tube out front
and we're not lithe like them.

I put it on a gift card; a cheat,
but it soothes her achy frown into an inverted arch -
should've said so sooner
, she says,
apologetic. I wasted time trying to whittle away bark
when all we really wanted was white
panties to match.

for W.W.

It was years spent sadly
staring outside before I tried
climbing out the window Whitman bricked.
Cutting myself on glass shards drew little blood
but capillaries still filled with poison
of indoor thoughts; they had to bleed out
before any real heartbeat sounded. Eventually,
truth compounded on truth, and nothing
could shutter me. Finally free, I sat
on the grass, hounded the clouds for rain's recipe,
and tricked trees into showing me their runic roots.
I recorded every step, never forgetting the bark
of the poor poet huddled indoors who was
found to prop me up high enough
to venture out in the first place.

The Trial Before Felix

Two years. Two years
under Felix's heavy cheeks. A frown
and all could be undone, a smile
and a favor for the crowd alone.

He does not touch his classwork. He does
detail what comes after: Porcius Festus;
and what came before: Freshman Year;
but his judgments are of little consequence.

I have never been found to stir
up a crowd. I admit that I worship
the God of our fathers
, but as for
separation of church and state - well,

Felix can write the following: there will be
a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
So I strive always to keep my conscience
clear before God and man.

But not school board or Sadducees -
they don't understand Felix is looking
for a bribe. I'm not a wedding launderer; his gavel
will only come down on tardy passes and tests.

       Christopher Oie Keller 2011