Monday Jul 22

LesterKeegan Keegan Lester is the winner of the 2016 Slope Editions Book Prize, selected by Mary Ruefle, for his collection of poems: this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had, so i drew it.  His work is published in or forthcoming from the Boston Review, The Atlas Review,  PowderKeg, Boaat Journal, The Journal, Phantom Books, Tinderbox, CutBank and Sixth Finch among others and has been featured on NPR, The New School Writing Blog and ColdFront Mag. He is the co-founder and poetry editor for the journal Souvenir Lit. You can follow him on twitter @keeganmlester or on instagram @kml2157  or find out more here.

Appalachian Folk Song

Until we’ve still not gotten used to it, the broken
sycamores & their quiet,

our room smelling of them, and only them.

Until we invite our wolf
in to sleep at the foot of our bed, broken fanged and

bleeding, or do we keep on with calling him part of night’s tapestry;

his broken howl: mysterious. Until I’ve forgotten where
your veins end and mine begin, I pretend to forget

the way I pretend sometimes until our arms become moons or persimmons,

the weight of each other holding us up. Until the answer is up:
venom travels up.

Until we forget which direction venom travels & you sing

“you’ve still got time on your hands”.
Until every word leaving you means something

to them & something else to me. Until honey bees & the mountains

& the wounded soldiers in their beds at night.
Until a false memory glow in a language of the crying

someone might have sung for me when I was younger

but, softer sing to me, never did, the way I sometimes imagine
for the both of us, where we go

when we sleep. Until the bits of your hurt I swallow

each night as antidote. If I don’t leave our bed, will the others notice
the bits of you I’ve taken in me? I sing

into your wrist in my palm, until the hurt

moves on. Until your skin so pale, until now. Until now time
when we will watch the venom

travel up your veins. Use my finger to follow the river.

When it gets into your neck, I’ll bite you then.
I’ll suck hurt from vein. I’ll spit

it into the jar on your night stand. The honey bee didn’t mean to

end itself in your arm, Darlin’.
None of us mean to. Until the trees so quiet

tonight, I think them mountains.

The mountains so loud, I think they the one’s crying or
hungry, or being eaten by the hungry thing crying.

From Football Poem

after the lights turned out & the dairy queen closed last friday night he said: nothing about this feels seventeen, this is when they go back to being children again & it’s early saturday morning & you can see the stars against west texas sky because no lights are on, nowhere. we need she whispers in the backseat of an ocean blue ford, glittering beneath the moon. this ford is the only thing here glittering or ocean. this ford might as well be
a spaceship. & in the movie version she escapes that small town & in the book version she doesn’t & in the television version it’s unclear. after their early morning whispering i realize the only drama that still exists is what has not been written out, which is why we love football & west texas where nothing is written, where stretches of highway feel roman connecting fields of mechanical horse oil drums & fields of sand & fields of cattle to fields of grass & fields of night which meets vision miles & miles long & wide. & that vision is also an ocean, deep & treacherous, an ocean in the old days sense, when the world was still flat & you could see the next continent because their was no curvature of the earth yet capable of dissuading that ocean, & yet, people got lost in their tiny boats all the time.

You Ask What’s that song & I Say Mood Indigo. You Ask Who it’s by & I Say Louis Armstrong, But I was Wrong. It’s Really by Duke Ellington, & Louis Armstrong is Just Singing on the Track

I wasn't beautiful enough,

so i moved east

& then further east.

It’s not that anyone asked me to

with their mouth,

as much as with their glances.

In the backyard last night

a stranger asked

where are you from.

I could hear myself speak

from my costume more clearly

& I could see it

in the slouching tikki torches

& it’s like swimming

in the dark where everything below

is dark, & everything above

is dark & I am dark too, & you,

whom I take everywhere with me, is dark.

I started thinking Balboa Island again.

Is it too late to go back

to the blankets that were all around us?

A blanket of sand & tequila

& a blanket of cloud fogging the moon,

making the witches clamor & dance in it.

Is it to late to point at the houses

that would be ours, from the bike path.

I never told you I loved you

with my mouth, but often

from my costume, at least the others have told me

that’s what I’ve done.

Even in mirrors people have trouble

seeing themselves clearly.

I throw softball metaphors,

because this is how I’ve been trained

to deal with the public.

I rescued a seagull one time in Balboa,

but from what,

is still a matter unclear.

There are things our bodies taught us

that society untaught us

that I am trying to teach us again how to do.

It starts with listening

to our cupped hands.

Listening to the reverberation of sound

in our ear canals.

It starts with our ear canals turning

into small silvery deloreans,

that don’t know small actions can change

entire maps of future.

It starts with the incorrect definition

of butterfly effect.

It starts with everything smiling

leading to an act of kindness

toward a stranger.

It starts with everything depending

on a leaning palm tree,

then the wind that holds that palm tree up.

The palm trees in California lean

to make themselves closer

to where ever they’re from originally,

either Florida or Hawaii.

Their roots can sense this soil is not home.

They whisper to each other about this at night

in their native tongues

& no matter how many postcards they’ve seen

of themselves, they continue leaning

toward their native land.

If you looked at those palm trees,

You’d think they’re from here.

You’d think they’d been from here the entire time.