MICHAEL KESHIGIAN
PUSHCART PRIZE and
BEST OF THE NET NOMINATED POEMS

WHAT TO DO WITH INTANGIBLES

Early morning, snow teases

the outstretched branches of birch

with help from the wind.

It is cold, but inside the stove’s warmth

cradles the recliner in the lamplight

where he reads poems.

His fingers, thick and calloused,

flip pages enthusiastically.

He notices the shape of his nails,

much like his father’s,

no moons rising.

And like his father had done,

it’s time to contemplate departure.

One day, the stove unlit, will dispense

the damp aroma of creosote,

the book will lie closed

upon the arm of the recliner.

One day, a relative will enter

and acknowledge

that the house is empty,

no warmth, no breath, no poetry,

an indentation upon the seat

next to the book.

The change will go unnoticed

by the snow, wind, ice, and

those few crows meandering

for morsels upon the buried landscape.

He returns to reading,

the words delight him.

What would become of these joys,

he wonders.

Someone should take them.

California Quarterly 2013

HONEYCOMB BLUES

This is how it used to be

with him and his lover,

she taught him

a new song

every morning,

a different line

with her head

on the pillow,

climbing the stairway

of his spine

with a weightless melody

until it filled his brain

and he sang

as he rolled over

to lock his lips

around hers

so she might sugar his mouth

with more honey,

her tongue tipping sweet melodies

backwards in his throat.

The day was longing

after mornings like that,

sunlight a lonely companion,

though the song droned

like bees in the hive

all day in his head.

Illya's Honey  2013

CONCEPTION

Barefoot in white slacks

and her husband’s sweater,

she plays the piano most seriously,

bungling Mozart with a grimace

then a grin,

the lamplight

flickered unnoticed upon her fingers.

The field from where her progeny

once thrived has withered,

grown voices and opinions

have fled the confines of the arena

where music,

like a tranquilized tiger,

swerves again.

Her foot presses pedals,

fingernails carelessly flit keys,

and in her womb

a musician is conceived.

The house is no longer empty,

half full with sound,

she nourishes herself.

Red River Review  2012


MUSIC APPRECIATION

He asked them

to take the music outside,

listen as they held it toward the sky,

let the wind rattle its stems,

or place the sheet against an ear

to hear a tune

through the hollow of its shell.

He told them to jog

the parameters of the staves,

walk the winding road of its clef

and imagine living there.

Perhaps they could drop a feather

upon the music’s resonance,

follow its float among the timbres,

or ski the slopes of musical peaks,

gliding unencumbered into its valleys,

then thank the composer

for varying the landscape

when they left the lodge.

But the class was determined

to stalk each phrase,

analyze chords for manipulation, cunning

and seek the hidden form.

They handcuffed the notes

to the music stand,

even flogged the melody

with a drum mallet,

until it whistled a meaning never intended.

Illya's Honey  2011


MORNING TREK

He rarely has those nights

when he can sleep

deep beneath the comforter

and curl himself back into childhood

in the twin bed next to his  brother,

a life he can barely remember.

His parents have long departed

for that permanent slumber

in a room with no view,

touching hands forever

as they once did in the confines of privacy,

now distant and deaf to the whimper

of nightmares that occasionally

still startle him awake and make him restless

in the milk white light of dawn.

The trembling rays of sun

split the pines on a cool summer morn

then splinter his shaded bedroom

and on the days when calm abandons him,

he rises to walk.

It soothes him to see the giant pines

still asleep in their bark,

the dreamless vegetation, unscarred

by human steps, swaying in the early breeze

as the huge ball of fire ignites

the watery horizon with flames

that abruptly shatter the darkness

about the sleeping lake homes.

The loons have ceased lamenting.

Silently, he thanks the crystal spirit of summer

for the soothing yellow gift of morning.

Soon houses blink their shades open,

a motor roars across the lake and in the distance

a chimney raises its smoky arms skyward.

The forest absorbs night as light walks

the mulch paths toward day.

He turns homeward, listens to his own footsteps,

no longer in search of himself.

Ibbetson Street Press  2007


HOMELESS IN NYC

He crossed 42nd to get to Fifth

towards mid-town

and just paces in front of him

an old lady pushed a shopping cart

full of identity.

Bags of cans dangled

from each elbow

and clanged as she waddled,

dressed in clothes

worse than a country scarecrow

though her straw gray hair

hung longer,

tied in a tail with brown hosiery

to match her stoic, weathered face

and it pained his heart

when suddenly she squatted

in a deep knee bend,

like she was picking

something off the sidewalk,

and there she froze

as he quickly approached

to help,

unaware of the problem

till a puddle formed

and its river flowed around his shoes

down the curb

and in the privacy of her mind,

she transformed

his sympathy

to confused helplessness.

Chantarelle's Notebook  2007


DIVERSION

He lies awake

during the small hours of quiet

after midnight

and focuses upon

the husky rhythmic patterns of breath

which sustain her

in stark contrast

to the stillness of her soul

reflected on her face.

He wonders,

after sharing years of secure abandon,

about the first day he enters

this ritual of repose alone

should she render

to permanent slumber before him,

and realizes

his ordinarily vivid imagination

dares not trespass

upon unfathomable ground.

Yet, he persists conjecture,

still unable to complete the thought

and as unnerving sensations

invade his psyche,

he rises to write these lines

in hopeful diversion

to an inevitable confrontation

from his perspective or hers.

Red River Review  2003


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