Kelli Allen

Funereal Wrap / Louis Staeble

Market Day in Someone Else's City

Some towns are the wing bones we crush
in our hands. Every streets’ turn signifies
what is most hollow in the snap. Yet,
we return again as weasels emerging
from the rough barn, paws and teeth
ahold of the last map, rich cake crumbs
still falling from the scrolls’ edges.

Leaving means we close the garden house
door, maybe too late, and who then will escort
the bride, her two blessed boys, and some
prince to the hall erected as center, as castle?

It’s no longer enough to be the merchant
when rain refuses an audience and the procession
could stop, and there are no dances to sell,
no poppies left in our baskets, the ground dust,
too rough for this white calf, our only meal,
to lead the way ever, closer, nearly home.

Conversation Under Sun in Summer, Late

The ear has its own mood, wants
to succeed, wants to know
more than the curve and bell
of itself. The ear finds water rushing,
confesses mistakes easily, begs
to be cupped against dampness,
against translations in the upper register.

We speculate that there is a noble problem
when the ear resists our distinctions, lumps
us together in a singular song, leaves us
to our own arguments, even though our knees touch
once and my fingers find again, too quick, your shoulder.
We are over-flown with sounds marked less
by contrast than by interference. I hear your lips
against the cup and wonder where… when.

Perhaps the teacher has taught her student
to listen through the mouth. There is safety
in the simple shape of each vowel. Leave
the ear to a shade of enthusiastic ripeness
gathered when the head is pushed closely, tilted
to catch a dress’s hem sighing up from a damp thigh.

We are nearing the door to the room where my ear
presses close to the mat used sometimes for prayer,
sometimes just for kneeling.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards for her poetry, prose, and scholarly work. She served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, is the current Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review, and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri St. Louis. She is the director of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series and founded the Graduate Writers Reading Series for UMSL. She is currently a Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University and teaches for The Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books in 2012 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.