Monday, November 30, 2009

Sherry O'Keefe

Leave it to Floyd at the County Ranch Supply Store

Because nothing changes in the back of Big R,
I come here to listen to the century-worn
floor creak each time a customer walks in,
mid-stride in ancient conversation. The merits
of a rabbit hutch, which pastures are short on salt licks,
temptations of sweet mix for a colt, bottles for orphaned lambs
Floyd’s name tag is peeling from his May-I-Help-You vest,
black marker on surgical tape, the ‘D’ no longer visible.

He sorts tomato packs, talking with a man
whose fishing hat says “Salmon, the other pink meat.”
He needs food for a rescued baby woodpecker,
and is worried it cannot see. Happens that Floyd
wrote a paper in sixth grade, he remembers
those babies are blind for thirty days. I envy that his past
is still with him today. When I was twelve I wrote a paper
about Twiggy with Jane, the girl with a dark space
in her house where all the boys went to kiss her. I sat
at the table, writing the paper for both of us.

Maybe if I had written about calla lilies
I’d understand now why nothing blooms
next to my kitchen sink. I’m reading
the bulb packaging when Floyd stops by
to help. He considers me before he tells me nothing
grows without contrast in its life. He says we all need
the night time cold, some daytime sun. Now
and then - a wind to toss our stalks.


  1. Wow, this is my kind of poem. I love your voice, the readability of this piece, and all the attention paid to sound qualities and sensory imagery. In my own work, I was recently given some feedback about my conclusions to poems--that in some cases they "wrap-up" too neatly. Reading this piece made me want to defend my allegience to the "wrap-up." Maybe it's a narrative instinct in me or something, but I really like the way this poem takes the risk of actually saying something--of delivering a little message. Thanks for a beautiful piece.

  2. Thanks Meg, for all your comments. I agree. I love the voice here. When I read this poem I thought it was James Wright-ish, which I also said to Sherry....

    I also notice I often like to wrap things (poems) up too neatly. I like the word "toss" here, in the final line!

  3. it's hard to hear my own voice. (remember the first time you heard yourself on an answering machine or in a video?..."is THAT what i sound like..?) your comments are encouraging!

    knowing how to title the poem and then how to "end" the poem are what i struggle with as well.

    meg, i have the same struggle with wanting to risk delivering a little message. i don't want to preach, but i do want to connect with others who might find themselves inside this poem with me.