Two Poems by Keith Leonard

OPENING
LECTURE
AT
THE
CONSTELLATION
INSTITUTE


When you draw shapes in the night sky,
it will help if you remember
that your pencil passes through matter
we can’t see, or name, but know exists.
It will help if you imagine the bright spots
as your parents, your past lovers,
or enemies. Perhaps you will draw
a bull out of your string of breakups,
then use three stars to draw a spear.
By your senior year, you should be able
to outline at least one flower
while studying the history
of dictators.  No dippers.
We have enough of those.
The sky is full of reservoirs.
We’ve noticed the sad have a strange desire
to draw things patriotic - the flag
with its flat bars draping the hemisphere,
or a bald eagle with its wide wings
grazing both horizons.  It will help
if you resist the craving to claim
the whole sky.  It’s rude, frankly,
and you will be unpopular.
Most importantly, you’ll miss
what happens when the many
separate shapes intertwine.



ELEGY

In the water left from the waitress’s rag,
I made James’s face:

pinched salt for the scar
below the eyebrow,

a fleck of pepper for a freckle,

bent straw for the bridge of the nose.

The trouble with my over-easy eggs
was their thin skins broke

with the touch of a butter knife.

The trouble with my coffee
was it took the cream and changed.

The trouble with me is I can arrange
three words however I please:

this isn’t it

It isn’t this

Isn’t it this

Isn’t this it

by Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Ode To Alternatives

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Hey Kevin, I know
I’m always talking,
but look at those
two little boys who
don’t know any better –
they’re using a king
as a pawn, a pawn
as a knight, a queen
as a bishop-and isn’t
not knowing the rules
just beautiful?
Because really,
where’s the joy
in shouldering night
into workday
when we can be carpenters
of unmade things,
flailing our hammers
whichever way we please
in the dark? I’m sorry
I’m talking too much
for this chess game,
but I get nervous.
Are there people out there
who say we’re dangerous?
When the sun echoes
off the thousands
of windshields
locked in the morning commute,
do you sometimes feel
like we’re dressed for a party
we couldn’t ever hope
to be invited to?
Do the idling engines
deafen you?
Kevin, are you sure you want
to trade your knight
for a rook? Why is it
that once we take
our hand off of it,
we can’t take it back?

 

~Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Elegy

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Photo by TJ Parker

In the water left from the waitress’s rag,
I made James’s face:

pinched salt for the scar,
below the eyebrow,

a fleck of pepper for a freckle,

bent straw for the bridge of the nose.

The trouble with my over-easy eggs
was their thin skins broke

with the touch of a butter knife.

The trouble with my coffee
was it took the cream and changed.

The trouble with me is that I can arrange
three words however I please:

This isn’t it

It isn’t this

Isn’t it this

Isn’t this it

~ Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode