These Things Happen

In the middle of a night

in the middle of September

the dog awoke her with a

growl and when she followed

the animal out into the orchard

near the house she found

herself illuminated in a


lake of moonlight,

and wide awake

in a silence in which owls

and even crickets were asleep.


From the shadows underneath

the apple trees she watched the

dog’s black shape as it sniffed

along the fence and

didn’t see until too late the

ground beneath her slippers open

up and didn’t hear until too late

the silence suddenly erupt in

shrieks of spiders, leaves and

stones that held her as she

pitched headfirst into an

ocean canyon filled with stars.


She thought that she was dreaming,

as she tumbled through a rain of

sparks and cinders high above the

burning palaces and parliaments

and watched a choir of ravens

carrying the coffins of some Savior

and his innumerable concubines

across wheat fields paved with

clocks that all curled backwards

towards a grove of birch trees

she remembered from a distant

summer when she had been a girl

alone, afraid and lost who

imagined the latticework of

branches as the labyrinth of her

heart and saw each leaf– each

one a human face– turn slowly

into the black shape of a dog

curled up in sleep in an iridescent

lake of snow, and a woman

standing in an orchard in her

slippers in the middle of a frigid

night in Winter, held by

moonlight, like a friend.

© 2012 J.M.Keating

The Way

When were you ever content to stay in just a single

room in your house? You used to poke and

wander into every corner– from the cellar, with

its solitary spiders in their cottony webs, the

rusting saws and hammers and families of mice,

up into the attic, with its treasure of enigmatic

boxes, empty suitcases and someone’s wedding

tux and wedding dress pressed together in a plastic

bag beneath a rain of dust that sifted down like flour

from the rafters.


But then one day you noticed that the walls began to

splinter and collapse. You pulled down the beams one

by one and let the roof cave in. You watched the shingles

burst into the air like a flight of crows. You let the

wind blow the rugs and chairs away, the refrigerator

too. You gave away the doors and windows to

someone in Berlin you thought you loved and the

back porch to the friend in Barcelona, the one whose

hands turned into water every stone that still remained

inside your heart.


When you had finally flattened all the walls and

the house was at last a house no more,

when your fists had finally opened,

then snow poured in and moonlight, and tiny

blackened stones from Dresden, and a storm of leaves

that has been falling for a thousand years.

then you found the path that is no Path, the road that never

was a road, only light that flickers on the sand—or was it water?

Only dancing, and the sound of someone singing.

Only a song.

© 2010 J.M. Keating

The President

In a remote corner of the Republic

far from the burning capitol

under clouds the color of iron

a well-tailored suit

that tries to keeps the cuffs of its pants

from getting muddy

staggers across a snowy field

toward a forest.

Church bells in the distant village

and the sounds of peasants

sharpening their scythes and billhooks

are drowned out by a swarm of crows

who ridicule the suit because

it’s empty and all that’s left of its

former dignity are a few decomposing

medals pinned to its lapel.

© 2010 J.M. Keating