Two poems by Candice Kelsey • Empty Mirror

in the garden / credit: dein the garden / credit: de

like a collapsed lung

A poem walks into a pandemic
and starts tearing up its lines
to make medical grade masks
tossing its punctuation
tiny prayers

darkening the emptiness
between its stanzas
with the names of the dead
until only its title remains
like a collapsed lung.

Into the Coyote, or Ballad for Families Renting in Los Angeles

Realtors leave their Business Relationships cards
at our front door
salivating at the sales potential
of the little house we rent
reminding us daily that we are not permanent
that we don’t belong
that we are being circled and watched
that we are carrion
and they are always perched

Like the drone my son flew into our neighbor’s tree
across the street the elderly lady she
can’t help but ask

when will the owners sellwhen will they tear your house down or remodel
what she really wants to know

is when will we be gone
when can she visit with a real family
who owns and doesn’t
wonder each day

when will the owners sellwhen will they tear down or remodel

I ask when will my kids have to lose
another sacred thing
another growth chart height mark
penciled on a wall that isn’t theirs in the end
that needs to be updated
to get more rent to improve the home value
on the street for the neighbors
inquiring when will they

Our cats laze on the porch
they drink the sun wherever it will have them
they eat the neighbors’ paper plate kibble
on the stoop next door
that husband and wife alone
with each other in seven bedrooms
overlooking our one story
stucco mid-century modern with chain link fence

Our daughter sunning herself
on the tar-patch roof
beside rusted gutters catapulting her body
a trampoline landing
soft and resilient like we always are
when we leave another home
when we have to say goodbye
to a street our dogs’ feet know by heart
when we have to say
why bother letting this one know
or that one learn
that we are leaving and won’t
be part of their morning routine
their Halloween hellos

Let them scavenge the house:
take the brass ceiling fans scrape the plaster of Paris
save the bay windows for another project
let them laze on their porches
and walk the length of our gutters with fierce-fang eyes
and imagine the growth of their equity
marked up the side
of a kitchen door jamb with different colored pencils
dollar signs instead of inches

Let them howl
under the jacaranda and feel satisfied
while we move to a new street whose coyotes are waiting
even still to feed upon the feline flesh
we have no idea is food
we have no way of knowing will soon be rendered
hair / whisker // tooth

We grow too old to mark the walls
meet the neighbors or wrap our shoulders in sunset small talk
no way of knowing
that days are numbered even now
by the grey tufted struts of coyotes waiting
silent viscounts ruling this new place
where we hang pictures activate WiFi and reassemble bunk beds
this yard that offers rose globemallow
and Thanksgiving cactus
this yard like a welcome song
while gruesome death is holding a pencil
ready to mark our time behind the coastal cholla

Tonight I crawl into a coyote
beneath its sheets of flesh and search for my cats

I shine my flashlight cellphone
I Jonah deeper into its Thai-cave belly pulling out this neighbor
and that neighbor from 3004
and splinters of wood frame specks of plaster from 436
and lizard tile clapboard drawer pulls from 6910
until I see the reflection of my city
in the gore-lick of my hands the image of a forgotten saint
this retablo beast
that has swallowed so much of us

I wade myself out wet and worn
to my daughter’s voice – you’re wearing a hood a red hood
the blood riding red over the cul-de-sacs
of my neck like I’ve been born a coyote’s gross howl
a birth of dismembered syllables

I become grandmother’s house
its wolf-windows so big the better to watch us with
as we try to live here.

Candice Kelsey

Candice Kelsey’s debut book of poetry Still I Am Pushing just released with Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in Poets Reading the News, Poet Lore, and others while her micro-chapbook The Pier House was recently released by the Origami Poems Project. She won the 2019 Two Sisters Writing’s Steve Carr Contest, received Honorable Mention for Common Ground’s 2019 Poetry Contest, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Currently, she is working with the O, Miami Poetry Festival on an exciting project. An educator in Los Angeles for 21 years, she is devoted to working with young writers.

Business Relationships Book