Devin Kelly


This evening I listen to Keith Jarrett
play Shenandoah, that faint recording
where, if you listen close, you can hear
the scrape of his fingers on the keys
& the silence between them
punctuated by the moan of a mouth
bent over the piano. I’ve come
to think of music not as sound
but as silence, the gap between
two notes & what can fill it. If you
listen to Jarrett, you can hear
the human hesitation about
what comes next. The idea
that beauty must follow beauty
& the fear that it won’t. This is why
I avoid conflict. I’m so scared
of everything, &, as such, I
create it. I want the soft hush
of a resolution, that pregnant joy
that comes with just the right note
at just the right time. Those nights
where she would leave me in the bed
while she went to wash her face.
Think of that as silence. & then,
the coming back, her body
like the kind & gorgeous arc
of a bass clef, with the night humming
its low notes. Think of how beautiful
it is to be arrived at. Her hands
as long & lithe as a pianist, & my body
ridged with broken keys, her piano.


I assume all pain burns a hole
in the chest for us to use
as an ashtray. We never smoked
in bed, our bodies limp & raw
from too much fucking, or, simply,
too much. But I have two windows
right there, easily propped open,
& I know I’ll quit eventually
but I can’t quit you yet. Somewhere
a dog is lapping up a bowl of milk
that a man, stiff as a cactus,
laid out for her. He will go outside,
sleepless, & stare at the stars
& the dog will curl around his
socked feet until morning.
Placitas. Encino. A town where
people pray to life their own
mythologies. I know you can’t sleep.
I know I can’t sing much
of a lullaby. I can rhyme two soft
vowels until they form a cloud,
or wrap an arm around your breasts
like a towel. I can rise from bed
alone, open the fridge, drink milk
from the carton, put coffee on,
& wait, imagining what it must’ve
been like to be the first man
to draw a line between the stars.
Somewhere, there is a town
where the night shines so pallid
& full of light that your nipples
& your nose would cast a shadow
down, all the way, to your toes.


Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of the collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence (Anchor & Plume) and the forthcoming collection, In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (ELJ Publications). He has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. He works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches poetry at Bronx Community College, and lives in Harlem. You can find him on twitter @themoneyiowe.