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Two poems

The Little Miami River

is my father

filling his shirts

and slippers

with the applause

of pulses sipping

mudbank coffee

with the precision

of turnpike truckers

dabbling ducks

sliding his rook

down the tiled path

of black and white

whistling chess drunk

painting our canoe

camouflage in

the garage but first

wiping its dust

with a cheesecloth

tossing over the 80 oz.

popcorn bash-bags

like an angler

braving the summer

Southwestern Ohio

roller coaster

of typhoon peaks

and whirls only

to placate the heart

of his little girl

before silt-slow and

damned to age

or emptied tumbling

into the rapids

of dementia’s big

river mouth

while I am distracted

by the shimmer

and feather of hooks

Earning My Rachel

for Kevin

Doing dishes

I imagine the surprise

of arms

reaching from behind

to squeeze me into


Lusty water

hoses each bowl

muting the 6:00


familiar wingtip grand

key arrival.

Heat steams

my glasses blind

to a foot-step figure


my yellow-thick gloves

numb to skin

to wrists.

It seems

I’ve been standing

in this spot

for seven years

twisting purple sponges

around the insides

of cup after cup

what have I been


how hot can I take can

I make the water


I’ve watched

sudden rains scream


loneliness at my window

I’ve heard

the giggles of children

fumbling children

in the garden


I’ve felt

this earth shake

to get my attention

let my hope

at this sink

these same suds lemon

mint lavender

ancient and owing

like Jacob who

worked seven years

earning his beloved.

I dream of

turning off the faucet


my hands lifting

this desert heart

earning my Rachel

but wake to

another morning of

ceramic and glass and

earthenware Leahs.


Candice Kelsey's work has appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. She was a finalist for Poetry Quarterly's Rebecca Lard Award and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first full-length manuscript is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press. An educator of 20 years' standing, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

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