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Three poems by Kevin Roy


I draw a tattoo

of a vast octopus

from Minoa on my flank,

the sheltering arms,

the eyes on eyes on eyes.

Heat the waters

until they roil in salt.

Give me a mask

and an oilcloth cape

as I spiral the plaza.

I’m a go-between

up from the seas,

amphibian, an augur

who loses recall

of performance and rites.

Stick me on street corners

to whisper to cars.

Let me plant

a chew tab on the lips

of the cloistered family

that cures on the balcony.

They wait for a chorus

below in the alleys,

physicians and gypsies

long about their coming.

The Keel Seam

I build the kayak

in the frozen garage of night,

where space heaters warm

the vegetable age of my hands.

The spine emerges from planks so thin

they gurgle in resin soak,

a clumsy seam fused by epoxy

and wood flour, by honey, by dough.

It spans three times my arms’ embrace.

I’m the bared joint from bow to stern,

I’m the mending of a hard rip.

The beams soften but seem true and fair.

At tapered ends, gaps fill with treeless light.

The long boat becomes spectral,

a hull drizzled in chemicals

as I sand then glass out the fleshing wood.

Although framed by the bones of coasts,

bound with repellent skin, it still

wants to pull apart and ditch me

in dark waters with ancient fish.

The Diver

Divers entered the radioactive cooling pond beneath the Chernobyl reactor in an effort to close valves and contain the disaster - New York Times

I go down for the last time,

and there’s no one to come back to.

The village is vacated

and the sirens hushed,

some glasses of milk left

to thicken at dinner tables.

No one knows what becomes of us

when the pleading is done

and we’ve hidden away.

How deep I can go, deep only

into the sediment,

the something-it-once-was,

the electric shiver

of the wireless from ghostlands.

Past cesium and graphite

tumbling down, I go deep,

alone into darkness broken

by unholy glow.

I rub the hot stomach of the world,

it rumbles and drools

a thick web of iodine.

From underneath, the sky

heaves like a huge lung,

and muscles of water chew me.

I drift, dissolve

like a tablet on a tongue.

Down here,

being overturned,

space will taste of me.

Kevin Roy is a professor of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland in College Park. For twenty years, he has taught, mentored, conducted community-based life history interviews, and published more than fifty articles and book chapters. Although he has been writing poetry for many decades, these are his first published poems.

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