Three Poems by Sean Kelbley
The Early Reagan Years
On the front porch at her farm,
I take my Oma’s picture in a sweatshirt
we brought back from Myrtle Beach.
I drop vacation photos in her lap:
my parents laughing, me pretending
to fight off imaginary sharks.
Oma lifts her eyes across Tymochtee
Creek, takes in the flatness of the land.
In Batschka, no one owned a camera.
And just as well—another thing to lose.
She doesn’t like the way the neighbors
plant to water’s edge. She misses
reeds—their secret conversations with
the wind, their easy bending. Too close
she mutters, fussing with her sweatshirt hood.
How do someone hide, when Russians come?
With cornhusk only can you make a doll.
From reed, long reed, you make a breathing.
It would do us good to stand again
in lavender, to walk
through vineyards full of ripening grapes.
Remember how we used to go?
There was an old stone church
on Leelanau Peninsula,
a blacksnake melded to its western wall.
And on Lake Michigan, light butterflied—
too many sparkles lunging in and out
of waves to count. That stroke! So hard
to learn, but then the muscle memory’s
forever. This rusty year of staying put,
these winter weeks of puttied skies
remind me how we never needed
lists of things to see, or what to pack.
Of how the body always finds
a way to cling to warmth, and light