Marilyn Kallet

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Hear Garrison Keillor read Kallet's "Fireflies" from the Writer's Almanac, July 29, 2012. Click here.

Selected Poems: I Want You Here, Euridice in Nelson County, Fireflies, The Love That Moves Me, That Chicken, Get This Right

I Want You Here

So badly my fingertips ache
roses droop against the stones

the green light of the Garonne
stuns my eyes

I talk to dogs to my chair
listen at the neighbor’s door

The old stones of the village are too smooth
The stubble of your chin would do

I want you here so badly
I can taste your salt

I’d save a place or two for your mouth
listen hard to your tongue

we’ll coo like mad doves
become ballads legends

climb to the centre ville
devour the first May cherries

at home in each other

beneath the blue sheet
of sky.

(Marilyn Kallet, Blue Fifth Review, 2009)

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* * * * *

Euridice in Nelson County

Euridice streaked the black Del Sol
through backwoods snow.

She’d trekked through hell before
but this fell whiter and colder than

Jersey. The Lovington Food Lion
roared with freaked-out country folks,

hoarding bread and pad thai.
What to do? Go slow, pray?

“There ain’t been no God of Israel in these parts
since Job was a boy,” Cuz’ said.

The grey man at the end of the driveway leered,
“I told you so.” According to the Nelson County

Mortality Schedule, he’d been dead long enough to know.
Euridice planned to track poems and down Bordeaux

until the sun came back, or
Orpheus phoned. After all this time,

would she know his voice if the call
went through? She’d made mistakes before.

Soon as the sky cleared, she would find him,
above, or below.

(Taken from Rougourou, an Online Literary Journal, Spring 2010, Vol. 4, Issue 1.)

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* * * * *


In the dry summer field at nightfall,
fireflies rise like sparks.
Imagine the presence of ghosts
flickering, the ghosts of young friends,
your father nearest in the distance.
This time they carry no sorrow,
no remorse, their presence is so light.
Childhood comes to you,
memories of your street in lamplight,
holding those last moments before bed,
capturing lightning-bugs,
with a blossom of the hand
letting them go. Lightness returns,
an airy motion over the ground
you remember from Ring Around the Rosie.
If you stay, the fireflies become fireflies
again, not part of your stories,
as unaware of you as sleep, being
beautiful and quiet all around you.

(Taken from Kallet's most recent book of poetry, Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press, 2009.)

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* * * * *

The Love that Moves Me
amor me mosse…

Makes me speak. Or is this
some lesser muse, that he-beast
with reeking innards?

Goth, I know!
Why call for answers
if love’s divine?

Why not worship like el maestro,
a glimpse of his beloved?
Beatrice cupped vision in words.

Virgil spoke up.
Had he held still
there would have been no book,

no hell, heaven, souls.
Now every church in Florence has their number,
every schoolgirl.

I’m well past the middle of my life,
less able to cast visions
on a still life.

I won’t scold.
Let’s admire the blank
you have created,

the sea of silence that surrounds you,
the taciturn mountain
you climb daily.

I won’t ask for hello.
That would show lack of faith.
Let the song be my mojo,

the terza save me from wraiths,
rima not take me down.
Be my Virgil if not my angel.

If not my divine amor,
I might settle
for gutsy love.

(Marilyn Kallet Prairie Schooner, Summer 2010.)

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* * * * *

That Chicken

Was a senior citizen
an octogenarian
the oldest one in Valence d’Agen.
That chicken’s skin was so thick
it couldn’t be insulted.
Nothing could hurt it, not even a knife.
That chicken was so old it knew my Grandma Anna in Minsk.

That chicken was so tough
even the boiling water complained.
That chicken wasn’t worth 15 Euros.
15! That chicken was tougher than the pot,
tougher than the teenage boys who rumbled last night by the dock,
and much less sexy.

That chicken was one of two on Noah’s ark.
I ate it because I paid for it.
Each bite was an insult.
That was the chicken they saved for the American.
That was the chicken that broke détente.

I made a soup of it,
and with enough hours and white wine
even the oldest clucking citizen of the republic
gave way to my teeth.
With a loaf of olive bread to distract me
I polished off that beast.
But was it a chicken or a buzzard?
Je m’en fous! For fifteen Euros I’d eat a hedgehog
if it landed in my shopping bag.
I’m no spring chicken
but I’m livelier than that old bird.

(Marilyn Kallet 5/09 Auvillar)

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* * * * *

Get This Right

Non, the alderman said, numéro trois, Place de l’Horloge.
The Jews used to live near the butcher’s,
not the soap shop. I thanked him.
Need to get this right.

Adéle Kurtzweil tried to study there, before the butchery,
before gendarmes seized her.
Get this right. Fleeing Austria, Bruno, Gisele and their daughter
tried to live in Auvillar—their papers in order. After Wansee,

the Final Solution, gendarmes grabbed them,
chained off numéro trois, Place de l’Horloge.
Fleeing one, two round-ups. Their papers were in order.
Adele dropped her history book. Drancy. Septfois. Auschwitz.

Not the savonnerie. I thanked him.
No mistake. “Kurtzweil. Number 3. Place of the Clock.”

(Marilyn Kallet 5/09 Auvillar)

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Updated November 21, 2014