Ward Kelley: Three poems

Standing Below the Watchtower

There is a ripping of my will,
purposely, it seems, from my mind,
a fissure of direction from intuition...
it is injected by this tolling
of the bell, the bell,
the sound that at first
made us so proud
of our small city,
the bell, the bell.

I often fail to explain
how my peace
has been so disrupted
by my endeavors
to eat by the bell,
to meet my peers
by the bell,
to at last sleep by the bell.

It even tolls me awake,
where once I was awakened
by Nature, by sun and cock...
just as I once ate only
when my belly hungered...

how can we humans, our flesh
such a part of Nature,
ever find a way to live
with this tolling, tolling?

How can flesh ever
adapt to cast metal?

Artist's note:

       Prior to the 14th century, the hours of the day were measured by 'canonical' hours, elastic hours based on the movement of the sun and its relation to daily church services. Around 1330 the hour was able to be measured by the first mechanical clocks, and cast into 24 equal hours per day. Some historians claim this movement from seasonal hours to fixed, equal hours is one of the most dramatic revolutions in the human experience. By the end of the 14th century, large turret clocks were placed throughout Europe in church towers, clocks that sounded the equal hours for all. The 14th century is considered by many to be one of history's most tumultuous eras, a time suffering from plague, war, severe taxes, brigandage, bad government, insurrection and schism within the Church ... all but the first are man-made conditions.

William Knew of Two Ways

There are only two ways, two simple or precise ways,
to my knowledge, both unearthly and carnal,
two ways to foliate yourself into other centuries,
to bring yourself all the way around...

first, there is that human invention of penmanship,
quite remarkable, quite infallible, a way to imprint
your very soul on paper, make your mark and mark
your soul into this thing called poetry...
so as centuries pass, there you are, for any
to pick up, to inspect, to fathom and remark
about this imprint of yours, so sincere, so unprotected,
there squiggling on the paper before the world...

or second, you might simply die...

two ways, two, there are to go round
and round this simple town,
rocks that we are in the polisher
round and round, two ways,
two, you know, once your soul
judges your own soul,
there are two ways to go...
either stay or come back,
come back, two ways to stay,
two ways to go, polish
or polish round and round
william or william
round and round
and round.

Artist's note:

       William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was beyond doubt the greatest writer in the English language, and is generally considered to be the greatest author in any language, ancient or modern.

Giant, Black Lies

And in the end, after they ripped each
fingernail from my hand, then moved
the sizzling poker to my blue eye, I lied.

Yet in the ways of the human, we would
rather believe a lie than a truth that fails
to help us gain that which we seek...

and in the end, I lied and told the fathers
about the giant black cat, greater in size
than a grown man, all parts, and how I flew

through the darkness at night, lighting
on the highest mountain, I know not
where, and how the giant cat mounted

me, again and again, and this is how
I meant to gain the knowledge to revenge
Jean, my lover who had left me for another.

And in the end, I burn.

The flames are crawling up to my legs
and I must somehow endure this agony...

But I cannot. I cannot. How can I forgive
this giant black lie? How can I make
it through my fiery death?

Artist's note:

       In 1390 at Paris a woman was tried for using sorcery to take revenge on her former lover. After being tortured, she admitted to copulating with the devil who had taken the form of a giant black cat. She was charged with the crime of maleficiam - doing evil - and condemned to be burned at the stake.