Jamie Elliott Keith – Five Poems

September Song

Air bright as jewels, sky blue enough
to blind, mountains gowned
in sparkling emerald, dappling jade,

the first settling smell of topaz
hints upon the breeze.

I’ll don a crown of opal clouds
and sapphire seas, bangle my arms
with diamond sunlight, dewdrops

of pearl and ropes of ruby blooms
I’ll drape across my breast, dazzling
over ridgetop and through the dale. I’ll dance

till western sky turns amethyst and all my fortune
fades to dusk in thanks for such a day.

An Occasion of Note

Against the mottled grey
on blue, a rainbow
arcs the sky-capped highway:
a prism, a palette,
a promise that all remains
the same, a covenant
changing everything,
what is and what will come.

A fox’s wedding—
this transformation from rain
to sun or back again—
liquid sunshine, a monkey’s birthday,
a sun shower, an occasion of such note
it’s writ across the heavens,
and there’s a name for it in every land.

And in the rain shadow,
spring keeps her pact,
paints a swath of gold—
prickly poppy punctuated
with spikes of silver lupine’s
violet blue—and the firecracker
penstemon sparks,
its tiny red explosions
bursting across the scrub.

Lines, Visible and Invisible

The line is sharp between sea and sky,
a precise arc inscribed across the far horizon,
a curve that could be plotted by a regular equation
solved by the difference between water and air,

liquid and gas, and I stand at the very center
as though it were made for me. The expanse
of the intersection from which the rolling
blue grey green unfolds toward where I am,

the arc’s length a ratio of the visible
horizon to the whole. So I turn
to see what’s here to see: wax myrtle,
ghost crab, winged sumac, laughing gull.

And the distance to the far edge from where I stand?
It’s a calculation that encompasses the rays of the sun,
the angle of the moon, the doubling of infinity.
It’s the mathematics of faith, the thin line of what we believe.

When the Electricity Cuts Off

Now so quiet I hear puddles shimmering
                in the exhausted breath
                            of wind,
cornflowers’ blue shush spreading
                across the pasture
                             below the winding drive,
and from the next ridge over, a field,
                like a green saddle between
                             somber clumps of trees, settling.
                Grass glistens,
                              clouds brood, 
hunkered against remote mountain edges.

And in all that listening
what I remember is the loss,
lonely as a whisper of distant thunder.

For Peace
. . .the waters have come up
                                    to my neck.
                        I sink in deep mire,
                                    where there is no foothold;
                                                —Psalms 69:1-2

I press my fingertips
into the dark loam, shaping small craters
to receive these fleck-sized seeds of rue
into earth’s deep embrace.

I lay the rippling slug,
who’s slimed the half-eaten bindweed
with it’s shining path, beneath
the shadowing shelf of hosta leaf.

And while I tend, I hum off-key
the shreds of a mostly forgotten tune,
blue echoes from the gibbous moon
of a long gone summer-solstice sky.

O God, let me be delivered from the deep waters,
let the flood not sweep over me,
or the pit close its mouth over me


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty is the long breath between seeing and coming to some sort of understanding, the tiny detail that attaches itself to your heart—the dance of honeybees, the slash of sunlight across a wooden floor, the invisible workings of the world.  Beauty is everywhere we dare to find it.


Jamie Elliott Keith lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is a community volunteer. Her work has appeared in such journals as Rust + Moth, The James Dickey Review, The Cape Rock, and San Pedro River Review. Her first chapbook, Past the Edge of Blue, was released in October 2017 by Iris Press.