Erna Kelly lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Her poems have appeared various in anthologies and journals, among them Soundings: Door County in Poetry, Ariel Anthology: 2016, Verse Wisconsin, and the Aurorean. Now retired from teaching she has more time to write and to revisit interests from the past─drawing, needlework, a foreign language—and also more time for the outdoors─swimming, bicycling and cross-country skiing. Last spring she conducted a poetry class for The Chippewa Valley Learning and Retirement Organization and will do so again this April.
Poems Go to the Gym
“The meter is the meter,”
our friend, Don, quipped.
“Sixteen sonnets tell me
I am done, as do seven
sestinas or eight odes.”
Poems are a pedometer
tracking steps, measuring
miles. Verbal metronome,
they keep muscle music
in line and synchronize
foot-fall with breath.
Treble to treadmill’s
hum, counter-point to
clash of bar and bell,
the words Don chants
keep his body fit,
his soul alive.
Sounds of the summer kitchen
echo deep in my bones:
my grandmother’s pans clanging,
water whooshing, knife against wood
chopping spinach, chard, or kale,
peas zipped from shells plinking into pots,
strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
finally blueberries under streams
of water, then thump, thump
as they’re dumped into bowl or crust,
blasts of air from oven, steam hissing
from pots of cabbage, corn or squash
─hot meals on even hotter evenings─
but all starting in early morning:
rinsing, cutting, lid hitting pot,
whoosh of gas meeting match,
all before the heat of day.
The Late Life of Apple Trees
I remember our yard, a remnant
of forgotten orchard, its trees
well past prime. I remember
wormy apples falling with the leaves,
rake tines teasing leaves from lawn,
knife blade biting off good fruit from bad.
Fire transformed them:
flame on stove-top
reducing apples to viscous liquid,
flames in field licking leaves into ghosts
dissolving in October air.
When bonfire smoldered, its heat
and light consumed by dark,
we trooped inside to greet
what the worms had left us:
warm sauce soon sang
in our throats, in our bellies.