Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Two Poems by Kelley White


So many empty ballrooms


even before the virus hit

adults stopped dancing to big bands

and only children danced, awkward

hands to hands and waists and backs

of necks and twilight, always twilight

through the windows, perhaps briefly lit

by the headlights of cars passing

in the rain. Here, in this empty place

beside the sea, the wind blows curtains,

windows just ajar to let spirits out

or in, and here’s a small, water-stained

photo, Grace Kelly, sixteen, dancing

with her father. Might have been you,

Daddy, you and me.



dear tooth

who greeted my children

with solidity

who guided whistles

through inattentive crowds


white marble gate to my voice

you have bitten off more

than you can chew

revealed the suspected

rottenness within


I felt no pain at your demise

only anger

at the stupidity

that opened once to momentary

yet compelling desire

to snap into brilliant

hard sugar


now I cannot laugh

without calling into view

my impoverished lack

of polish

cannot smile

without an open admission

of vice and greed

may you rest quiet

one half digested

as I have swallowed

your brittle crown

one half washed now

down the dentist’s

small whirlpool


Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.



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