Wednesday 11 January 2023

Five Poems by Ryan Keating

To  Seeking


To be a seeker of truth

Wherever it is found

Like a wild olive tree

Generous and beautiful

Inconvenient, irregular

Deep on the peninsula

Sustaining the sea

Uncured, in season

Raw, bitter, genuine, and better 


Than cans of briny, drab

Mechanically stuffed

Partially digested

Predictability, pitted 

And stocked on shallow shelves

Indistinguishable in rows

To swallow more easily

What the pasted labels 

Already believe


Flamingos in the Salon


Everyone seems surprised to hear that

there are flamingos in Famagusta.

But if you could edit out the moment

when she drops the dish 

in her baby blue apron and bouffant hair 

on her way from the kitchen to the salon

for a late September cocktail party

what would you feel watching only

the pieces of a pink porcelain platter

skittering across a linoleum sky?




A pack of small street dogs stretch

like putty around parked cars 

in downtown Famagusta-

a beige blob of dachshund mixes

and terriers blending, breaking

and sticking back together;

a self conscious chemical bond of

eleven sets of little legs

reacting as particles and compound

bound and loose

trying to belong and anxious

about being lost or missing out.

A ceremonial dance- 

yip, step, step, stop, quick look, sniff

weaving and leading and following

souls open wide and overflowing

to take in the whole world

and spill out onto the city

where they will inevitably

dissolve into their elements

and leave behind their bodies

as substance and solution

dissipating from earth to sky

from city to kingdom, a final

stretch from offspring to ancestor

broken and coming together.


Or My Skin


The grass is still wet 

and probably won’t ever dry


Until the earth is scorched 

and it is unlikely to rain again


He can’t choose to stay

any longer in the trenches


Or resist the whisper 

of bullets on open ground


Where he will find the sky

bigger than he imagined


And the growing things

more savage and beautiful


As fragile as the risk,

snail shells, cocoon threads, or my skin


Elisha and His Servant


The enemy Aramean army 

had arrived in the night and surrounded

Elisha and his prophet companions 

in the camp where they were working

on a tent wide enough for all his people.


He dipped a bit of barley bread

into a bowl of unknown stew and stood

to put a sure hand on a young shoulder

and assure him they were not outnumbered,

pointing to the world behind the soldiers,


where after a whispered word of prayer

figures emerged from fire and fantasy:

many-eyed warriors stoic, strong,

with hands like ploughs clenching curved swords,

riding six winged beasts of flame with tusks.


A glory fell on the holy company;

their eyes glowing fiercely like hot coals.

Flying axe-heads floated ready to strike

fear into mortal hearts and the enemy

who could not see them or anything else.


I checked my phone to see the time, but

put it back in my pocket to preserve

the sacredness of the present moment

and record in my memory the relief

and victory rising in my chest and face.


Elisha and I finished breakfast slowly,

at peace, amidst the glory and the chaos

of a blinded army and ten thousand

invincible creatures and their maker,

on our side as I took a sip of coffee.

Ryan Keating is a writer, teacher, and winemaker on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. His work can be found in publications such as Saint Katherine Review, Ekstasis Magazine, Amethyst Review, Macrina Magazine, Fathom, Vocivia, Roi Fainéant, and Dreich.



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