March 23-29, 1998: Jamie O’Halloran and Ward Kelley

Week of March 23, 1998-March 29, 1998

Jamie O’Halloran and Ward Kelley

Jamie O’Halloran


Jamie O’Halloran is co-author with Jim Natal of the chapbook THE LANDSCAPE FROM BEHIND (VC Press, 1997 ) Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Blue Moon Review, Blue Satellite, The Cream City Review, The Free Cuisenart, Prairie Schooner, Snakeskin, and other magazines, and is included in the anthologies BEYOND THE VALLEY OF CONTEMPORARY POETS 1997, (Sacred Beverage Press 1998) and GRAND PASSION: POETS OF LOS ANGELES AND BEYOND (Red Wind Books, 1994 ) A chapbook of her poetry will be published by The Inevitable Press in October.

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by Jamie O’Halloran and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.

Road Poems

Sunrise Highway


Past cabbage fields
and duck farms, the unbending
road leads the station wagon
east towards the sea
It lays smack down
the middle of the island
like a spine holding
the towns together
We never get out
of the car Just ride
and ride until the highway
ends and then

we drive on back
the way we came,
trying to recognize
the landscape from behind.



3am soothes the basin
as night strokes the desert,

bruising all sense
of balsam, diesels, cattle

to overripe windfalls
rusted soft, losing the sap

that should stick
to fingers, ears, nostrils
We’ve only the uneven pumping
of the ’55s pistons

and that moon, at ease
over acres of Moses Lake spuds

like a craggy-skinned blood orange
ready to peel.

Angeles Crest Highway


They call these hairpins These rusted bits of road
stretching away from the mountain
I prefer switchback A name that tells of the motion,
the coming and going of these tight turns
A granite wall recedes
and the mist-filled canyon lies
where I want the road to be
It traces the mountain’s girth
a crude measure of miles, 
crooked rules dusted with scree.


Moon bright, it trails
the bayou The jagged

paving of emptied shells
glows a serpentine path

which seems to rise in greeting
that satellite it reflects.


We cannot stop No exit No shoulder
No “View 1 Mi Ahead “
We crest the green Verdugo Hills

in wavering lanes
where winter-dusked hills

meet a burnishing sky Our headlights cast

the high places and low places,
scraps of luminous ribbon

trailing the mountain’s spine Into and out of the night

we travel the way the same
hurrrying beyond the place we are.

Hwy 40

This is no time to travel,
now when the desert has no shadow The weak turning of road

easily missed until tires stumble
onto the shoulder What makes
the mirage? An equivocation

between path and place
The damp horizon beguiles
our arid eyes

Big Tujunga Canyon


I know it is here If I follow this road
pulled on by scrub and brush,

hugging high rock, 
wanting not to lean, 
bending my path to travel

the parabola of this canyon, 
this great cup of granite catching
what falls from the sky
I find it where the road
calls me to stop,
admire its conquered land
Down there, the wind
plays its surface,
the shallow reservoir of sky,

the green deep pool
of all the winters come running
here to swell.

Saturday Night

With the headlights out
and the blacktop straight
we drive down Union Hill

owing to moonlight,
riding the rush
of unallowed darkness,

half a mile tumbling
down Hold out

until alder and fir move
close in, swallow
the bright night sky
Not until the straight
hooks into the bend
do we yield to light.

Ballona Wetlands


t takes weeks to sort the season You know it must be
spring two days ago

because the concrete trough
called a river
was true to its purpose
Black water worked
its way straighter than the road A woman tells me

its not the presence
of water but the taste of it The tap is running full of May
And the sound of the surf is really
the wind winding through arroyos No one ever gets wet.

The Bee Line, Central Florida

Who knows the names of these trees?
These woods of pine and palms
and other trees I do not know Maybe sweet gum or cottonwood festooned
with Spanish moss and unescapable vines,
encircling low pastures nubbled clear
by horses and shaggy cows
How fast the trees end Interrupted
by a yellow swathe, stopped
in their growth as if mown, 
the new palms vanished So determined
this demarcation, the seasonal bid
to clear this heavy path to the sea.

Sunday Drive

Delta towns, with names
more lovely than their sad shacks, 
like Violet,

sprout along the southern
road Miles and miles
of causeway over Lake Ponchartrain

and we’re almost in Mississippi Em Eye Crooked letter crooked
letter Eye Crooked letter crooked

letter Eye Humpback humpback Eye A name in rhyme more lovely
than this fetid state

with Biloxi’s rotten egg water
and deep-ditch-lined roads for dumping
men like Evers and them.



Two lanes work
east and west through
the so old forest of fir
The boughs curl down, 
almost down to the horizon
of asphalt as if to sweep
And the leaders, 
the high branches, meet
in a narrow band of darkening sky
Somewhere beyond the thick
dark trees, beyond there is
a hidden river the road traces

where steelhead leap
to hide from the sea and glisten
like the incandescent markers

plotting the bank of the curve,
the white, small crosses
keeping the dead in our sights.

Sometimes It’s Hard To Be a Woman

for Jeffrey McDaniel
& Tammy Wynette

When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she gnaws the bone of wish
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she plays the ocarina of her mouth, an air of seed
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she ladles the cat into the tureen of her arms
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she worries with her tongue the edges of cabochons, 
semi -sweet and dark
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she takes a stab at the the sex of oranges, the verility of toast
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she buys boxes of Cracker Jack for the plastic, tiny prize
When a woman hasn’t been kissed in a long time
she stands by your man.

Ward Kelley


I’m the Asst Vice President of Logistics for TruServ, the parent company of True Value Hardware, Servistar, and Coast to Coast, a co-op of 10,500 hardware stores Formerly I managed distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, and most recently, Arizona My wife and I now live in the Chicago burbs; we’ve adopted two daughters, and currently foster three others

Fairly new to publishing my efforts — this most challenging of all endeavors — I have still been fortunate to enjoy some initial successes, and have published 44 pieces Please see the attached list of credits Also, after reading a poem of mine on Emily Dickinson (published in Melting Trees Review), Annaliese Bischof, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, recently selected me to serve as a contemporary poet to her junior year writing classes This is done via Email, as I am the most minor of minor contemporary poets

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by Ward Kelley and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.

Richard Prime Scalawag

Scalawags, they are everywhere it seems,
and you can only bluff about the difference
between those words you blend like weeds
among grasses, and the final propriety of
weaving a mat, something to blanket the senses

Why is there no master to provide
meaning to our chains, no persecutor
to inspect the many claims concerning
this matter of breathing here among
all the other miscreants?
How do we ever get it sorted into
manageable prayers?
There is no one, save the poets,
to show us how to pray,
and poets can seldom be trusted
to congeal the parts of life
most of us want evident
Maybe the poets are the true scalawags,
maybe the priests are the rascals,
maybe anyone not content
to breathe and breathe the lie
should not be dissatisfied
by their own ministrations, their own
devotion to writing or intoning prayers

Save us, save us,
from those who pray,
for it is far better
to simply float on prayer will never show us
direction because prayers
are simply erratic birds — like poems —
meant to spiral as spermatozoa
toward the eventual eggs of God,
similar to your scalawag soul
after you slayed, you slayed, yourself either the mortal act of the scoundrel or the poet.

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984), American author, is best known for his novel, “Trout Fishing in America ” Always portraying a hippie persona, Brautigan published several novels and books of poetry during the 60s and 70s He was California Institute of Technology poet-in-residence during 1966-67 He later moved to Montana and became reclusive, granting few interviews He died in October of 1984, an apparent suicide, his last published book being “So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away “

The Almighty Yearns

There comes a void to a perfect heart
that only imperfection can span,
and desire would seek to water the black spaces
between the yearning and the evidence
of beings who do not know how to love who someday might discern how to forgive
There must be a need for brittle minds,
a quest for the cuteness of immaturity,
maybe the same way a man can be overcome
by his daughter’s stumble and tears what is more fulfilling than nurturing
a child, or the forgiveness of one
hurt again by the exuberance
of the life you have given her?

And then, could we learn to forgive
the Almighty for placing us in a land
without an intelligent compass in our heads
or hearts or loins?
And then, was the true yearning
a beseechment for forgiveness and this required the creation
of critters who might someday discern?

Jim’s Goldmine Underneath the Callus

The goldmines were too deep,
the weird scenes too poisonous,
even for a mind used to the exploration
of our most diabolical lusts
For it is a lust, you know,
these expeditions of the tabernacle
upholding the soul Your discovery
jolted the impurity of the human
soul all too evident even as we yearn
for redemption or at least the right prayer

The true lust is for the saracen
who stands with scimitar
slicing, down, down, at the core
of our dear souls Right there,
this infidel cuts away the calluses
we have nurtured and grown
over our hearts hidden here
far within our spirits The man
with the sword knows
what we mean to hide
And was this not the final trick
at the end? This romance
for the infidel,
this assistance for his blade only to discover it is death itself
who waits for those who uncover
at last the whole callus But a pretty,
pretty death pretty, pretty.

James Douglas Morrison (1943-1971), rock musician and poet, was one of the more controversial singers of the late 60s and early 70s, earning the nickname among his fellow musicians of “The Electric Shaman ” Morrison once stated that he’d prefer to die in a plane crash, “It’d be a good way to go I don’t want to die in my sleep or of old age ” In the end he died of an apparent overdose in his own bath tub in a Paris apartment, perhaps a final metaphoric act in light of another Jim Morrison quote: “I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human with the soul of a clown, which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments “

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