With trademark humor, Baltimore poet Jenny Keith shares a heavy-duty secret.
Sharp elbow! Heads up from the iced tea and lawn,
the glass door swings open, invites everyone.
A ring dance, a blessing, a twirl of good cheer.
See now, coming forward from kitchen and parlor:
It’s clever, transcending its genre—its gender!
You will love it and honor it, cherish forever
this one like the ones you remember, but smaller,
cuter and sweeter, much nicer, petite-er,
the bite-size of meat that will never taste vulgar.
With modesty, nursery, nunnery time—
the Barbie Barbarian’s trying to rhyme.
Now into the shadow she’s turning her head.
She is serious. She will be one to regard,
hanging sheet after sheet on a line in the yard
laundered clean of the writing once clear on the wall—
something small as a doll shoe, once artfully lost
in a tangled-up carpet of haves and have-nots,
The secret you won’t torture out with a rack:
this serious thing. When the world turns its back,
it is small as a virus, as quiet as time,
concealed like a pistol in sensible purses,
acquiring a pulse of their own, are these verses,
divorced and unmannered, a chaos of dreaming,
born sudden and knowing, with blood, and with screaming.
Jennifer Keith is a poet, copywriter, and fiction writer. She attended the University of Virginia and graduated from the American University in Washington, D.C. Her fiction, poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in City Paper, The Pearl, Sewanee Theological Review and The Nebraska Review. Keith lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she collects estate tea and plays bass guitar for Batworth Stone.