Jennifer Keith

Two poems from Jennifer Keith’s Truant Season
followed by a note on the author

The Ghostly Pale Blossoms in the Night

They say it gets to you,
one spring too many, on a length of road
that should have turned to safety before now.
They tell the story, and it’s true:
A girl who made a vow,
a not-quite-God, the gift that he bestowed

before she’d thought to ask,
a thing left, swaddled, silent at her door,
and how it grew. The years before that night,
who knew that this would be the task—?
To burn a page of white
with stories of a season’s dark allure

that might make one recall
suburban streets, an eldritch waltz of trees
in chalk white, bloodstained glory in the dark
like belles gone mad at a murderous ball:
Before all reason flees,
before the fatal flames, before the spark.

Ink and Memory

An end-cap at the mega office mart
bears these three words: indelible, immense.
Without a thought, I redirect the cart
and stand before them. Now it all makes sense.

The raw materials of all these years
have never been so perfectly reduced,
from furtive scratch to fabulous careers,
with sharpened tools made hollow, filled with juice

then used to soak the paper, skin, and mind
through rote, infatuation, or pure nerve:
a glyph, a door, its story just behind.
And those who choose a life to love, and serve,

themselves, injected, spread the black like mad
and try to be just one bead on the strand
that’s rattled in the classroom and the sad
café alike. Today I understand

in black and white, this sign, and what’s on sale.
And even now, a pattern takes its form;
I’m hollow, gone. The ichor will prevail
from what three words awaken like a storm.

Jennifer Keith is a web content writer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and writes poetry and fiction. She attended the University of Virginia and graduated from the American University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in Cinema. Her poems, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in Sewanee Theological Review, The Patuxent Review, The Nebraska Review, The Free State Review, Unsplendid, and elsewhere. Keith is the recipient of the 2014 John Elsberg poetry prize, and her poem Eating Walnuts was selected by Sherman Alexie for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2015. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.