by Devin Kelly
Outside the building the smokers still smoke. Though the rain
falls through their billowing, dampening. A woman whispers
checks & balances into her phone. I hear her in passing.
The public school next door has taken the voting signs down
& now there are only ghosts. I remember
the sound of a woman’s cane & the look
in her eyes as she walked slow through yesterday’s world
to make her choice. I have nothing prepared
but a few copies of Robert Frank’s
The Americans. How to teach a lesson
for which there are no words. I arrive late. I’ve been
looking through the window, not believing
my students are truly there. We are not
all ghosts. To say so is to throw shadow
on our ability for action. I know a funeral can be cause
for the celebration of life, but this is no funeral. When I touch
the chalk I can feel it. It leaves a powder
that dusts the skin of my fingers & the black
of my pants. I will remember this forever:
eyes lifted up, a scene to make me believe again
in resurrection. We must all be alive, even more now.
Save your apologies for the quiet that sits behind
the loudness of your mind. Photography
I say, means light writing. The phrase conjures up the image of a soul
peering through the dark. Frank’s photo
of a man leaning out a window, despair real enough
to run your finger along & touch its ridges.
We look at it forever. I want to say
we are born knowing how to love. That wrongness
is invention, some inversion of our truth.
The heart is no more fragile than the bones of a bird –
it is the possibility of breaking that blesses the power of flight.
Hold on now to the most beautiful image
you remember. See light & its capacity for righting,
how it bleeds in from the edge. My daughter is a child
who is not born yet. When I close my eyes
I can see the world she deserves. It is full of birds
& the birds, I know, are singing for her.
Does anyone have anything they want to say?
One student begins to speak. Hold on still
to the most beautiful image you know. Keep it close
& do not let go. Believe in resurrection.
Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of the collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence (Anchor & Plume) and the forthcoming books, Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (ELJ Publications). He has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. He works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches at the City College of New York, and lives in Harlem.