Sherry O’Keefe



Michal Giedrojc

Kokanee

“Once you know the back roads, you don’t need to read the paper.” -Pat O’Keefe

The salmon are spawning
but we are not watching
the bald eagles feast.

In a back-road meadow
every eight feet a fence post
six posts in a row, six eagles.

We know how to fall
quiet but when the eagles spread
their wings we think Oh

they are taking off! But no
they stretch wing to wing
and hold, tip to tip six times

over. A tremor runs through
their wings, finds it way
to the insides of our elbows.

Soaked heat from the morning
sun rids the feathers of mites.
Of all the times you’ve wasted

your breath, he whispers,
you realize you can
breathe in later.

Confession Along the Missouri River Shore

two white ducks
orange webbed feet
paddle winter water

the arctic front is in the air i say

you nod you stuff your hands
in your pockets you wish
they were bigger
these pockets of yours

you tell me your hands get stuck
i tell you i’m stuck
on these lines i’m writing:

something something
twenty feet below

water water snow i say
you say ice water sink

i say i wish you would
take me more
seriously

alright
ok you say
we can measure
the ebb and the flow,
but we can’t measure six feet
beneath the surface

i nod i chatter
i wonder how the ducks feel
with their feet in such cold water

you say you feel the same way
virginia woolf felt
stuffing rocks inside her pockets.

Six Miles After the Pavement Ends

We scrape pale honey from the bottom of a jar
using a slender spoon that has no match
in the box of flatware. The wood stove crackles.
The tea is slow to sweeten. Licking honey
from our knuckles we listen to the ranchers talk
of how the spoon was traded for a bell
with a clapper fashioned from a leaded weight
found along the water’s edge where Lillygoat
lives among the sheep. When the time comes

she’ll be buried there, within the river’s curve,
wearing the bell a neighbor gave to Harry’s grandson
in a thanking way for allowing his bee boxes
to sit on the side hill overlooking last year’s hay.
Outside, pine trees darken in the dusk and snow
sizzles inside the hot stovepipe. In a little bit
we’ll drive back to town but for now
there’s drowsy talk of riding the fence lines.

–first published in THEMA

Bees, Hauling and Otherwise

She guesses a bee can fly
five thousand miles in one day
and even though everyone
playing trivia at the family table
says she can change
her answer, Mom sticks to it.
Somewhere once she had heard
bees could change continents
in a day and ever after she wondered
how that’d be, except instead of a change
in geography she would choose

                      a change in circumstances
which she tells us while she putters
in the kitchen serving pie,
leaving each of us, mouths mid-gap,
to wonder what our mother/grandmother
would have wanted differently
until her oldest grandson conjures up the sound
of a bee flying at Mach 1, but we can't
make a Z sound short enough
even after our youngest brother serves up tea
with honey. It's freezing outside and
our gaming talk moves on to how hives
in Montana move south
                     every winter. Last month
a trucker called to tell our second brother
to be outside when he drove by
his office. He had something to show
him. The flatbed was loaded with twenty tons
of bees and when the truck stopped
a heat wave rose from the painted white hives,
the wave of heat altered the clear lines
where earth met sky,
                     where motion collided with stillness,
the same stillness overcomes Mom's
kitchen, everyone in mid-chew,
in mid-wonder with forks stopped midair,
our collective breath suspending above
the kitchen table like cartoon balloons
rising from our mouths. Our brother nods
and explains how bees need to beat their wings
to keep their queen warm. It's a long way
to California.

Sherry O’Keefe, a descendent of Montana pioneers and graduate of MSU-B, is the author of Making Good Use of August (Finishing Line Press). Her most current work appears or is forthcoming in CamasSwitched-on Gutenberg, THEMA, PANK, Avatar Review, Prick of the Spindle, Inkwell, and Pirene’s Fountain. She is poetry editor for the new journal IthacaLit, guest poetry editor at YB Poetry, and assistant poetry editor at Fifth Wednesday and The Centrifugal Eye.  Currently working on a full collection, Cracking Geodes Open, she makes her home in Montana and maintains a blog.

Sherry O’Keefe’s blog 

Sherry O’Keefe at IthacaLit

Sherry O’Keefe at YB Poetry

Sherry O’Keefe at The Centrifugal Eye

Sherry O’Keefe at Fifth Wednesday