Poetry: Sherry O’Keefe

On the Corner of Junipero, Learning Not to Hold the Chili Powder

They hear the honk from the corn man’s cart—
plastic and blue, stolen from someone who stole
it from somewhere on El Segundo where rappers rap
about lost wallets and forgotten jimmy cappers.

Stitched into this Pacific hem, he is a land-man
to  his soothing water-girl with her mermaid way
of flicking water over pain. They form an island
each time she visits him from her mountain shore

wild with snap peas and hollyhocks bending—earthy
and green, tossed and trusted to gain root as silent
sentries waiting for her return.  He weaves his way back
to her, through skaters and sidewalk trash—with one cob

con todo.  Mayonnaise, chili powder, parmesean and butter.
They share the same ear of corn, juicy—yet explosive. Living
here, he says, I’ve learned to trust the cook has a reason
for his combinations. Eat, just the way it’s served.

originally published in Barnwood International Poetry Magazine

Still Life Portrait

He frowns at them as if
they were whiny patients
in an orthopedics’ waiting room,
masking their hopeful glances
each time a door opens:

the stoved-up pen, two weeks
of mail and the duct-taped T V
remote sitting on the kitchen table,
where he no longer spends any time
eating steak and baked potatoes.

Now it’s Hot Pockets with this week’s beer
special from the Kum n Go gas station
down the hill and around
the corner from where she’d ride
the bike they stored in the kitchen,
next to the table where she left
the note underneath the pen
now broken.

Waiting at the Airport

I brace for our next goodbye
even before his LAX flight arrives.
It’s the Irish in me,
I tell him. We practice our sorrow
early. These are things
I shouldn’t tally, but I do.
Our ninth goodbye is five days
from today. His work is in California,
Montana is my home. Roll with life
he says, but I tell him I handle things better
when I practice in my head.

In the corner by the baggage claims
seven punk teenagers blow up balloons.
Shaped like dicks. They giggle when they
let the air out limply.
One boy is in a wheelchair, grinning.
Another takes a metal cap,
sets it on the wheel. Pulls out a knife.
Snorts white stuff from the blade. I can’t think
what to do. I’ve learned to say hello-
goodbye, but this, I’m not prepared for.