Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Tina Kelley


Instructions From The Choir Director

"The voice isn't an instrument that has buttons or keys to press, but you can control it with images. If you raise your hand at the end of a note, that in itself keeps the note from going flat." Composer and music director Fred West, November 1996

We start together by inhaling together, picturing, quickly,
how cherry trees hold their petals suspended above the ground.

And we start together, aiming together, six ball in the corner pocket,
using the cue of his agile downbeat.

When we sing slowly, we think of the spread of mosses and liverworts
over the rocks from lakes, up the hills, andante across the continents.

When we sing sforzando, we imagine a sun so bright and sudden
it makes ours cast a shadow.

We learn deep breaths for the long whole notes
and lie back and think of England.

For pianissimo he tells us of his beloved,
who breathes so quietly at night you can't hear her.

During the old hymns we picture fireworks,
but fireworks without the grand finale.

As for the solo vibrato, he reminds me with his left hand
of poplars in the still air, the embodiment of applause.

I think of Julie Andrews thinking of chocolate mousse,
Paul Simon contemplating the smooth grind of earth on its axis,

Billie Holiday awash in returned letters.
Perhaps those high baroque tenors ponder frying on a spit,

and overblown sopranos memorize the garish, decrepit
tulip the day before the petals drop.

*

For intonation there's the Cheshire cat, how it feels itself folded
into harmony with the air, just before evaporating.

For elegant polish, he tells us the story of singing "Gloria"
up at Lake Serene, at sunrise on the longest day of the year.

Do not think of the dull thud of the cracked plate placed on the table.
Avoid, he tells us, any glance to the flowers on the altar,

the unfortunate dissonance
of the daisy's stale smell.

And for the amen, think of cinching the last loop
in signing a marriage certificate, think of the unity implied

on the tombstone that reads, "Children,
come look, the mountain is out."



When I'm Your Blood


I pull you like a tide
towards times you cry from happiness.

I flatten out like a bay,
you hear distant sounds.

I carbonate your heart
and keep it grasping.

I will
intoxicate you.

I clear your head so you thrill
at the cliffs, properly amazed
that by raising your eyes
murals of grandeur in precise detail
enter your mind.

When you make love I surf, crash,
swell and sway, I mirror and populate
your eager arms.

When you can't sleep I slow
my headlong bustling to help.

I help you praise yourself from within.
I move you nearer.

I keep myself inside you,
keep every favorite part warm and live,
and let you know with certainty
when sunset is over and it's time
to go in by the stove.

Invite me.