Black Oil by Bill Kemmett

Bill Kemmett is a brilliant poet. He lives in Port Saint Lucie, Florida and he crafts gems: carefully cut, polished, sparkling, many-faceted gems. He may start the day with his noggin on his pillow, at the beach, or browsing a yard sale, but with the mere flick of his eye he reveals fathoms. His forthcoming book, Black Oil, is a long-awaited volume, and I have the exclusive honor of sharing some of these poems.

From Black Oil by Bill Kemmett. The Dead "C" Press, Boston, 2009.


He was stabbed

 in the eye

by a quill

 from his feathered

pillow, and that

 was just

for starters in case

 you think

there is safety in

 the tight sleep

of a quiet bedroom.





The person

 behind me

monitoring my

 behavior turned

out to be just

 an empty chair.






There's a translation

 of my face, one a mother

sees, one my cat sees and

 one I file away that is

of myself. Straight lines,

 easy to read.


A bird sitting in his cage

 knows you from others.

He is your bird. He knows

 this and feels free to act

out his aggressiveness

 without fear of retribution.


A recent photo

 of myself: one eye a shelled

pistachio nut, the other

 an entire galaxy with

a wafer thin fingerprint

 on file under my name.







A mummified mouse

in a hatbox; fresh

paint on old walls

leaves me breathing

a bad taste.


My father mixed

his own colors;

the lead and turpentine

could only be cut with

whiskey; and so it was.


A cave's light

pure as the sea-wings

pressed in a vein of

silver dust on a slate

of chalk.


And here comes the rain;

the bruised and battered hills

not yet blackened–a sparrow

at the end of a branch

knows enough to be still.





I'm in a state of grace:

 the lime tree I planted has

decided to root and defy

 the citrus canker that preys

on bad graftings.


My faith will help

 find water below clay, and

in turn the angels of my soul

 will anoint each cloud–


for years to come

 with the sweetest of

the blossoms: terminally dark

 emeralds of Persia.





He hasn't been seen

for months; and now his wife

is selling what he was piece

by piece: the wood handled

golf clubs, a rack of cardigan

sweaters and three cornered

neckties of wasted silk that

once defined the top dog

of a used car-lot. Item by item

tagged and carted away for the

dime on the dollar and the slow

cooker that stewed a thousand

chickens against a lifetime of

fevers and flues.


And the least thing to go:

a parakeet who outlasted

a rain-forest cage and all

shrieking with his favorite

cuss-words in the clear voice

of a younger man who meant every

word of it at the time.