“Jardain Road” and Other Poems by William Kemmett

Poet William Kemmett was raised in Boston, Massachusetts.  His poems have appeared in numerous poetry magazines and journals, including Yankee Magazine, Cimarron Review, Defined Providence, Poetry Australia, Poetry East, Gargoyle, Mother India, Seattle Review, Calliope, The Café Review, Iowa Source, The Contemporary Review and Hanging Loose.  He is the recipient of awards from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the New England Poetry Club and has won two Yankee Magazine poetry prizes.  He studied poetry at Harvard University and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Norwich University.  The author of two full length books from Igneus Press—Flesh of a New Moon (1991) and Hole in the Heart (2001)—he is also the author of Black Oil (2009, Dead “C” Press) in addition to several chapbooks published by Igneus Press and Wampeter Press.  He currently teaches English and writing at Indian River State College and lives with his wife in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The Iowa Source is proud to present these new poems by William Kemmett.


(For Wally and his poem “THE GARDEN”)

It’s just the act of writing
that keeps me going–saying
things small in meaning, but
large enough to form the
simple thought: a thesis that
begs for evidence.

Outside in the garden a grapevine
works its way through the trellis
always reaching for the tendrils
that takes on a kingdom that will come.

My friend walked out there
to what he found precious
and laid claim to what came
of my idle diggings.  He dedicated
that poem to me and said,
“It’s yours.”

This is from a man who fixed
no meaning on the confusion of
anybody’s faith, but took
all the belief there is and made
a cathedral out of friendship.

He knows the orange blossoms
that struck us mute and the birds
he needs to know is never
a small thing.



Yes I was alive.
Nana had three stars
in the window.
She laboriously crushed
tin cans and saved
all the cooking grease
for the war effort.

They all came marching
home in mile long parades.
I aimed my cap gun and fired.

I tell you this seventy
years later.  My sons
who are middle-aged
have no idea to what
got them here.



She’s somebody’s wife
or mother tapping
on a melon she’s afraid
to buy.  She’s on
the heavy side, but
if you replace all
the flesh with air
and put wings under her
chin like a Cherub…
and not to forget
she might have personality–
anyway she’s not there
anymore.  She’s disappeared
down the canned meat aisle.
You may never see her again.



There’s a flash
of silver dust
and lingering acrid
smell.  No one will
listen, but it’s all
being recorded you
understand–time after
time play or no play.


Sure I see a television
silently on in a house
I’m driving by.

There are thousands of
voices in those drooping
telephone wires.

One of the three blackbirds
perching cocks his head.
Yes I think we all notice

these every day.  The funny
thing though, is …
I’m writing it down later

to give some meaning
to all the space
in between.



A Boeing 737
in the stratosphere
incredibly is directly
overhead traveling
subsonic seven miles
high– subtracting
sound and speed that
shadows like a gull
held in the wind.
What are the chances
of sprouting wings to
lift this soul, lighter
than a Paperwasp’s nest
into the blazing sun?


Let’s say each foot
is a dinner roll.
We’re in a restaurant
that serves water
without asking.  The salad
is excellent and the pasta
is to die for.

We need bread, I say
to the Server several
times.  Not a chance
says my wife glumly as
I try in vain to

hide my feet under
the table away from
other diners
and the Server who keeps
lifting the table-
cloth as if I’d even
consider the very idea.



I can hear the oak tree
slowly taking in water
it’s that quiet.

They say the smaller
the brain the faster
the bird.

The common flicker
at my bird-feeder has
been cracking sunflower

seeds against the stone
face of St. Anthony.
But tonight while the flicker

sleeps I will repair
the pock-marks on the Statue.
Let us see tomorrow

who gives
in and who
keeps on going.



The mad woman in
the attic has been released
from State Hospital.  She

has taken residence
in the house next door.
In the morning she mows

the grass from east to west
and then sweeps north to
south in the evening.

I lock my gate only to
find it has become unhinged.
If she had cancer my heart

would break, but
she doesn’t have cancer.



Can you weave, sew, or
twist it into super rope?
Could it have saved
the mills?  There are empty
towns up and down the river.

Cobwebs floor to ceiling.
It would take just one
living soul to feel the way
to wealth of thin air.

Goods for the taking.  Strand
for strand stronger than
silk.  So light one could pass
through a wall like a spirit–

in a gown of the living
that will push the concept
of hairless beings
into the next dimension.



The little girl next door
has grown so quickly.
She is walking her dog.  Always
talking.  Her dog jumps playfully
bumping against her.  As if
she’s talking to him.

I look up from my book.  Where
did I start, where did I finish–
the lines are lost forever.

Talking always talking.  She
meets a friend.  They are walking
away.  Both of them talking–
voices trailing down the halls
of time.

A Katydid sounds like a rusty
chain saw.  A south wind comes
up looking for Brother Elm.
Such murmuring was not meant for

Now if you listen to the ground
they are chatting chatting like
mice imitating little girls with
bits of awfully important things
that have come up in the last
half hour or so.



I peeled a banana
and placed the skins
in such a way you could
label, “All good things
and”, or still life this
or still life that.

There is a German camera
still in the box, even
if I knew how to use it.




I’m by the river.  The radio
playing, the car idling,
air conditioner on.  But I
smoke cheap cigars.  A full
Symphony orchestra is ruining
the hell out of the Blues.


What if I never had a wife?
What kind of clothes would
I be wearing right now?  Love
does not come easy.  I never
called my parents my mom and
my dad.


The only way I know what
I’m thinking is to write it down,
but in the act there’s always
a dark twist–as if someone else
is involved.


A baby alligator is swimming
by fanning his tail like the bait
that he is.  The current must have
swept him from his mother.  There
are boys jumping from the bridge.
I try to signal them with my hat.
The second world war went on and
on–the longest four years in


His checks will stop coming
when he dies.  So much for
Social Security.


But now it’s 9/11 and long dead
Scribes appoint the time;- Yet each
sunrise brings the end of the world
for someone.


Mom And Dad never could have
projected beyond their own lives
of ration stamps and fake butter.
The river slowly turns toward
the sea that one day will be
dead, but now is actually rising.

(for my sons)

I called John my favorite
uncle–even though he was
all my uncles.  Only his good
side was the rope I hung
on to.  One of the brothers
twisted my chicken-wing arm
until I cried uncle or
described the pain.

My mother approved, glad
such men would take up
the slack in my father’s
absence.  Each dead soldier

was filled with drowning
roaches that came alive.
My uncle John admired
their perfect death.

I was too young to be hung-
over with wasted “High-balls”
but proud to be called “blood”.
Uncle John said, I was more
of a man than my father
ever was.  They were black-hearts,

except one, a Naval Officer.
He rose above this street.
But only came home for his
yearly “bender”.

My nana was an angel who gave
birth to “bruisers”, but
uncle John’s matinee smile
and graceful nature eased
the crush and made me the
person I appear to be, standing
with my brothers, husky good-
looking guys looking cheerfully
straight into the camera.



The vine hanging over my shoulder
that looked like a snake
was only a vine; not a killer
vine.  There are Pythons that depend
on such deception, but I was
only tending my plot of tomatoes–
even though I could buy a crate
for less than the cost of keeping
a garden.  The squirrels are stealing
my Mangoes in broad daylight.
I could buy a bushel with the money
I’ll spend for a shot-gun to murder
them all.

Sometimes we find ourselves living
some where we never meant to be.
I like to drink in Cambridge bars,
(everyone knows that), Yet here
I am within smelling distance of
a heavy green swamp: gators, snakes,
and sucking insects.  (Not unhappy–
really), but my wife understands
that without the pain I would be
a beast.  She is generous enough to
make the sacrifice of living far
enough south to be worth while.



Clear polish on one thumb
gives a reflection in
the rear mirror of no car.
I can pretend I’m left handed
all the while I make you walking
down empty streets.
Meanwhile you see the shadow
of a passing cloud and know
too late I gave you the slip.
Just one thumb is in the service
of spilling secrets.  I have nine
other fingers.

I’m looking through a knot-hole
in the fence.  An eye is staring
back with no one on the other
side.  There is a time line
on this hottest day.  The mating
call of a beetle defies
the concept of size.  Rain suddenly
falls from a cloudless sky.