National Poetry Month Day 4: Tina Kelley


Tina Kelley’s third poetry collectionAbloom and Awry, comes out in April from CavanKerry Press, joining Precise (Word Press), and The Gospel of Galore, winner of a 2003 Washington State Book Award. She co-authored Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, and reported for the New York Times for ten years, sharing in a Pulitzer for 9/11 coverage. Her writing has appeared in Poetry East, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Best American Poetry 2009. She won the 2014 New Jersey Poets Prize, and lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. Author photo © Katherine Newman.



Do years come back?
Can you wear lava?
Can you drink lava?
Is there a round river?

Is lightning upside down or right-side up?
Does Addie miss us in heaven?
Do cows get married?
Is the sun alive?

I’m touching God. And the year.
I love you so dumb much.
The cardinal sounds like a tambourine.
I love you too much for you to die.

Can you build the world? Out of bricks?
What’s the air made of? How do eyeballs see?
Can you have blue-green hair?
Won’t you be my garden?

He hit me, and it’s do unto others
as you would have others do unto you.
So he wants me to hit him.
I am as clean as a daisy.

I am as warm as a daisy.
Let’s call the cat Dissa-monga-nofus
When is God’s birthday?
Do any birds eat leaves?

Is the ocean an animal?
Why is one first?



We tell time by accretion, desks growing
chronological piles. Each ring of a tree
is a year, each shale layer too – strong spring
streams bring coarser sediment, with finer silt

in summer. By linking trees of various ages,
plus timber from ancient houses, scientists
can count the climate back thirteen thousand
nine hundred years. Pile three Greek words

together, hard-time-science, and get
sclerochronology, study of time measured
by layers in the corals. Spines of cactus
tell secrets of age, record cloudiness

and sunniness of days. Tiny inner ear
bones in a fish grow by a daily layer.
Coral can increase in ultradian layers,
adding skins even faster. What if people

had rings, the layers thicker, thinner
depending on good and bad times? Cut
us open. See homesickness, puberty,
joy in a job, creative drought. Hey onion,

hey bristlecone pines. Hey ocean floor rising.
Hooray, forty thousand tons of dust a year
landing on the planet. Slow layers keep track.
Peel apart, bore in, tweeze, dig, and count.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →