Kevin Casey-

Church Steeples

Perhaps we’ll never arrive, our insights
grounded, fastened too tight to this earth.

But if we’re to make any sense of it,
we’ll get closer to the Truth by degrees,

orbiting its mysteries in rings
ascending and tightening as they turn.

And so these church steeples have it all wrong:
instead of that austere finger pointing

straight and absolute toward heaven,
these spires should rather be spirals

that show the winding way we grow closer
to that knowledge and to our better selves:

the chapels in this valley would then shape
a strange landscape, spiked instead with corkscrews

that seek to pierce and drain the firmament,
drenching all who have thirsted for so long.


On Goya’s Fight with Cudgels

Tied to that cold, pastoral
landscape of towering clouds
ignited and shadowed mountains

tumbling to the humble vale,
the sunlight catches your jacket
as he swings his club
down upon you:

raised and balanced,
his shoulder, elbow, wrist
all wound, curved and tightened
for the spring’s release.

And your strike a sweeping arc
aimed heavenward; eyes rise
above the shielding arm
to gaze upon his bloodied face–

dark forms anchored close,
off-center, forever locked
in that perverse intimacy.


Guidebook Entry: Inventing Magenta

The color Magenta was named after
the Battle of Magenta, which occurred
in that Italian city in the 19th Century.
Magenta is an extra-spectral color,
and only exists in the human mind.
When confronted with even parts violet
and red, our minds measure out the mean,
and so each of us invents Magenta.

In Milan to Magenta’s east we find
the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio,
consecrated in the 4th Century
and featuring the remains of several saints
reposed within their glass enclosures,
skeletons bedecked in beatified
finery, both blessed and macabre.

And in Turin, some fifty miles to the west,
you’ll encounter the Monumento
a Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia,
a marvelously executed
equestrian bronze in the Piazza
San Carlo, lined with baroque porticos,
bookended by two separate churches.

But amid these cities, in the heart
of Magenta is situated
the Basilica Di San Martino.
Charming without distinction,
the structure and its bell tower date
only to the early 20th Century,
and lack the apology of antiquity
that excuses the unexceptional.

Between its more imposing neighbors,
the natives of Magenta build their lives
just as we construct that hue, mixing sense
and memory, reticence and desire,
blending promise and regret–their days
no less real, though they surrender a degree
of splendor in that constant effort of creation.


Wood Chip Trailer Sonnet

The truck ahead tacks and weaves on this thin road,
pocked and warted over with daubs of cold patch.
Now mid-afternoon, the trees on either side
bathe in the glazed, green shade they’ve made, languish
in the summer insect hum. Not wide enough
to need a center line, solid or broken,
I’ll never pass this chipper trailer,
or see beyond its bulk to what’s ahead–
the road is what’s behind me, a furrow
I leave empty for the wind to sow,
traveling at a pace that’s not my own.
But then the sudden breeze that rained down wood chips
like cherry petals falling in a flurry,
chiding me as we climbed out of the valley.


Ember Garden

A man works a rake across the remains
of his burned house–a plot of twisted wire
and ash, thirty by forty on a cracked slab,
with half a chimney planted at one end,
keeping vigil like a faceless scarecrow.

Tending to the cinders, he bends at times
to pick up a fragment of his old life–
a knot of colored glass, a sharp angle
of charred china that shows a glimpse of vines
and pink blossoms still bright beneath the soot.
Some of the harvest is placed in a pocket;
most is tossed back to the patch of artifacts.

The gardener of relics relies
on geometry and thirty years
of sowed memories to guide his gleaning:
this is where the second story bedroom
came to rest, in that corner was the pantry
that became an oven the week before–
consuming all it held in a single night.

Two hour’s work on a late spring morning,
then it’s back into the truck and his present life,
the hotel, boxes and insurance papers.

He leaves behind a pair of lawn chairs
resting on the new grass near the orchard,
facing a stand of birch and the hills beyond.
All work is noble, but the morning is fine,
a perfect day for leisure, and they keep
their backs turned to the whole untidy business.


Kevin Casey is the author of Ways to Make a Halo (Aldrich Press, 2018) and American Lotus, winner of the 2017 Kithara Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2018). And Waking… was published by Bottom Dog Press in 2016. His poems have appeared in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Connotation Press, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Ted Kooser’s syndicated column ‘American Life in Poetry.’ For more, visit