Kelli Allen's work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and
internationally. She is currently a visiting professor of English Literature at Rutgers
University/RUNIN, Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China. She is the
recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won
the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016
Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash,
arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Her collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017.
Allen's new collection, Banjo's Inside Coyote, arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.
Not a sonnet for the two-banded rice lizard
Tossing coins over that forking tongue
means luck, but not always fortune.
Mangroves to rubbish to back-alley blessings,
the alchemist chants Tua ngern tua thong.
This lizard is already at the old woman's door,
a girl's tale through the water recounted.
Riding a typhoon of rusty-naped pitta, young hefe
leads his ruffled gang to safety under the yellow cassia.
Those who open in afternoon know in their spleens
the staggering emptiness of rootless mornings.
Crowded beneath these leaves, giant black squirrels
gather your wealth after his leather shoulders bow.
The monitor is a jester involved in both plays: the marriage
and sixteen hermit crabs making room for the lover's escape.
Loggerheads and Sleepers Holding Vigil
A tortoise is a grandfather and I am an orphan. This wife
with mongoose hips and palm-silk hair. We are each the same
limping tugboat. The shore is so far, and the night long enough
for a round of pinochle. The son beneath the table, belly rolling
a tide of specter waves across tile. Insatiable back, spine hungry
to bend and bend, collects pennies for the brute with the straightest
arrows. Candle burner, mother's milk seller, what have you written
tonight? Binder of contours and birthplaces, I see you. Thatch huts
tight against feet bullying your door to open. There is no more of you
to touch after plundering corn fields at midday. This is the shell
that will bury your skull, wrap your builder's plans in mulberry
silks left in an arribada come Sunday, come low water and high.
Pointing At A Rock And Calling It A Fish Does Not Make It So
The monk's waistband
contains a single mourning
spirit. Child and mother grow
lean on bellybutton rice.
On the other mountain, a younger
monk accepts the serpent's pearl,
salt becoming water becoming wine
becoming the message we carve
into abalone. The sleeping lady rests
Believe in cultivating the crop
that will bring threads to weave.
The pestle you dangle below
your belt is meant for more
than a single earthen bowl.
The right basket for Palad Khik
Narra cocks line-up in stalagmite order:
first in the fleshy crayfish book, second
as a rifle caught post-fire, head pillow
burst into polished wood. The locals
worship here, wistful for an honorary
member to bend its eye toward waiting
bellies and heavy balls. Seasons long
mean evaporating swallows—quick
as berries down the pelican's gullet.
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