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Keith Ekiss is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.  His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Bellingham Review, Agni (online), North American Review, Mid-American Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.  He is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Translator Residency from the Santa Fe Art Insititute.

Keith's poems at AGNI
His translations of Eunice Odio's poems


Three Poems:

Ode to the Creosote Bush

If you have any doubt about it, know that the desert begins with the creosote.

                                    —Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

Because you are the flowering of drought.
Because you grow amber and resinous from barren soil.

Over desert flats you spread out unregarded.
You announce the festival of rain.

Because you house detritus-feeders.
Because your white fruits are dispersed by pocket mice.
Because kangaroo rats nest in your midden.

Near Yuma scientists dated you at 18,000 years—
dwarfing Redwoods, outlasting Bristlecone Pines.
You are the oldest living thing born of the last ice age.

Because as a child I broke your branch—you were white and fibrous.
Your branches were tangled and woven, I could hide behind you.

Because you come from Argentina.
Because in Spanish you are gobernadora, hediondilla, guamis.
Because hediondilla means little stinker.
Because your prettiest name is covillea.

Tea and cure—remedy for wound and infection,
bouquet of oil and lac.

You work your roots deeper than memory.
You are evidence that the origin endures.

Because you are also called greasewood.
Because you sign your poem anonymous.
Because you are pungent and odorous, scentful and smelly.
Because you are sealant and glue,
only a starving jackrabbit would eat your leaves.

I pass you late at night biking home from last call.
You stay out in dust storms.
You belong nowhere else but the desert.

When bulldozers raze the field
and harvest your branches as trash
your deepest roots die and feed the earth
like buried placenta.     

I keep branches on my desk and lift the flowers
to my mouth anytime I want to breathe rain.

[from Natural Bridge]




Salt-rusted VW bus awash in fog light--
I’m sixteen and tethered to my parents,
wishing I knew what was going on

inside that van. Point Reyes Beach:
the ocean gasps, heaves in its breathing.
Grizzlies once stalked this coast.

Now the landscape’s been reshaped,
eucalyptus lean out toward Australia,
the motherland. Only the shifting light

hasn’t changed. Fog occludes and reveals,
color photos develop black-and-white.
My father brings along his view camera.

What he loves is the process: unpacking
tripod and lens, sizing up each shot.
Surf punks gone—out to float their luck

against battering waves and riptide.
Bumper stickers plastered like bandages,
spray-paint slogan framed on the door--

We Deserve the Bomb.


A scene of everyday dust and squalor
lies beneath the glass, chromatic jewel.
Depression era work: photographs

always speak for him. Peeling clapboard
walls, paint strips arranged accidentally.
Roof of a gapped house plugged by moss.

Calla lilies, unplanted, burst up by the door,
bouquet to gather for a pinebox casket,
too lovely a flower to stand for death.


Railroad Station, Edwards, Mississippi; February 1936
Walker Evans

Poor men huddle on a platform,
no trains in the yard and no trains coming.
Patterns of movement

in an otherwise vacant scene: tin roofs
and hanging wires, wooden planks
on a platform without cargo.

Steel tracks curve and disappear past the bend
toward the barren certainty of other towns,
the distance, like the future, out-of-focus.

A church obscured by trees; blurry woman
frozen by a pile of salt. The photograph taken
as if from a train leaving this town for good.


He lets me lift a print with the tongs.
I’m careful not to tip the stop bath,
the urine-colored fixer, acrid and sweet.

Time lapse stars spin like a carousel;
a drifting airplane shifts direction,
its nightly course a scratch of light.

An image rises like a drowning man
pulled toward the light of the surface.
Here in the darkness we can talk

about photographers my father holds close,
like Ralph Eugene Meatyard
the one he loves for the sound of his name.

[from Washington Square]


Absence of Love
[by Eunice Odio (trans. by Keith Ekiss and Sonia Ticas)]

in whose body I rest,

What will your dream be like
when I have sought you without finding you?

my Beloved, sweet
as the allusion of tuberose
between distant brown scents,

What will your breast be like when I love you?

What will finding you be like when your body is love
and your voice
a bouquet of light?

[from New England Review]



Keith Ekiss
San Francisco, CA
Email Keith

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These poems are copyrighted by the above listed author.  POETRY MOUNTAIN has been granted non-exclusive online publishing rights by the author to place these poems on the pages of this Web site.  All other rights belong to the author.  According to U.S. copyright law, you must obtain written permission from an author to reproduce his or her work.  We have provided email links to help facilitate this contact.

Last Updated: Sat, August 12, 2006
©2006 John Struloeff -- All Rights Reserved.