Keith Leonard

After Foreclosure



I am the stowaway

the captain tied to the deck



and tattooed blue,

head to toe,



just to remind the others

of half the shadow



of half of the whale.

Soon enough, we all learn



the fist is the uncle

of the heart,



and I am changing my name

to Baron of the Blue Sky,



to Blue Savior

I believe words



have a mouth

with sharp teeth.



I am learning

how gently to lift them.



What if we all traced

checker boards



into the silt

with the heels of our shoes?



The whole shore

a tapestry of boxes.



What if we said King me?

King me.




Out here with a clam-rake,

I can slip out of the day



as easy as unbuttoning

a light blue shirt with my name



stitched in red cursive

above the chest pocket.



I can reach into my floating bucket,

open up a littleneck clam



and slide that sweet meat

to a space in my body



so protected, the light

has never touched it.



And that’s a strange thought—

that there are parts of me



I’ll never lay an eye to,

that I’ll never really know.



Because sometimes I’m tricked

into thinking I know everything.



But how is that possible when once

even this bay, Massachusetts,



and the whole country too,

was darkness on a map?



Not too terribly long ago

a candlelit cartographer might have written



Here be dragons, or Shadowland.

Here be a waterfall of sea



dropping into limitless nothing.

Which means, three years ago,



when I yelled back at my father,

I’m not a caveman,



he was right to reply,

You don’t know shit.



Anything I think I know

is like the houses here lining the cliffs:



they slouch, or are propped up on stilts

like chipped spinning plates.



And even my eyesight is a child

first learning to lie.



When I turn back to the shore,

anyone I think I know



is a stranger swirled

in a heat as thick as liquid.



And if the sun

makes them squint



just right, what am I

but the shadowed



shape of a person

quietly dividing in two?

All the Ships Tied in,



and the harbor lights



bleed together

like a heap



of burning tires.

He didn’t come back,



and I open up

a can of peanuts,



a Sprite, a silver

emergency blanket



to draw the heat

around me.



A small waltz

of Styrofoam cups



on the dock.

The gulls still alight



on the pilings, but now

their throat-sick squawks,



away from shore,

sound like mourning.



Still, it’s nothing

like mourning to them.


KEITH LEONARD is the author of Still, the Shore (YesYes Books, 2013), a chapbook of poems. He has held fellowships from the Sewanee Writer’s Conference and Indiana University, where he received  his MFA and served as Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Keith’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Journal, The Laurel Review, Mid-American Review, and Washington Square Review, among other journals.