Erin Keane

A Supermarket in New Jersey



The monks are setting themselves on fire, and the bees

have all but disappeared. Last night

Bruce Springsteen went to the supermarket―


the fancy one near his house, where

mangoes piled high like dragon eggs make him forget

the news. He pushes his red shopping cart

into the mortuary glow of the yogurt case,

the wheels impossibly smooth, this Bentley

of a cart full of snacks, and considers the tubs―

what to do about the honey flavor, he wonders,

about the taste of golden summer


depleted. Abundance is a mirage―

the monks know that. There are no poets

in the fruit. The wives are still in the avocados,

but he knows better than to write about them.

The sushi guy chops tuna belly,

a Chopin sonata. Children at this hour

are mostly pliant: shy grins

when Bruce Springsteen draws bananas like six-shooters,

tries to play O. K. Corral in the aisle, wishing he had

a cowboy hat. Popping like flashbulbs


under soft, overhead light, here are five different kinds

of grape, and for a second he finds himself

thinking, What could go wrong

in a world with five different kinds of grape?

Honeybees lost and the crops just go?


To say nothing of the harvest―children in the tomatoes.


Boys drink oil to explode from within

on main streets, in markets.

What would I burn for?

Bruce Springsteen wonders,

when he knows only the comfort

of the six-inch valley, the dull knife’s desire.


It is Peep season. Little armies

of chicken-shaped fluff, their sugared,

baleful stares. It is quiet, aside

from refrigerators humming and the tender

mist of water over the greens.


You can’t price a kerosene fire by weight,

Bruce Springsteen murmurs,

pats his pocket for a pencil, thinks,

That’s a good one, save.


Forgive me, Walt Whitman, I called to you.

There ain’t no Eden in this Garden State.

Las Meninas

—after the painting by Velázquez



And there stands the Infanta Margarita—

the ugly daughter—a loose translation

but certain as baroque panel dresses,

as the mastiff at the feet of the fool. My joy,

the king calls her in his letters. A diamond

for my joy, for my brother’s new wife.

Things were different in those days, rough

for a Habsburg girl, all your inbred

flaws rendered in exquisite, theological

detail. Oof—that forehead. But her father


loves her. He gave her a diamond,

a fancy gray-blue number like

the Hope, now cut and recut until

culture itself curled up and died, sh-boom.

What do we lose with the flaws, anyway?

And oh, those lesser maids—little beauties

uncertain of their fathers, catching

the edges of Margarita’s holy light.


It’s a living. There will be studies. Always

more portraits, artists—Hello, hello again.


Over my friend’s desk, a clown-

handed stick figure labeled DAD!,

shock-topped stick kids pogo-ing

around him. The physics are shaky,

but the smiles could cut glass.

Trust me, little maid, if you can—


your father, he loves you

and this is not a dream, though you are

still not the last Habsburg, only

a girl in first or second grade.

What war could she wage

in that dress, anyway? It is time for

Easter Mass, sh-boom. Assemble


the maids. My father’s letters are formal

but he loved me, and he died—Hello,

hello again, little maid, little fool, my only

medal a diamond gleaming red on my chest.


Decomposition Studies



When he goes, Bruce Springsteen declares

one night over dinner, let him go

to the body farm—compost unburied

somewhere on two acres of bloodroot,

witch hazel, carpet of leaves. Let him be

useful, he mumbles over tacos,

never mind that he’s not mountain-born,

that salt water won’t rust his belt buckle

down. He wants to train dogs to find


those gone missing with the memory

of moldering ruin when they hunt—

because a body should know how to be

found. If undone is what we already are,

let us clasp our hands: holy horsefly,

maggot, wasp. Bruce Springsteen

knows if you sing backup for a body

on a resurrection song, you are open to


certain ideas beyond Cleveland, Memphis,

beyond Viking ship fossils and boots, still

life with ball cap, a life-sized wax doll.

Bruce Springsteen is aware of the finite

lease, of nitrogen and a dramatic change

in pH. A body gets dangerous in a shallow

grave. A body gets eaten so many odd

ways, a smile stretches up through

the beetles. The dogs recognize


the breakdown is everything. But where will we

lay our guitar picks in tribute, our silk flower

wreaths on Memorial Day? Bruce Springsteen says

leave only footprints, and a rotting arm.

A body should know how to find its father.

A dog can be trained to hunt. Everything


changes: the wonderful and awful truth.

Keep your trash, little girl, your candlewax

weeping, your match light winked out

by the dew. Pick up a leaf, red as

bandanas, press it in wind-rattled pages.


Don’t apologize for your live nerves.

Carve your name on the face of the mountain.

Pocket a rock mistaken for bone.


ERIN KEANE‘s new book of poems, Demolition of the Promised Land, is forthcoming from Typecast Publishing in 2014. Keane is the author of Death-Defying Acts and The Gravity Soundtrack, and she lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she works for public radio as an arts reporter and theater critic.