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William Keener


Listen to William Keener read this poem:

In the Cathedral of Graffiti

The canopy begins a hundred feet
above our heads, the high vaulted
leafwork of Sequoia sempervirens,
Latin meaning “everlasting green.”
Their only way to perish is to fall,
to rip the root-maze from the soil.
Where the forest floor could not
absorb the massive blow, a tree

split-cracked on impact, exposing
heartgrain lumber down its length.
Impervious to rot, the redwood log
is now a message board, riddled
with epithets and annunciations
of love, whittled by timberjack
tourists—all the little Visigoths
so busy with their pocket knives.
And carved into the lettered scars
are testaments left by insects,
the wild woodcut script of beetles
who masticate the words to dust.



Listen to William Keener read this poem:

In Transit

What we pass through
is nothing more
than untouchable fog
dissolving our world
of steel above sea.

So dense is this mist,
we swab the windows
of the bus to look out
at immaterial walls
swirling past our bridge.
How hard not to use our eyes
even when we cannot see
where we are going,
when the road is swallowed
in a sunless gloom,

the neutral light of limbo
between night and day
that might give way
to one or the other,
if only we keep moving. 



Listen to William Keener read this poem:

Emergency Exit

We pause where a burst of red corollas
spin their scented anthers up and away
from their glorious ten-petaled cups,

golden stamens hovering with the gold
of morning bees, so close for a moment
I could touch each incarnadine wheel.

But between me and flowering passion
vine is a single pane of tempered glass,
with its metal warning plaque riveted

next to my seat on the eight o’clock bus,
instructing me to pull the handle down,
crack the seal and kick the window out.

The days lurch ahead, and the petals are
guttered, but the handle still glows red.



William Keener is an environmental lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry chapbook Gold Leaf on Granite, winner of the 2008 Anabiosis Press Contest, was recently published. His poems appear in the current issues of Camas, The Main Street Rag, and Autumn Sky Poetry, and are forthcoming in Isotope, Atlanta Review, Water-Stone Review, and Margie. In August 2009, he was invited to be one of the “Artists in the Back Country” in Sequoia National Park, a program designed to rekindle the tradition of enhancing public awareness of our country’s great lands through literature and the arts.
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