Sherwood Anderson said, "I once wrote a poem about a strange land few of us ever enter. I called it the land of the Now." Timothy O’Keefe has established a municipality inside the Now and named it The Goodbye Town. In this town, the past is a… well… a thing of the past. "The trouble with memory," writes O’Keefe, "is it’s always today." The forms that bind us to the past are broken, epiphany is despised, and photos rearrange themselves to match the mood of the present. O’Keefe’s poems are not Time, but another thing that flies—grace, soul, fleeting love, the furious imagination of a poet so attendant to his art as to be contemporary without simply resorting to novelty. Here are poems that vary the existing patterns without abandoning them, that engage sensation without being simply sensational, that elegize the province of what is foregone without being elegies. Timothy O’Keefe not only dwells in the land of the Now, he is a key stake-holder. The poets who come after will have to acknowledge his claim on the Now.
—D. A. Powell
Timothy O’Keefe is a poet attuned to the intricacies of poetic form and the nuances of inhabited space. "Trajectory is retrospective & still / there are these hills. / Tree-bleed, lateral light, further & further…." In poems of compelling velocity, The Goodbye Town traces the permeable boundaries of a place shaped by voices existing both outside and inside the margins. O’Keefe’s ambitious first book shows us that a town can be a text from which we can never untangle ourselves.
Wick, flicker in. Make
a limpid heap of us.
Spark the chandelier, pour
its chilly prisms.
The wall has always
wanted you, wanted
a slender face.
The plate will cradle
your slow vein, O
we won't peek.
The vents will fluff
your blue-trim dress
when we pull up the shade.
Let up, let up
your tiny braid.
Skim the nooks--
ply the light
yes, like that.
There's a shy puppet
in us. Lean in--
we'll show our black pins.
Elegy in Late Spring
The sheriff tells me not to touch
her mouth. There might be evidence
between her teeth, needling her gums.
He waits for me to say goodbye
to a fractured wrist, the berry-swell
where knuckles pressed her neck,
the gelid spill where someone yanked
her pigtails up: a lickerish kiss,
and down: an eggshell skull, cement.
I nod. They zip her up in black.
My father had said You shouldn't chase
your sister through the streets. She's scared
of playing freeze-tag after dark.
But I kept it up: the game where she learned
a scream so loud it couldn't come out,
the way a body petrified.
I threaded her through the lilac night
as if my hand would be the last
to touch her hair. As if my teeth
could never flash in a stranger's mouth.
Copyright c 2011 by Timothy O'Keefe. May
not be reproduced without permission.