The Works of Kelley White

Kelley White is a pediatrician who worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA.  Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.


All Poems © Kelley White

We set out to find the river


walking along the railroad tracks. You are certain the light

just ahead is where the trees part over water. And surprised

that the ties are just the right spacing for your stride

and my stride beside you, keeping pace, and it is easy watching

the wood meet my sole as the feet go two four eight

and then we are under a highway. A bridge with graffiti. I can’t imagine

children here. There are not even any broken bottles. Just drawings

of happy insects, ants perhaps, or centipedes, each taller than we are,

taller than some of the trees, well, just this scrubby little brush beside

the railway—I imagine spoke and cinders though we are a long time

past wood or coal burning. We have walked a long way from the real

road. Perhaps some other race, some visitors, other sentient

beings are here depicted, tall ants, head, thorax, abdomen, that wave

and speak in the bubbles of comic strips, and we have been walking

a long time, our two strides matching, and we are still quite far

from water.


Your new girlfriend says the Grail is Mary Magdalene’s


womb. I’m outraged. Just because she speaks Ukrainian

doesn’t make her an expert on the Christian World.

And you thought an angel got Mary pregnant. No way

Honey, that was God-the-Father as the Holy Dove. Light.

You say The Grail’s the chalice from The Last Supper.

But I know, because I saw it in stained glass too many

Sundays that it’s the cup that caught His blood for the Roman

soldiers when they stabbed Him in the side. Man, those were

some sick-looking ribs. No one, not your girlfriend or me

or you knows what they did with that blood but I’m pretty

sure the drips turned to garnets, rubies, and Peter bought

a new Rooster for his landlady. Wait. I’m going too fast.

Truth is there was more than one Visitation, and none of them

was an Angel. Just Mary and her some-kind-of-relative

Elizabeth and their Miracle Unborn Babies and later some

kind of get-together when the kids were big enough to look

each other in the eye. And John, (he’s the one you

identify with) is playing with a Lamb and a Cross and Jesus

always looks like his diaper is falling right off his Holy

Self and oh my, that’s pretty much what he’s wearing on

The Cross. Oh my. And I say Mary Magdalene lived in

a tower in the desert and fasted years until her skinny ribs

were hidden by her naked hair. And I don’t see what you see

in her. She’s not even a real Ukrainian. Just an American

with ideas. Oh, it’s the ideas you say. It’s her ideas that attract

you. I just annunciate. See, no angel’s gonna strike me with a sword

or even the power of light.



You were so angry


on my sixteenth birthday

when we drank the whole bottle

of champagne


my summer boyfriend

Tammy and Joe

four teenagers

just one glass each


how were we to know

you didn’t fill

champagne glasses


you sat angrier than

I’d every known you


somehow you guessed

that night my father

had begun


what would be his

long affair