Everything on this page is ©1999-2001 Heather Keith. Do not use without my expressed permission.

Contents: Four Birds | Cradle Song | Dear Amanda | Family Dinner at the Moorings | Emperor

Four Birds
Written in response to 9/11/01.

a nation awakes and looks to clear skies
gathers its things and says its goodbyes
four birds prepare to journey high
four birds rise

then suddenly turned, their destinations denied
evading their watchers and hailing cries
four birds controlled by terror fly
four birds dive

four birds rise ... and die

the shadow of four birds across a nation lies
so many stories lost before horrified eyes
lives buried beneath shattered skies
four birds die

a wounded country screams and cries
to the world this terror defies
after two days of silent skies
a thousand birds rise... and land alive.

Cradle Song
Written in response to the war on Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks.

Just a little war, baby war, won't hurt a soul.
Gonna make the nasty terrorists go away,
And as we know, terrorists have no souls.
So we'll all be just fine, rockabye my baby.
Rockabye, little war, baby war, my baby

And anyone who helps them is a terrorist themselves.
Ask for proof? Evidence? You're a terrorist!
Give money to a mosque? Terrorist!
Had a Muslim friend in school? Terrorist!
Don't think we should bomb them? Terrorist!

Little war, baby war, they can't hurt us, not again.
Those threats? Those screams? They don't mean a thing.
They hurt us once, it's true, but now we're on our guard,
And nothing bad'll happen, not to us, anyway.
And we're the only ones that matter. (Terrorist!)

It'll be like stepping on a bug (squish!) trust us. Trust us.
(Rockabye, little war, baby war, my baby)
Nothing's gonna happen. Uh-uh. Sweet dreams.

This was the first poem written for my Creative Writing class in college (Spring 1999). The assignment was to write a poem that was a letter to someone.

Dear Amanda,

It's me - your best friend - okay so it was
Seventeen years ago, but friendship is forever
Remember our first sleepover, telling ghost stories
In a tent in the backyard under the yellow gaze
Of the emergency flashlight?
I tried to tell that stupid one
About the big spooky house where
Inside there was a room and a closet and a box
And inside the box there was a MOUSE
I messed it up, but you laughed anyway.

You taught me to climb trees.
On that big old oak in the backyard
With a little flat spot in the middle
We hung sheets around it and it was a fortress.
You rode a bright red bike that carried you
Farther and faster than I could follow.
Your golden curls fell over your face when you laughed -
I think you were my first crush.

Why haven't you written me before?
I have a blue hair band that I think might be yours
From that day we went to the park and built sandcastles.
I'm so happy to talk to you at last -
Isn't it just like old times?
I'll come over to your house tomorrow
And we'll drink cherry kool-aid and chew grape bubble gum
And talk to the beetles in the grass.

Your friend,

Another class assignment. This one was to be written in response to one of the poems we read in class. One of them, Aurora Harris' Amidst Interruption, did some interesting things with physical structure, and I attempted to work with those ideas here.

Family Dinner at the Moorings

Under the hum of candelit conversation
            My fingers hide
                   Twisting themselves into tangled knots.
The Chardonnay arrives, borne by a starched and pressed waiter
            I choke on its bitterness.
     Three generations are here surrounding me -
     Blood, thicker than water, is here as thin and sharp
     As the chilly breeze off the bay.

            This afternoon I was clinging to a sheer cliff
            Feeling the glory of the sea wind against my face
                   Alone,       alive
And now I am here, feeling my stockings itch beneath
The velvet dress Aunt Karen thought was so becoming.

                   I want to go home. This is not home,
            This is a crowd of strangers who claim
     My time and my energy based on some threadbare commonality of genes
     Honor and respect in exchange for obedience and proper behavior.
            (no wonder my mother went mad.)

How was Deer Island? the matriarch asks.
Oh, it was dull - nothing but a few rocks.
                   Did you even see them, touch them, they're the soul
                                    of this place!
            A soul that's been coated in orchid-scented perfume
            And set on display for a million visitors a year.

            Of course I say nothing.
            I could rebel - I could run out of this restaurant screaming
                   Spilling glasses of champagne and tripping other matriarchs
                   Leading their clan in to dine in elegance.
            If I did, I'd be dead
     but at least I'd be out of here.

The main course makes its appearance.
My grandmother sends her lobster back.
It's overdone, and she wants another vodka.
     My shrimp are sweet and deliciously juicy
            They taste             dry as dust

The third poem assignment. This was to be a response to a piece of music or art. I chose to write about Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto, also called the "Emperor." As a pianist, this piece has special meaning for me as the pinnacle of musical achievement.

Ideally it should be read aloud; the italics and underlines are meant as inflection guidelines for the reader.

"...And God gave us music that we might pray without words." --Anonymous

Out of emptiness it begins - a sound so full and alive
I think my heart might break if it ended,
The universe might end if these sounds did not call into being
The threads of joy and wonder and painful ecstasy
Without which all we know would sink into nothingness.

My fingers strain to grasp the music
but my hands are not quite big enough to hold it all
Yet I am not limited, I am set free, of body and society and gravity
And walk for a moment among the stars, knowing
With a certainty strong as diamond that I will accomplish what I desire
If I only will it to be.
And no man may stand in my way.

In the waking world I know the concept of a God is absurd.
But in this dream, more real than real, I believe
That if God does not exist, then he is created by this music
And the man who created it is deified every time it is played.

I salute you, Emperor! You are a monument
To the greatest that man has ever been
And all that he can become.

We are all gods.
We are all immortal.
If man is capable of this beauty and fire
There is nothing we cannot do.
I will play this piece.
I will walk among the stars.
I will live forever.

Last modified: Mon Nov 26 12:18:59 Eastern Standard Time 2001