Kelle Groom

More Nights Than Days and Turn It Up
August 23, 2023 Groom Kelle



At the end of my street, they cut the trees.
It took a long time, the road dirt
for my childhood, forest backing
away.  After the rain, we tried to float
on a piece of plywood across the flood
to reach the woods, but it sank immediately,
needing a shape. We lived under the roof
of trees, hauled spools from the dump
to make a table, chairs, drank apple
juice like cold tin. We had a broom
and swept the dirt. The ones who spoke
were green, we waved from underneath
their river, thriving there. The palm tree
that was a street in Hawaii and in
Cocoa Beach where all I had to
do was watch the waving fronds
like my hair gently lifted in wind
I never counted, sun shaking me awake
on white sheets, shining like my grandmother
on the child I was, unafraid to wake up.
The cat I’d seen after the hurricane,
a house blown down, dumpster in the drive.
How could the owners have left a cat?
She seemed bound to the house, thin,
a paper cat, make-believe, matted,
her fur almost burnt, and she came
when I called, no food on me, so I went home,
got the package saved for a feral black
cat who came to me too, and drove around
until the injured cat appeared, as if she knew me
even in my car.  I sprinkled food on the sidewalk,
fat cats just next door on a porch. It’s her
I think today, who walks away until I call,
and it is like I’ve called her by her name, running
to me, rubbing my leg, jumping in a big bounce
over an invisible hoop, showing me she is well,
happy. The trees always lean down, touch my
forehead like a mother a child in sleep. A woman
running stopped and spoke to me, but I
felt nearly unrecognizable. At the grocery
a man almost ran into me asking how can
I have so much hair when he is so good
looking and bald? The night came down
around me, and I remembered Charles Simic
said it seemed there had been more nights
than days. The night so quiet, waiting
for me to remember how to enter the dark,
how to close my eyes to music until I’ve danced
through the roof, sweating away all the sewn
cloth, as if I’d settled for a life inside
a chimney, scraping my elbows on the dirty
brick when my body could set fires,
enter a storm, turn away from the workplace
by reversing the magnetic poles toward
the boats everyone has to take, a little
bundle on the longest railway, the fastest
train, all the laborers called dancers,
the ground trembling as if it will open.




            after Tony Hoagland


I walk into the grass to see who is hoo-hooing
From inside heard an owl but it’s coming from the Garbordy
Canal across the street trees hiding the brown water
I’d have to get closer but it is likely a watery bird
with white feather crown or big wide wings a cloak
like religious men from the long dead past
The highway wind screeching I hear every ambulance
and always hope it’s not for you keep the door open before
dark a breeze even though I saw the alligator at dusk crawl
from the canal across our little street on its little legs
like something you could pop off the bottom of a divan
davenport heading for my unknown
neighbor’s house no one lives here all the time cars come
go  I’m here when a strange man comes at dusk blocks
my car door so that I can’t get out says I’m not trying to scare
you fuck fuck FUCK fuck fuck criminal fuck lock your doors before
he walks away  Imagine the alligator on the settee the put-you-up day
bed the night bed I still have the door open termites raining black
on sills wasps daub mud buzzing clay eaves who even knows
what’s underneath  The black cat does has found a way to live
with me footsteps reverberating like the bass booming by
shaking my heart we’re all so close a man
coughed outside my bedroom window at 1 AM standing
in the vacant lot  It’s just a hairline crack in my glass
ice overshot craquelle crackle  Charcoal from a winged
thing what do I shed if handled thrown out  After two years inside
my friend Terri asked do I even need friends anymore  The Whirlpool
Galaxy is only 31 million light years away a washing machine in the sky
Yesterday chills tonight burning turn it up turn it up turn it up

Kelle Groom is the author of the memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. An NEA Fellow and Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow, Groom’s work appears in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, New England Review, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, Plume, and Poetry, among others. Her four poetry collections include Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and Spill (Anhinga Press). Her forthcoming memoir-in-essays, How to Live will be published by Tupelo Press in October 2023. Groom is a nonfiction editor at AGNI Magazine and lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.