Three Poems by Judith Kelly Quaempts

sc july 18

Before the Casino

On the afternoon before the celebration
we made sandwiches –
mayonnaise and baloney on white bread.
We wrapped them in paper napkins
and set them in the Longhouse kitchen cooler.
After the dancing, around midnight or so,
We offered cold water from a dipper,
passed out sandwiches and apples.
I remember tired smiles, happy faces.

We were one family sharing a feast –
baloney on white bread,
cool water, crisp apples.

Day Labor

Sycamore shadows run from dawn.
Up and down the street morning silence
breaks as pickups growl to life and men
filled with coffee and resolve head out
to the fields for another long day.

Each hopes this year’s harvest is good,
that the outfit he crews for rewards him
with a bonus at season’s end –
money for that overdue light bill,
those expensive shoes his kids need
for basketball this year, maybe enough
left over for a down payment on a better used truck,
one that starts every morning.

Taking Wing

It’s coming on evening. Art Pepper on the stereo, dusk folding houses and trees into a soft mirage. Two owls float from a spruce in the yard, soft hoots reaching through an open window – melancholy cries like the first tentative notes Pepper must have tried after he kicked heroin and picked up his sax again.

With darkness the owl’s cries deepen, as though true night brings wilder freedom. And Pepper? He hunts his dark note by note; losing the pain, forgetting the anguish, blowing his heart out, he and his saxophone flying again.

Judith Kelly Quaempts lives and writes in rural eastern Oregon. Her poems and short stories have appeared online and in print, most recently in Crafty Poet II, Poeming Pigeon, and an upcoming issue in Young Ravens Literary Review.

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