Kelly at door 01
Now These Present Ghosts
by James Ross Kelly

If you walked through the front door
with the thumb latch key &
Took a right you’d walk into the living room
& continue on &
With a left turn before the bedroom
There were worn wooden stairs
& upstairs were rooms of equal size
Sparely furnished &
On a hanger in the east room
My father’s uniform hung festooned as
Staff Sergeant, Eisenhower jacket
& campaign ribbons on the front
A hall a door closed on the attic
That ran half the length of the upstairs,
& if you opened the attic
Door a window from the south kept it pretty hot
I would play in the attic when it was cool
I remember finding Indian head pennies under loose
Floorboards, other than books
I can’t remember any of the contents of
The attic, boxes, I suppose, it was not empty but the
Smell was clean & warm & the two rooms of
The upstairs seemed strange as no one ever slept there
Wooden dressers with no clothes & the east room
Was a scintillating white…
The years I lived in this house, haunt me now
As it did not then, the presentiment of what was to come
I suppose, these years left a hollow place
As I’d be an orphan at nine, we lived by a
Slow running Walnut River,
& the east room’s white walls
Are now these present ghosts from when that house
Bore relevant-to-me lives, & heard my
Grandmother sing arias,
With radio opera, or an old cowboy song
& I remember
The smell my father’s boots
As I longed for
His coming home hour,
When work boots,
& clothes came off on the back porch,
& after a bath & dinner, &
The open door of his
returning good humor.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out in the process of memoir that is still in process, wringing out memory. It is from a collection of poems called Black Ice & Fire that is making the rounds now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California next to the Sacramento River. He has been a journalist for Gannett, a travel book editor, and has had a score of labor jobs—the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. He started writing poetry and short stories in college on the GI Bill, and after college continued and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. Kelly worked as an environmental writer for the Forest Service in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where he retired in 2012. Born in Kansas, Kelly was a long-time resident of Southern Oregon, where he grew up. In the past four years, Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles, California), Cargo Literary (Prince Edward Island, Canada), Fiction Attic, Rock and Sling (Spokane, Washington), Edify (Helena, Alabama), Flash Fiction (San Francisco), Rue Scribe (New Mexico), True Chili (New Mexico), The RawArt Review (Endicott City, Maryland) and  The Purpled Nail (New Mexico), have featured one or more of his stories or poems. Kelly’s first book of fiction, a collection of short stories called And the Fire We Talked About, will be published by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review in 2020. A selection of Kelly’s stories and poems can be found here.