Two Poems by Kathleen Rooney

A Quiet State After Some Period of Disturbance

Deception is required for smooth social life. If anyone asks, I’ll reply “Hanging in there.”

Fake it till you make it is not exactly right. Harvest what helps and weed out the rest.

On earth, the best sea is the Adriatic. In space it’s the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon. Who wouldn’t swoon for a swim in serenity?

Persistent association of calm with sinking. The fall of dusk. The mayor of a town asking protesters to settle down. A voice lowered like a pail to the bottom of a well. A dropping of temperature; an attainment of chill.

Ambition can’t wait, but it’ll have to learn.

First things first: stop doom-surfing the Internet. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack says to Algernon, “How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out.”

Empty, the city’s an anarchic dreamscape. Calm and eerie are different things.

A sailing ship motionless in all that calm. Windless, without agitation. The quietude of a winter evening. All is calm, all is bright.

Derived, most likely, from the Latin cauma, meaning heat of the mid-day sun, in Italy a time when everything rests.

You can’t have the moral of the story without a moral code. Can you have a moral code without other people around?

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. Okay, but calm can actually be pretty hard to keep. A sleeping gerbil that wakes and squiggles off.

If calm were a tree it would be deciduous—shedding its leaves, putting them forth again.

I haven’t been on public transportation in a while. Now even the thought of delays makes me smile. Someone come over the intercom. Someone to reassure me: We should be moving shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Exalted or Worthy of Complete Devotion

A friend observes that it feels like Cloudsday, March 43rd. But today is Easter.

This morning we’ll eat sweet rolls sent by my mom. Normally: oatmeal. Martin makes the best—cinnamon, molasses, and a banana stirred in until it basically vanishes. The same pot every day, with the same wooden spoon, smoothed from use, its hemisphere worn.

When it’s gone, I will miss every molecule.

Outside the flowers brazenly flaunt their genitalia. Crocuses nod their purple heads like Yes.

They say that anyone can make a wooden spoon—all you need is a piece of wood, a knife, and desire.

Most wooden spoons are made of birch-tree, beechwood, maple, or oak. Holy alliance of carved and carver.

Supposedly, ovenbirds and warblers cry, “Teach-er, teach-er!”

I am searching for some kind of holy instruction.

According to the Eastern Orthodox Church, the cross Jesus hung from was made of three woods: cedar, pine, and cypress. (Coniferous trees ill-suit utensils because of their softness and evergreen scent.)

According to everyone else, the True Cross was dogwood. God made the sturdy tree grow small and twisty, never to be used to that end again.

Why not use materials that improve with age? Trees map time, even rendered into objects.

The Catholic Church reaches out her arms to embrace her followers. I’m not a big hugger. I do click “like” on the Pope’s tweet: “Dear brothers and sisters, indifference, self-centeredness, division, and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time. We want to ban these words for ever!”

Emotion adheres not just to objects, but objects in relation to other objects. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know when it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, or something like it. Am I becoming a sentimental fool?

I must be getting old. I hope you are too.

I should go into the kitchen now. I should thank that spoon.


Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Her most recent books include the novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (Spork Press, 2018). Her World War I novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey was published by Penguin in August, and her criticism appears in The New York Times Magazine, The Poetry Foundation website, The Chicago TribuneThe Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and teaches at DePaul.