Three Poems by Keith Donnell

A Man Hears My Stomach Groan and Takes an Interest

Man tips me off about this hole in the wall where an old gold toothed
woman stews hog maws like she never left Arkansas and when bored,
might fork an extra pork portion or second cornbread for one decent
short story. Says, if about love, she’ll grab your beers from way down
in that tub. I think I’ll begin with a good Christian woman’s husband
dying in a fire. She keeps her blacks packed in the attic and continues
living like nothing happened: slide out the bed; fix a breakfast; lay out
trousers; wait at their table, doorway, porch, curb for his return from
work. Come end of his shift, she’ll fry his steak, smother potatoes, ask
about his day. Her lonely heart skips beats whenever he leaves to pee
and on those cold asylum nights, he holds her closer than a cocooned
caterpillar. Old Southerner smiled like a sun rises and made my plate.

This Time, I’m No Child

He leaves, so I reassemble my father’s slaughtered hog: reconcile
balls with sockets, incant flesh back to bone, refasten his old rope
and return carcass to a sturdy swing branch. I replace tin bucket,
reunite sow guts with stomach, recollect steaming blood running
from its open throat, rebottle a song of immense distress and wipe
his reflected face from two wild eyes. He serenaded beasts before
butchering them, priced by the pound, wrapped up in wax paper,
sold to poor boys on Mama’s credit with a loaf of stale bread and
half a dozen eggs. Restless, I swim toward the last pulpy remnant
of a descended sun. Treading out there is where I swore off pork.

What Remains Unchanged

I am still your river sort of boy, a freshwater fish. Ocean knows
my soul, told me so, holds me close, stirs those embers, says no
crime remembering sediment-heavy flows, browned by a whole
day’s downpours, currents quickened, swollen, hungry to flood.
Could snag a careless boy as fast as any sly rip. Or in a drought,
when rivers run thin to just skin and ribs, a most faithful beggar
pleading to wash your feet. I dream in rivers, currents reversed,
flowing home to one big sky eye. I watch my mother humming
gospel from a bank as old pastor holds my nose, dips me under.
Brave slave girl wades marshlands, crying baby unfed, kept dry
above her head. I love rum, but pass. Ocean swigs, passes back.

donnellKeith Donnell, originally from Philadelphia, currently lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an MFA candidate at San Francisco State University and holds a M.A. in English from the University of Southern California. He can be reached online at