Keith Leonard

Red Nail

Because I began to love my life,
worry arrived like rain
from an overhead sprinkler.
It mushed all my wild manifestos
into papier-mâché. Was it beauty
or was it ignorance when we flipped
in barely clothed adolescence
into just deep enough rivers?
Deathlessness, it was as intoxicating
as peonies, peonies that painted the walls
of my mouth, so that when I spoke,
I spoke only the language of peonies.
Today marks two years since
my last funeral. Is that lucky?
It was a boy around my son’s age.
He would have been in third grade.
Third grade. I remember how,
with recess rained out, Ms. Johnson
seemed to get lost in thought—
her red nail resting on the boom box,
the fluorescent light bounding
off the scuffed linoleum,
the music going on a long time—
and the whole class skipped
around the double row of chairs
almost forgetting the game,
almost dancing.

Keith Leonard is the author of the poetry collection Ramshackle Ode (Mainer/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). His poems are forthcoming in New England Review, Ploughshares, and The Believer. Keith has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Indiana University, where he earned an MFA. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
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