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Best Poems Written by Bill Keen

Below are the all-time best Bill Keen poems as chosen by PoetrySoup members

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Eagles Fly, Bears Growl

		 	Failure is with us every day
			telling us to go for it on fourth and one;			
			more and more that’s done;
			we listen to failure smiling cynically
			as he whispers temptations in our ears.
			You’d recognize the guy,
			You’ve seen him lingering near,
			first cousin to Mayhem on TV,
			there’s a strong family resemblance. 

			But forewarnings don’t enhance
			self-protective good sense
			for the lot of us hooked on football games
			as we urge our favorites on							 		  
			to one more squeeky win                                                   
                        as the clock runs down to zero zed.                                   
                        It’s just the same with soccer fans.

			C’mon man! What more do you need
			to recognize Failure’s hold?
			You saw the game: that field goal
			that hit the pole and then bounced off
			the crossbar inches short of a score
			was Failure giving us, all of us, the finger.
			So now you’re an Eagle fan? 										 
                        Take heed, man, Failure will linger.
			Can downed Eagles hibernate? Bears can!


Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

What Can We Do

What does it take to shut down the dialers					 
who feed on our ears and our patience?
O What does it take? 
How can we shut down the pleas for support,
the electric voices that bother our phones 
just as we sit down for dinner?
What does it take?
Why say there’s no hope?

The dialers, you say, are that damn clever,
their noise sounding real, almost engaging?
True, we have lingered too long
imagining flesh and blood we might invite
to the movies or for walks through the town 
when the rain has stopped and the sidewalks	
call, "Come out;
you’re alive, walk about."

Why don’t the dialers care how we felt
when we strolled for an hour or more								 and no one said, “Sorry,
I’ve got to take this one and this one”?
Remember, just after the war?
No, not that one; the one before.
"Listeners breed dialers," you say?
What tilted the world that way?

Don’t you remember the time no sister 
or brother dared answer a phone or 
stand up, leave the table, 
after grace had been asked, the pot roast passed,
when none, with back turned to the parents,
talked to the wall about buying or selling
or fattening profits or what 
went to hell, or who screwed it up?

Yes, some of the dialers are real, are alive,
full of blood and worries, troubles 
with children, incipient cancers.
I get it, but what if they hurt farther
than abstract concern can reach out to
and what would it take to make dialers
imagine their objects are human,
that we, too, are fathers with feelings?

Not even if one would ask, “Dialers, please, 
stop for a minute” or “Do take a rest?” 
The sun will set to the west 
of the river and might rise in the morning
long enough for one or another to wake
in the new light and to one other declare,
“As the day and the night may serve us,
we will love one another; don’t despair.”

Isn’t it worthwhile to slow down the flight,
on wireless wings, of nattering words
that fuel pundits and bigots,
steal songs from birds,
or even implore us to serve a just cause?
What if one dialer felt need for restraint,
threw the program away,
and refused to keep all other thought at bay?

O God (listening?) speak with a small voice
to all of us, to all saints and sinners;
whisper hope to all the down-trodden; instill fear 
in all the down-treaders; discipline all as we lie;
thrust back all pointing fingers;
grant one grain of sand to each ear;
exhaust the desert,
even to bring forth but one single pearl!

Can’t you imagine, only one moment left,							 and none hoarding or selling it for souls?
If not, breathe your last breath
and lie down in the dark
where the dialers and dealers 
are lacking your number
and none can encumber 
the peace passing our kenning
by word, by sound, and by penning.

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem


I’ll grant you a modern laptop			
hooked up to an HP printer				
is a more efficient and cer-				
tainly a cleaner means to re-			
produce yr message than				
the whirling drum of rebellious			
black ink we depended upon 				
back in nineteen fifty-seven. 				
But when my spellcheck wants to change 			
brideshead to birdseed, I wonder			 	
whether that satirist of misuse				
whose black warriors ate their British			
boots and used a tank to melt down		
belligerent recruits would laugh or cringe 		
waiting for the machine to send 			
out once a year condolences 				
that the man who’d mocked stupidity			
had traded life in a mansion				
for a sack of sunflower seeds? 

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

Kew Gardens Spectrum

In Kew Gardens I feast on				
daffodils and swans and honk-				
ing geese in turf protection mode				
and one spectacular show				
from a strutting peacock’s tail,				
its color chart exploding					
against the day’s gray weather.		
On warmer days Kew is packed				
with mums and dads and kiddies				
running about or being pushed 				
in prams. Today’s marginal 			
weather has cut the numbers.				
I am drawn to a park’s promises		
in crowd depleting weather.					.							

In youth I’d sit on a bench 			
beneath a chestnut tree and feel 			
fully protected from rain 				
by the natural umbrella 				
of thick leaves above my head			
or, barefooted, tramp through wet 			
grass after the midday storm.												

In the misted gray of not				
quite Spring Kew Garden isn’t 			
in full bloom but I can feel				
the promise of warmer days and, 				
with luck, the persistent need 				
of a peacock to impress 				
his ladies with the full bloom					 
of his magnificent tail.

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

Curtain Call

		Maple trees on both sides of Nineteenth Street
		closed down the evening sky.
		In a slight uncovered slice a single star
		was made to burn the brighter
		by this focusing framework.
		I wonder, were your drapes drawn not quite tight
		to burn your beauty on the night?

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

There Is No Remedy

		I have learned in the reclining chair,
		while the dentist mined deep veins of decay,
		how to transfer pain.
		The needled anodyne of novocaine
		is inadequate to allay
		the harrowing ache he engenders there.
		But not even by bending fingers until they pop
		or stabbing nails into the tenderest flesh
		can I get the dedicated ache to stop.
		Nor did my visit to another woman
		after the last set when her shift was done	
		soothe the bruises on my heart
		that blossomed when you stole the sun. 

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

August Anthem

			Blueberries rushing down five at a time
			from loaded branches tom-tom the bottom
			of a coffee can until growing numbers
			mute the beat. Super pickers fill
			two cans an hour in bumper season.
			Pies and muffins march from ovens
			and cereal looks richer than a lapis crown.
			In blueberry time we reach to the highest hoards.
			On these gems of the Sun we feast like lords.

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

Lost in the surf

			The idea I’d been trolling for
			was hooked just short of the shore.
			As soon as I could see	
			the grey beast from the deep
			just beneath the last line
			of the breaking surf,
			the thing broke free
			along a different ledge of thought.
			Too little lip I’d caught.

			O I had plenty of words--  
			curses, epithets, adjectives, verbs--   
			both for myself and the grey shape
			gone back to the dark sea,
			leaving me unbalanced
			with no upright tug on the line.
			I’d been tied to thought’s pull,
			then flaked from the wall
			like the cheapest paint.

			I know that too much lip defines
			a dictator posed in profile 
			on a Roman balcony;
			but too little lip left me short
			of dancing in the sun
			with the coveted catch held up
			from the dark womb of thought,
			an alive and wriggling thing
			pendant from
			an invisible string


Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

I Loved You, John Wayne

		I loved you John Wayne!
		I wished you were my father
		or maybe an older brother 
		who’d tutor me to be tough
		when manners weren’t enough
		and toughness was needed
		that civility be heeded
		and not to brag or complain.
		O I loved you John Wayne!

		As soon as I was old enough 
		to earn the price of admission	
		I saw your films in succession
		at the first run houses down 
		in the big deal part of town
		and enshrined each one on a list
		taped to my bedside wall
		and read about the ones I’d missed.
		Shucks, I loved you most of all!

		Fort Apache and Red River
		took pride of place on the page;
		they’d eaten up my weekly wage.
		I missed the Yellow Ribbon;
		I hoped I’d be forgiven.
		At the Rio and the Broad
		(in a dicey neighborhood)
		I atoned with films you’d done
		before I was even born.

		Western after Western
		and tales of oil and whiskey
		and scheming ladies, O so risky!
		I hoped I’d be excused
		when I compromised my muse
		by adding well-built gals
		to Duke and all his pals.
		Montez, Russell, and Lake
		made my hormones quake.

		O I loved you, John Wayne.
		I could feel your bashful pain
		When the pretty lady roped you
		and hat in hand you’d bow,
		the furrow deepening on your brow,
		and utter monosyllables plus “Ma’am,”
		no longer a ram, more like a lamb.
		O I shared you pain, John Wayne!

		And still I loved you John Wayne,
		your true grit and donnybrook,
		your menacing brow, the look
		that said, “Enough, my friend.
		“This bull is going to end!”
		You swaggered? (not quite it--
		as if your boots didn’t quite fit?)
		You took him by the horns and shook;
		Plomp! Down went the snook!

		How I loved you, John Wayne!
		And I love you still when again I see
		the doughty Duke on my smart TV
		as much as Papa’s lone old man,
	        with fish chewed down to the bone
		loved Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio
		when the Clipper’s legs began to go
		and he was hobbled by his heel.
		John Wayne, you were the real deal.

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019

Details | Bill Keen Poem

We Are

			The holiness is here
			under the trees
			in the space 
			that yearns for stars
			in the leaf mold
			beneath the snow
			in the low flung fog
			rising toward the day
			when the Sun returns
			to kindle our need
	`		to birth us again.
			We are the seed.

Copyright © Bill Keen | Year Posted 2019