Kelley Jean White was born and raised in New Hampshire and has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School. She has been a pediatrician in inner city Philadelphia for more than twenty years. Her work appears in many poetry journals; her works include a full-length collection of poems related to her medical practice, The Patient Presents (The People's Press); a chapbook, I Am Going to Walk Toward the Sanctuary Via Dolorosa Press), and a ZeBook, At The Monkey-Feast Table, available at http: for $.69. Another book, Late, will be published by The People's Press in January 2004.


I lay my face against the baby's belly.
I close my eyes. She laughs.
The warm brown skin calms my forehead.
All stiffness melts. I smell fresh
laundry and distant flowers.
Tendrils twist my hair, sighing
breath flows across my eyes. Everyone has
gone home. I am a fallen tree trunk,
bound by vines and the sweet, dark earth.

                                                 (first published in American Writing)



My neighbor,
who keeps a little store nearby,
was recently beaten
and robbed of fifteen dollars
by a woman needing drugs.

The attacker
held a toddler
on her left hip
and a brick
in her right hand.

Someone, listening,
or watching,
summoned the police.

They took the thief away
in a patrol car.

The baby,
sitting on the sidewalk,
began to cry.

My neighbor, two ribs broken,
carried him inside.

She found an old bottle,
filled it with warm milk.

She kept him
six hours,
until the Welfare people

My neighbor asked me:
how long
does it take
a broken rib
to heal?

                                        (from The Patient Presents)



Black and blue clouds split the evening sky.
Your anger, you say, is mine, misplaced.
I wait in silence for your reply.

This is something we both would deny.
I have raised my hands to cover my face.
Black and blue clouds split the evening sky.

You just cannot stand it when I cry,
everything then must be erased.
I wait in silence for your reply.

I know your fist, and I know your why.
I know how it feels, I know disgrace.
Black and blue clouds split the evening sky.

You know my weakness, you know the lie;
you know the bruises thrown in haste.
I wait in silence for your reply.

I make up rules; I never comply.
I can not do what I must to stay safe;
black and blue clouds split the evening sky.
I wait in silence for your reply.

                                                (published in The Neovictorian/Cochlea)



My pulse denies him.
He beats compulsion.
He charmed Hades.
He uses charm to control.

He commands.
He could not let me be dead.
He will not let me choose
the rhythm.

I follow, legs wooden cold,
lungs, wasp paper:
walking doll, puppet,
this: he thinks he bought dear.

Crown, earth smell.
He does not glance back.
He sinks over
the other side.

Wind. He has proven
potent, forcing me.
He will seek
other women.

Sisters, beware the man with the sweet tongue--
he sings but he wants a drum.
His song will throb in your head--
the beat of his fists on your skull.

Call blood power.
Bacchantes, tear:
mock his useless singing head.

I will dance beside the river Styx when it floats by.
Welcome home, broken bone.

                                                                  (from Late)



Open the bee-skep, peel back the honeycomb, hands
swollen with stings, force it full against your mouth,
tongue numbed with sweet heat; Demeter lay the child
in the fire each night. What was her curse when caught?

Womb-food, golden-calf; born like Mordred in cave-dark
damp, the cadaveric flat stomach turned widershin out,
the seed that bears fruit, the fruited seed, the crazed woman
at the door calling, "My child, give me my child." Lock.

Childhood reading: the child tests the oven with an arm,
pushes the witch inside and locks the door. One "witch,"
tied, pregnant, in the fire, split her womb. The child spills,
perfect formed, cries. The monks lay it back on the flames.

Think of the child, alien floating in space, translucent
skin and thumb in forming mouth, bobbing, fog voices raining
outside, stopper in a hot water bottle, rubber red thick
and wobbling, creature of blood, blister, amnion, caul.

See, she rocks herself, sucks three fingers, swallows
her own hair; the thick dragon muscle, the tongue that pushes
out. Retroverted. Anteverted. Retroflexed. Burlap bag.
Wasp nest. Quick, circlage. the poison, the wings,

the worm child inside. A stone. A stone in the womb
to slake thirst like a cherry pit behind the tooth or a coca
leaf chewed. Unzip. The black yolk. The clot of blood.
The first hair twins. The red-red embryo throbbing

in the frying oil. Run the orchidometer rosary, smooth ivory;
clutch; size the nut in the palm of your grasping hand. Man
child. Empty slipper. Bag of worms. Eat. Pressed duck.
Stuff a turkey neck. Thrust it at your brother. Cock fight.
Shake. Bread loaf. Vase. Butcher shop. Jar. Bottle neck.
Blow a sweet tune across the taut turning hole. Rubber glove.
Cervix. Ovary. Spit fire. Release. The door opens. Destiny,
Goodbye. Bury my blood cake. Under the threshold.

                                                           (from At the Monkey-feast Table)



The dead can listen but they have lost
their voices. You might think they speak
in watersound or the crack of a floor board,
the odd pops and groans of your own
bones. Oh, you say, there, the wind moves
the leaves of a single tree. You say, listen,
the leaking faucet says: now none, no no;
the branch taps my name on the cold window:
No. They don't speak. The crash of a cup
from the shelf after dark means nothing.
Stop straining to hear them in the silence
between the cords of the song. They listen.
They hear the arguments when the children
aren't home. They hear the clicking against
life, life ticking toward death, the mouse
nibbling the family tree. They strain to hear
the whispers of stones, the baby crying
in the empty house, the music that plays
in your dream, the kettle that whistles
just as you untie your braids and pull
the hair over your face to cry.

                                  (from At the Monkey-feast Table)



there are students
for your bones.
They have held them,
seen the places of
seen the breaks
and the healings.
Flesh is gone,
warm muscle,
brown eye,
white hair;
your bones,
I might have held them
|for a moment,
held one, laid against
my cheek
and set it aside-
well used,
let go,

                              (from I Am Going to Walk Toward the Sanctuary)