All in by Catherine Keefe

by Catherine Keefe

as dictionary. Silent as the word
book. Unabridged. Not the kind
you carry in your back pocket. You

must go home to stand agape before
that hand-hewn cherry wood table
lit by rainbow of abalone glass

holding all the words, a sketch of starlings
flooding the Iowa plains just before
snow falls. At your fingertips. Dog

ear me. Highlight. Memorize. How
long it took to write the first
Oxford English Dictionary?

Seventy years. An almost life-
time to gather precise meaning. Unused
words kicked to the curb for rubbish

pick-up. I've thrown away so much. Once
I said the right thing and you leaned forward
so quickly I couldn't uncross my arms. Crack

my spine to find crumbs and new
adjectives. This is my body for you
to find your way. Pluck

grace notes like the guitarist
on the green that summer
before the great migration.


Catherine Keefe is a California poet, essayist and social justice activist. Recent work appeared in Collateral Damage, a Pirene's Fountain Anthology, TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics, andThe Gettysburg Review. Catherine works as a story coach, helping families shape and document generational narratives. Her current writing project, Kind In Kind, is a yearlong effort to turn public attention towards the transformational effect of performing daily, simple acts of kindness. Follow along at