Keith Althaus

Keith Althaus

The Age of Acronyms

Alphabet blocks tumble
from a child's hands like dice,
bounce and settle in the carpet,
coming up a once familiar
combination, call letters
of the left, now unnoticed
even by the grownups at the table
who go on commenting
on her hair, her eyes, the pretty
pajamas, while the letters rage
outside their universe.

One by one,
she turns them over
like rival factions
splintered from
those now face down,
that failed
because the world
wasn't ready, hadn't hit
the critical mass of misery
and avoidable suffering,
so they died, expiring
in halls with too many chairs,
placards, leaflets,
fire now consuming
words and thought.

Blocks with letters raised,
so you can read them
in the dark,
feel between the rims
the wavy wood grain
bleeding through the paint,
and in that sea
imagine faces, friends
from the end of being true,
marching together under a sign.

Clouds all afternoon,
the side streets swept clear
of people, cars,
lonely as after a war,
the lifeless victory
rats and cockroaches share.

It all comes back:
the banner dropped,
one side let go,
the run to shelter,
there is none,
all you know,
there is more,
this is just a bubble,
an unlikely spot
on earth whose other places
fester, open sores,
glistening, like initials
inside a heart
glazed with rain.


Maybe a sunset
of burning trash.
A last look
at the cathedral of unhappiness
from the window of the bus.
The extras are moving about
again, city to city,
hooded like monks
in the one twilight
with different names.
O mirage of winter,
black ice
of our misunderstanding:
seeing what we want,
there or not.

In a Little While

In a little while
the light will go out behind these faces
I've talked with all afternoon,
including mine,
and the well
we draw our voices from
will go dry.

The luster
they tell you to look for
in the eye of the porgy
and sea bass
on a bed of ice
will cloud
with new comprehension,
and the chaos of a sunbeam
strained through a lens
will cut this leaf in half
like a hand of fire.