Husbands, Picture Gallery & Early

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Husbands, Picture Gallery & Early


by Stephen Keeler


We stood together side by side my friend
and I in his bright kitchen two old men
sun-bleached and stubbled liver-spotted and
a little more considered now that he
had lost his wife as well as though we’d both
been careless in an unfamiliar place
he chopping the tomatoes I had brought
and me the basil they had planted in
the spring and it was unremarkable
in its uniqueness in our linen shirts
the flashing knives cool blues stone floor the heat
outside I thought of how our fathers might
have looked on this on two old men their sons
preparing lunch at ease and how they might
have taken such unasked for setting loose.

Picture Gallery

A Sunday volunteer at
the modish one-room gallery

the woman with the novel on her knee
looked up and saw them

fading through the whitewashed walls
the paintings like a choir singing as they leave

the church and the returning light
and richly-painted darkness

brought in the ice-skates that had hung there
from this roof-beam that old Andersson

had chiselled and stiff brushes and limp
inner tubes and blocks of soap the

candles bundled into eights and
tied with string the pins the yarn

the things the women had to ask for
whispering while she

stood listening on the wooden steps
a girl of seven or eight in dungarees

and flannel shirt
beside the painted table where

the tourist leaflets are
the information packs and price-lists

for the clever paintings
no one came to see today.


This bed
these crisp and tumbled sheets
fat-bellied pillows
a pleasure garden
once upon a time
in a far-off distant land
where perfumed lovers
orchestrated limbs and wine and whispers
in the half-light unaware
the sunrise
and the hardening of the day
wine turning into water overnight
the cockerel and the old tin clock.


Fruit bowl illustration
About the Author

STEPHEN KEELER is an award-winning memoirist and poet. His memoir 50 Words for Love in Swedish (Archetype Books, 2021) won the People’s Book Prize (2022/23) and his poetry appears regularly in prestigious poetry magazines, journals and anthologies. His small collection They Spoke No English is published by Nine Pens Press and extracts from his collection A Diligent Pantomime will be published online by Black Bough Press (forthcoming). In addition to residencies in the UK and France, Stephen Keeler was awarded the 2023 Writer-in-Residence scholarship in Skara, southern Sweden. Manuscripts currently under consideration include Superlative Objects, a second memoir, and Small Unnecessary Things, a collection of poems written during a recent writing residency.