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About this poet

Keith Ratzlaff is the author of four books of poetry: Then, a Thousand Crows (Anhinga Press, 2009); Dubious Angels: Poems after Paul Klee (Anhinga Press, 2005); Across the Known World (Loess Hills Press, 1997); and Man Under a Pear Tree (Anhinga Press, 1996), winner of the 1996 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. He’s a professor of English at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

Three Angels

     after Paul Klee

There are not enough shoes
in heaven
no matter what the song says—

which means feet will be
rationed soon
because God says so.

It was the curse of Midas
to know
what happened next,

however limited
however gold.
It was the curse of Jeremiah

to prophesy for the Lord
and regret it
even as he spoke, knowing

Damascus would burn
then Marathon,
Kabul, Jerusalem. Oh God

who taketh away the world,
who among us
could have declined heaven

even when we knew? Only
the meek
are blessed, the sorrowful—

only the secondary,
tertiary,
the poor and pocketless

without laces and aglets,
heels and soles,
eyelets and tongues.

Blessed are those who weep.
Blessed
the hangdog, the hungry,

the angry, the upper
and lower,
the strapped, the welted.

Blessed those who have
no feet
for they shall see God’s

handiwork. Blessed be God
for whom
the word for world is shoe.

Copyright © 2018 Keith Ratzlaff. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Keith Ratzlaff. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

Keith Ratzlaff

Keith Ratzlaff

Keith Ratzlaff is the author of four books of poetry: Then, a Thousand Crows (Anhinga Press, 2009); Dubious Angels: Poems after Paul Klee (Anhinga Press, 2005); Across the Known World (Loess Hills Press, 1997); and Man Under a Pear Tree (Anhinga Press, 1996), winner of the 1996 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. He’s a professor of English at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

by this poet

poem

I’m walking through goldenrod
in new shoes, shoes I got for a song—
like the one I’m singing now
that pleases the cicadas, the one
that would make Schubert cry.
And I love the way the ash
is the first tree always
to turn, throw its hands
in the air and say shoot me

poem

In one version a drunken angel shapes us from river mud.
In another the tou-tou bird sings daylight into being.
In another we fall backward from the sky into the earth’s net.
The other day goldenrod.
The other day red on the tests; her cancer like sumac, back
             again, inching