Two Poems by Kelly Sargent

My Voice

I am Deaf.
My fingers speak.

A coiffed paintbrush in my grasp,
my voice streaks turquoise and magenta
across a parched canvas.
Vowels coo through thirsty linen.

Click-clacking keys with my mother tongue,
I chew hard consonants
and spit them out.
Sour, a scathing sonnet can be at dusk.

Fingertips pave slick exclamations,
punctuated by nails sinking low into clamminess.
I sculpt hyperboles.

The Mushroom Caves in Madrid

remember when we descended the dank hollow,
hollow like the cool, clay ashtrays cradling the
spent brown butts we found cowering behind the whiskey bottle

that they swilled in the mushroom caves
following the bullfight
and you huddled at the foot of my bed in the tangy orange afghan we shared

after the beast trickled blood uncauterized that night

in the pen dusted crimson.

you liked the banderilla’s pink crêpe paper;
we willed it pretty.

we crawled under the table, sticky
oak legs spread wide,
swollen, soaked, and stiff.
garlic burned more than sangria.

my twin, my deaf mirror,
sign with your tiny hands and
tell me:
what time are we allowed to eat stuffed mushrooms?

“My Voice” and “The Mushroom Caves in Madrid” first appeared in Stone Poetry Journal.

Kelly Sargent‘s poems and artwork in 2021, including a current Best of the Net nominee, appeared or are forthcoming in nearly two dozen literary publications. Her poetry chapbook entitled Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion is also forthcoming (Kelsay Books, 2022). She serves as Creative Nonfiction Editor of The Bookends Review and an assistant nonfiction editor for Newfound. She also reviews for an organization dedicated to making visible the artistic expression of sexual violence survivors. Born HOH and adopted in Luxembourg with a deaf twin sister, she grew up in Europe and the U.S., and also wrote for a national newspaper for the Deaf. 

“The Keepsake” by Kelly Sargent

You kept a rusty Bugs Bunny tin of marbles in our bedroom
on the shelf you thought I couldn’t reach
because you dreamt they might be worth something


I found one under your bed this morning
when I was clearing out Mom’s house
and your side of the room exactly as you had left it.

An abandoned, cerulean-blue
glassy cat’s eye stared at me

from the dark corner of the rectangular outline —
darker than the rest of the Brazilian cherry wood floor —
that the sun had never touched.

I reached for it.

Cool — almost chilled — it was, by the absence of life-giving rays.
Smooth, in its betraying lack of indentations.
It was weightier than I had expected.

My fingertips caressed it, gently at first;
then with increasing pressure, earnestly hoping to infuse it with life.
I wanted it to see me
and be happy to be found.

But it didn’t know that it had been lost
and could not find joy in the moment.

Like you.
With the cerulean, glassy stare you gave me when I found you
in your bed
when you were 16.
You didn’t know that one to match lay on the wooden floor beneath you.

I recalled the time that I spilled your collection
and how the clatter roused you from a lazy Sunday nap.
I froze in place and shivered, anticipating your ire.

You considered me with cerulean compassion,
a golden lock matted against your forehead.
And you laughed silver strands of grace at me.

I never knew the last time I laughed with you
would be the last time I laughed with you,
until it was.

I nestled the marble in my palm
and put it in my pocket.

It was worth something.

“The Keepsake” first appeared in The Purpled Nail

Kelly Sargent was born hard of hearing. Adopted in Luxembourg, she grew up with a deaf twin sister in Europe and the United States. Her most recent 2021 poems and artwork, including a current Best of the Net nominee, appeared, or are forthcoming, in nearly two dozen publications in the U.S. and abroad. She has also written for a national newspaper for the Deaf. Currently, she volunteers as a reviewer for an organization dedicated to making visible the artistic expression of sexual violence survivors.