Adele Kenny



Adele Kenny, author of 25 books (poetry and nonfiction), has been widely published in the U.S. and abroad, and her poems have appeared in books and anthologies from Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. A former creative writing professor, she is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and poetry editor of Tiferet Journal.

She is the recipient of various honors and awards, including first place in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Arts Council, a Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, a Writer's Digest Poetry Award, and the International Book Award for Poetry. Her book A Lightness A Thirst, or Nothing at All was a 2016 Paterson Poetry Prize finalist, and she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Kean University in 2014. She has been honored with a Women of Excellence Award (Union County, NJ, Commission on the Status of Women) for her achievements and volunteer work in the arts and humanities and was named Poet Laureate of Fanwood, NJ in 2012.

A three-term president of the Haiku Society of America, she has won numerous haiku awards, including a first place Merit Book Award, first place Henderson Award, first place Raymond Roseliep Memorial Award, first place Renku Award, first place Haiku Quarterly Award, Museum of Haiku Literature Awards, a Tiny Poems Press Award, and one of her haiku appeared on the marquee of the Rialto West Theater in NYC as part of the 42nd Street Art Project.

Active in readings and in private and agency-sponsored workshops, she has read in the US, England, Ireland, and France, and has twice been a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.


The Trains

We felt them first. Fingers pressed to the rails,
a dull rumble filled our hands and hummed into
our arms before the cone of light, the great clatter
of metal against metal. Trestled high, above the
bridge on Grand Avenue, we knew those tracks went on
forever, between trees that lined the ties like stations
of the cross. The hill was forbidden but holy.
The year I was nine, an April blizzard swept the
sky and we went to the trains in the dark. The wires
strummed into sparks, the rails were a dazzle of
shadows. Our faces - ghosts of our selves - reflected
in every train car window, lines of breath etched in
passing glass. Above us, chimney smoke hung like
smears of candle grease among the clouds.
We were grubby and poor, but we believed. We said
our prayers, ate fish on Fridays, and never rode
those trains. We could only kneel in something like
wonder, something like praise, and wait for the
tracks' reverent shudder. The memory is a gauze
engine that time blows through and keeps me small.

Paterson Literary Review, Your Daily Poem, Taj Mahal Review (India),
Silver Birch Press, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

Of Feathers, Of Flight

... if I look up into the heavens I think that
it will all come right ... and that peace and tranquility
will return again.
— Anne Frank

That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest,
   and we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told
us the mother would know our hands and
   never take it back. Spring that year was a

cardboard box, cries for eyedropper food —
   feather-stalks stretched into wings. We
knew, of course, that we couldn't keep it.
   (Later, we would mark the spot with stones

and twigs - where the bird fell, where we
   let it go - and sometimes, stopped in the
middle of play, would point and say, there,
   right there
.) The day we freed it, it beat, a

heart-clock (wound and sprung in Ruth
   Levine's old hand)that, finally, finding
the sky, flew higher than all the briars
   strung like metal barbs above the fence—

a speck of updraft ash and gone. Heaven,
fuller then for one small bird, spread its
blue wing over us and the tree and Mrs.
   Levine who, breathing deeply, raised her

numbered arm to the light and moved her
   thumb over each fingertip as if she could
feel to the ends of her skin the miracle
   edge of freedom, of feathers, of flight.

Merton Seasonal, Prism, Offline, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

Once, Late in the Day:
East Canada Creek, Stratford, NY

I've come to see the sun flick over stones in moments of
gentle flashing, to think how fast a memory becomes its
own illusion. I'm here because what we call the soul—
that almost visual echo—is always close to holiness.

A birch on the shoreline shapes itself to the breeze; aspens
tremble as if this moment were all there is between one
beauty and another, between mystery and revelation.
Here, there is no revision, no opposite for recollection.

Once, late in the day, my father and I fished beneath
this bridge. I was seven or eight, and small trout
shone underwater, quietly golden in that particular light.
On the small road home, we were part of the shadows'

perfection. As we walked between hills (close in the
last light), my pail of water filled with stars, and the sun
came down, fallen from a larger light that, one day,
my father walked into and was gone.

Wind Over Stones (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2019)

East Rahway

The past is a foreign country,
they do things differently there.

– L. P. Hartley

All it takes is something familiar: the shape of a
hand or a stranger's eyes in the sudden light of
a theater when the movie ends. Then, something
deep in memory's birthwood calls me back.
The past is my first language, a speakable grace.

On summer nights in East Rahway, our fathers
sat on front porches in worn t-shirts, their
calloused hands wrapped around beer cans as
the last stars took their places like nail-heads
on a dark and holy board. Inside, our mothers

sang as they washed the dinner dishes, and we
went to sleep with the easy grace of children.
All of our grandmothers spoke with accents,
rolled their stockings down to their ankles like
nylon UFOs, and people shouted at them when

they spoke, enunciating carefully, as if our
grandmothers weren't only foreign but deaf.
Different from the beginning, we were the city's
middle children, never as tough as the kids from
the projects, and only half as cool as the kids who

lived behind the high school on the other side
of town. Cut off from the rest of Rahway, we
lived between Route 1 and Linden Airport, in
a place where sleep was rubbed out of night to
the sound of trucks stumbling over potholes

and propjets taking off on runway number three.
Safe in our own society, we lived a little religion
of unlikely saints whose blood offerings were
elbows and knees that scraped like autumn
leaves on the sidewalks. In East Rahway, hardly

anyone died or went away. Those were the days
before we knew what dead meant. But when
Mr. Malone, who lived in the corner house,
did it, the bagpipes wailed and skirled for
three days in his living room, a hundred octaves

higher than all the blades of grass we ever
held between our thumbs and blew against –
a different kind of party. There were no soccer
games, no little league, no one drove us anywhere.
We walked to the corner store and hiked down

Lower Road to Merck's Creek, the mosquitoed
water stained even then by chemicals we couldn't
name; but, oh, the bright and oily rings that spread
above the stones we skipped like shivering circles
of mercury. There were forests then, across the

street, and deep. We were wood nymphs and
Druids, foreign legionnaires led by my cousin
Eddie. Soldiers of whatever fortune was, we
followed into the hymned and scrawling weeds –
the underbrush belled by our footsteps, trees

tuned to prodigal birds. We were Arthur and
Guinevere, Merlin, Morgan, all the knights, and
one Rapunzel who lost her hair in a bubble gum
accident. We did things differently then, believed
in summer's synonymous sun, December's

piebald light, white-maned and glistening, the
moon above us, cloud-ribbed in semi-silhouette.
The past falls like water from winter boots.
Merck's Creek, darker, dirtier with new pollution,
moves more slowly. The streets, once so wide

and willing, are smaller. And the forest is gone,
the initials we carved lost with fallen trees,
the green spirits laid to rest beneath a block of
factories. But, still, if you cross Route 1 on
a night overworked with summer stars, and

stand on the corner of Scott and Barnett, you
will find our fathers there. Kents and Winstons
burn, beer cans shine in the baritone heat. Our
mothers and grandmothers sing, ghostly soloists,
eggshell voices – reedy, thin. And we are there,

lips pressed smugly on chocolate cigarettes; our
pockets ring with Pez candies. Listen! A child's
voice calls Excalibur into the night, those old bones
still in the road – skull and neck, a few vertebrae
that we tossed like dice to tell our future.

Exit 13 Magazine, Chosen Ghosts (Muse-Pie Press, 2001), What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011).

Even If You Could Explain It Completely

The backstory doesn't matter—this is about what happens now. You open your eyes, move your legs slowly, flex and bend, stretch (aligned to the air). Your puppy looks up at you and wags his tail—he wants to go out. You open the back door and he runs through, happy to sniff the parsley, squat and pee, follow an ant with his nose—the wick of his small body fired with visible joy.

When it happens (really happens), it's not complicated. First, what you really want—the surprise of it—and then desire. Even if you could explain it completely, you wouldn't. Day becomes day, and night—their passing nothing to do with time. All notion of distance disappears—what feels like entering. Suddenly (like walking into a light you know), you discover this: the certainty that nothing is certain, the deep relief of your own incredible smallness.

A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015)

Like I Said

Okay, so it's Sunday. I didn't
go to church. I'm an Irish Catholic,
I know about sin, but I was tired and
just didn't feel like getting dressed.

On Thursday night, I fell and broke
a slat from the garden fence. My
hip still hurts – the bruise is as big
as my Yorkie's head.

That would have been enough, but
this morning the vacuum coughed up
a hairball and quit. The only food in
the fridge is a bearded yogurt.

The washing machine refuses to spin.
There's no clean underwear left, so
I'm not wearing any. Like I said,
I was tired; I didn't feel like getting

dressed, so I didn't go to church and
abdicated rights to all that grace.
I put on a pair of dirty jeans, a dirty
shirt, and sat outdoors all morning.

I did nothing but talk to my dogs,
watch squirrels, and wonder what it
might be like to nibble Prozac from
Johnny Depp's lower lip.

U.S. 1 Worksheets, On Human Flourishing Anthology (McFarland & Co. Publishers),
Reprint Magazine, Ottantanoveuvolepiuuna (Italian Translation),
What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

In Memory Of

(After Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

No movement but this: subdued luminosity, sunlight from the distant city. River. Bridge. There is always a background (that far, this close), and what memory does—like the dusky lines of a double shadow, it multiplies loss.

In Rossetti's Beata, a sundial casts its metal wing on the thin, blown hour when leaving begins. Red dove, white poppy: the woman, transfixed, slips—diffused like light through darkened glass—her hands open and soft.

I am here and you aren't. It is summer—the sky is clapper and bell, the lemonade sweet. I can almost hear you singing.

California Quarterly, Verse-Virtual, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)


(After Forget Me Not by Arthur Hughes)

I set aside pieces of furniture, clothing, more books than my own shelves can hold—the ones she loved most and titled spines I remember from childhood, can see even now with my eyes closed. I place DuMaurier's Frenchman's Creek into a carton marked "keep" and wrap her jewelry box to take with me (as if any one of those small, bright rings on my own finger might bring her hands back into being).

The sky goes dark, loosely draped with white night-clouds. Stars gather in windows scored with memories of light that burned out long before any of us was here. Shadows pass through the edge of sight—a sigh, a laugh hauntingly far away. I pack dresses and shoes, take down the last of the hangars and close the door to her bedroom. There's no way back to what was, only these rooms filled with new silence, a house to be emptied and sold.

It's true that we lose their voices first (inflection, tone), and I haven't learned how to reconcile this listening with the voice I can no longer hear. There's no formula for letting go of the old, gone world or this house where every ordinary thing has become more than it is.

Paterson Literary Review, The Crafty Poet II (Terrapin Books, 2016),
Wind Over Stones (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2019)

What Happens

(After The Glass Key, by René Magritte)

[After that] first white of the deep snow, light of wonderment—when you finally see it and almost know it for what it is: the stone at the center of the stone, the flower at the center of the flower.

On the front porch, an insect kisses the bug zapper and snaps itself out of this world (gone like all the dead who wanted to live—anonymous as moon moths and birdsong).

This is about whatever spiritual means and how it changes us, how it makes us think deeply—what happens when we reach a certain age and can look farther back that we ever thought we would (the long backstory and all of our smallness). It's when we stand outside ourselves and believe in everything owned by time. This is the real world: years and doors, and so many angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Lips Magazine

So Here You Are

(After Spring by Georgia O'Keeffe)

So here you are—by yourself because that's what you choose. Whether it's evening or late afternoon (more dark, more light) doesn't matter, the need to measure things becomes less and less important.

Lately, you think how life rushes through everything—unsettled dreams and things that will never happen again. Above snow-melt and bud, a weather vane turns (like old lies—sharply directional—and you wonder how long it will take to forgive yourself).

In a week or two, the lilacs will bloom; dogwoods will float like watered silk. It's ironic that all your seasons have led to reverence for things that move slowly; how you, like anything ordinary, changed without breaking.

A dog barks on the street behind you, the sound distantly familiar. Language. Landscape. In one of the trees, a small bird sings—this one bird's one song only for you because you are alone, and you hear it the way you can almost hear the time between breaths.

Verse-Virtual, Wind Over Stones (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2019)

Like Wind Over Stones

(After The White Hart by Josephine Wall)


That night, I didn't look for answers or reasons. At the forest's edge, a bird rose over trees then held the high places with wings—the way a soul reclaims its shape—awareness without thought.


This morning began as a shifting distance: darkness stretched thin and peonies (from somewhere, the scent of peonies). Later, I waited while traffic stilled for a funeral—a desolate procession—corner to corner, the short space between time and eternity. I thought for a moment how we are chalk lost from a sidewalk, how much the air loves dust. And I thought how even death doesn't last—nothing lost in this illogical trust we call faith. Creation, redemption: twice (and ever) His. The white stag moves between worlds and always returns.


Some things are easily remembered (resonant, indelible)—others, more fragile but equally blessed, are best understood by their loss. We have let ourselves be known slowly—beginning, being. So many years from where we were, we have spoken the word open.


Fragment to whole. Life is a skyward thing. It moves over us—like wind over stones—until we shine. And when we are ghosts (gone into what we believe), it will be more than the end of breathing (the end of water, the end of sky), as straightforward as this:

flickers of air that rise up and leave as light.

Wind Over Stones (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2019)

What Yesterday Was

In the slanting drift of afternoon, even as
night begins to fall, made patterns of thought
and intention fade. The air lightens, trees
lose shape, and a hermit thrush in the

distance invents songs that move through
the silence. You haven't crossed my mind
in years, and I barely remember your face;
but, suddenly, here you are, the merest

recollection, shapeless as such remembrance
is—without substance or form—quickly felt,
then lost again. And what does such fleeting
memory signify except that time taps us on the

shoulder and reminds us (briefly) of whatever
we meant to each other in another time,
who we were and who we became—
what this day is, what yesterday was.

The Raven's Perch

In Which the Sky

Blue jays screech above her house—a box on the stairs tips open (empty), but she never says lonely. She loved a man once for the look of him and his hands (the way his knuckles whitened when he flicked cards against the fence), and his fingertips (stars that burned out long before she paused to look up).

It was never about the all of him or the way he tried too hard to be someone other than himself. In the end, he was just another lie that became the truth. The only thing she kept was his coat sleeve—the cuff shaped like disappointment.

This is the way ghosts teach us, she says. Above the distant rumble of jackhammers and thunder, the sky crests like a wave as she pulls it in behind her.

The Pedestal

Into Night: At the Great Swamp

Blue on the path, my shadow
lengthens then disappears.
Pitch Pines edge into dusk.
Here at the swamp, twilight
falls in degrees—first at the
sky's edge, into the treetops,
and then through underbrush
on both sides of a path edged
with bracken and vines.
A mother fox and two kits
move into and out of focus.

Suddenly, a heron rises,
lifts the water's sound,
and becomes the sky.
Crickets and katydids churr.
Something small rustles in
the underbrush. I don't wonder
where love or the sun went
or why anything else should
matter but the startling peace
of this moment, the night's
long body, the stars' white fire.

Stillwater Review

This Light, October 2nd

"No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life
can say anything that has not already been said better by
the wind in the pine trees."

—Thomas Merton

I haven't been here in such a long time,
I forgot how still the water is, how
soft the air's silence, the quality of light
as it starts to fade. At dusk, the sky's cast
blue darkens and eddies gently toward
night. Close in the order of their being,
a deer and her fawn move away from
the forest to graze in a sheltered space
where field and woodland join.

Deep in the forest, tall pines fill with
wind that towers upward. It reminds
me that despite whatever falls, life
is still a skyward thing. It's good to
be alone with only these trees and the
wind's spirit—this moment a dimension
beyond all distance and time.

Today is the Feast of Guardian Angels (the
ones with kind wings) who watch over us
and protect us—whether you believe in them
or not, such things seem possible here
as one bird scatters into dozens of smaller
birds that tip the sky forward before
they disappear as we all must disappear,
taking with us what little we know of
infinite wisdom, infinite love.

Exit 13 Magazine

All You Need

Imagine a dirt path that leads through scrub pine and cypress into something higher, a place where light eddies into light. Imagine the dusk in yourself when the day turns back and retreats through spent leaves. Imagine night's screen door and the way you close it behind you (how your arm swings it shut). Nothing changes the reality of things or the moon's upward arc—all you need is what's left of this world's quiet and one evening star, ready to burn down the boards that stand between you and yourself.

This Broken Shore (Coleridge Institute Press)


When you walk to the edge of all the light you have ...
you must believe that one of two things will happen:
there will be something solid for you to stand upon,
or, you will be taught how to fly.

— Patrick Overton

The air is luminous, rare—I sit on the old stone bench that was my mother's and think of her pearls—the fragile string—how everything rolled into a crack between the wall and floorboards.

Here there are sparrows at the feeder, crickets in the ivy. Sound over sound, and bees humming. On the fence beside me, a spider's web is strung with dust. When a cricket jumps across my hand, I hold my breath for a second (a way of stopping time for something perfect).

Everything that needed to be done is done. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. *

The branch above me trembles after a bird for which I have no name; the bird turns and becomes the sky. This is the way your eyes take in the light, the way you clear the ruins—this is what saves you.

* Julian of Norwich

Adanna #1, A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015)

Only a Stranger


A chattering wind brings down the leaves. Remnants of bagworm and chestnut lie in the tangle. After long highway miles, I return to the mountains and the trees, to the old house that waits, tucked asleep, in an arm of the Adirondacks. Abandoned now, overgrown with bracken and vines, it sits sideways beside the creek, facing the forest instead of the road. After years of wandering through ruins I should have been prepared for this, but I never expected the tumbled chimney, the broken windows, the foundation shifted and cracked, the piece of clapboard that hangs at the side of the house like a broken arm.

the empty mountain house
falls into

The air turns colder. Like a hard breath blown through God's lips, it strikes a tamarack's stringed tongue. The tamarack trembles and moans. I shiver. I can hear the creek as it stumbles over stones, a tired tenor losing its voice. In the open field near the house, wild geese wake.

between the stars
and the mountain,
a vee of migrating geese

There is nothing to reclaim here. Everything changes, but memory is holy. Tonight I celebrate the past as I walk to the cusp of our hill where an old iron bridge crosses the water. Somewhere on the edge of the night sky a small light begins to shine. It will gather momentum and fill the dark places. Forever is there, a glass bell that time rings through.

October mist—
only a stranger crossing
to the other side of the bridge

Journey to the Interior (Charles E. Tuttle Co.)

Selected Haiku

between the moon
and the billboard,
a jet liner rises

after your call
holding only
the dial tone

at the edge of the woods,
we listen

first crickets—
the pulse
in my wrist

midsummer morning—
the dead tree's shadow
stretches upstream

between church bells,
the gentle ringing
of rain

migrating geese—
once there was so much
to say

Published in various haiku journals and in Not Asking what if? (Muse-Pie Press, 2016)

Muse-Pie Press  •  R.G. Rader, Editor/Publisher •

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