Deborah Kelly

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet

Restaurante Ancestral



Tonight, an open-air kitchen,

where cooking’s done on the back of a drum.


The quality of food when

the firmament is here, and the soil,

capsaicin and smoke.


Once, an Italian elder

in a Midwestern trattoria

exclaimed, I could not be American.


Only because I ate with bread, folded,

my pile of parmesan

sinking into olio d’oliva.


Here, I’m eased into the evening

by a slow fan

and a muffled trumpet.


And possibly I do change with this food

on my fingers.


My skin is warmer

under the glow of Cempasúchil,

Flor de Muertos,

Marigold, Flower of the Dead.

About the poem:  as shared by the poet

Why does poetry matter? what has poetry added to your life experience?

A live poem, read while touching one finger to its body and another to its breath, stimulates consciousness, offers affinity, dissolves the illusion that we are unknowable to one another, or at least creates a pause from that reality. From the edges of art’s images we catch sight of what cannot be seen directly. In this way, poetry and poems may reshape perception and even change us. I derive pleasure from poems’ various embodiments of beauty. This is how they are central to my life.

Where do you find your poetry community?

We must make community and tend it. Some of mine have formed by way of invitation, some from classes and workshops. Commitment to a literary press that I admire, Tupelo, has been essential to my growth as a poet these last few years and the focus of my reciprocation. Meantime, local and regional poetry initiatives are often sustained by people who coalesce mutual support and recognition. Overall, the poets with whom I have formed meaningful connections anywhere are learners and teachers who are motivated at their roots by love.

Anything you would like to share about this poem, or something else you

are working on?

Restaurante Ancestral is found at the end of a small stone road near the historical center of Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico. No city has aroused my imagination as has Oaxaca. I’ve written several poems that began during visits there, this one in 2018. I am always impressed with the culture’s relationship with scent/flavor, time/rhythm, to color, mortality, and to myth.

Raised in Minneapolis, the 4th generation on Positively 4th St., Deborah lived many years in Chicago, and is home in Colorado. Her poems are found, five with award recognition, in several journals based in the US, Canada, and Europe. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has led and written widely on behalf of non-profit organizations at work in the US and Mexico. She serves as board officer of a distinctive, 26-year-old independent literary press. Publication history and more may be found here:

-- now accepting submissions for the next issue -- 

© Pine Row Press | privacy policy