Ingrid Keriotis: in touch with life and nature

Ingrid Keriotis received her MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University in 2000.  She teaches English at Modesto Junior College and raises her two daughters, Zoe and Eleni, with her husband, Dimitri. She has been previously published in Quercus Review, Song of the San Joaquin and Alehouse.  The last remaining wild places of California inspire her when she can flee to them, as does the rural world of orchards near her home in Modesto. She is a card carrying member of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Tuolumne River Trust.


The only naptime sound
is my chopping of garlic
as careful blade meets board.

Before me the view
of the first paper-thin petals
in the bee-swabbed almond
popping from the bud
and torn branches strewn
from the wild storm
that brought me my daughter
three weeks ago.

So quiet
when she sleeps
like feathers at rest
the hands of the monk
in his robbed lap
the blossoms papering the mud
with white dots of translucent veins.

Her face
so at peace
my seasoned hands’ rhythm
all that breaks the silence
that holds her like a vase
her life
that even the dictators,
the soldiers without tenderness
so pure in their newborn sleep
eyelids white as doves.

This silence is the absence of
chatting birds in the orchards
the excitement
of knowing
how soon it will begin again.


Last august
mad to heal,
incision splitting me in half
sore breasts a shield
I couldn’t see
the lake ringed with mountains

I simply walked the stones.

This august
my husband and one-year-old
in wet sand
I stroll
my feet a light boat
in soft waves.

I hear the shrieks of children’s beach chaos,
see wind dipping fingers
into choppy water
watch blackbirds land
on long stalks of dry grass,
with the birds’ energy.

My eyes fall
upon the shaggy blue head
of a wind-pummeled
poking out of
the dirt
to feel
the sandy breeze.

May for Zoe

The oaks by the river
wait for me
to breathe them in again
as I did in the early days
before the bed rest,
when I would tell you
about spring

how in California it comes
like the contractions
three months premature:
your home pushing in on you,
the pressure
of each wave.

I imagine you emerging
into a world of daisies
and pollution,
almond orchards
and unending asphalt highways,
and unchartered

I stare for a moment
at the lines in my own long, tanned fingers
and recall
the forgotten home
I left
inside my own mother--
the now quiet
place for me
she carries with her still.


Roses on our table,
petals pooling beneath their vase,
you say only now
you appreciate
We never should have let
the others die,
the pink ones belonging to the old woman.

I stand here
thinking of yesterday,
the professor who died
barring the gunman at the door
to let his students leave out the windows.
And of Tibetan sculptures of butter
melting in the sun,
a peach so soft
it spills.

I remember
a friend’s words,
“the softest thing in the universe
overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.”
At nineteen, I did not understand.

Now I know
your hands
touching mine,
the tender skin of my daughter’s face,
how my life will also settle
like a feather.

What would we call life
if it didn’t end?
Would it have a name,
would we
call it something
if it was always ours?


Poised on the horizon,
the winter sun blinks between the high rises
that make dark lines on a blue sky.

Where are the circular forms,
the soft textures,
the delicate
of grasses touching legs?

Subsumed by a hungry time,
patches of dirt, old knobby snags
are seen as useless
as blunt knives.

Few notice cracks
in the sidewalk yielding
new green
only the children
in muddy puddles
their faces shining
with temptation.

Stinson Afternoon

Today the ocean tide
was a picture of sky
and the sandpipers dashed
with their toes in the clouds.

You were at home & I was alone
with the wandering dogs,
the wind,
the broken pieces
of shells.

I watched a child
stand on tiptoes to carry
her pail full of sand and sea.
She worked, lost in the making
of pies and walls,