Alms for the Ravens / Joseph Geskey


Alms for the Ravens

poems by

Joseph Geskey

~98 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: July/August, 2024

An Advance Sale Discount price of $10 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $14/book (which includes shipping & sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Mint Hill, NC 28227. 

PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Joseph Geskey is a dual board-certified Internal Medicine & Pediatrics physician who resides with his family in Dublin, Ohio. He obtained his Doctor of Osteopathy degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has published poetry in JAMA, Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, and many other literary journals. His poetry has been included in the anthology, Uncharted Lines: Poems from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alms for the Ravens examines how our spirits are weighed down by the frailties of our bodies and those beliefs that serve no purpose beyond upholding injustice. As Geskey writes, these poems do “not anesthetize pain, or provide[s] easy understanding, but compel[s] urgency.” The work is enriched with nods to Dante, Darwin, Bukowski and more. This voice is original, the language crisp, and his call to living a reconsidered life is loud and clear. ~Jane Edna Mohler, Poetry Editor, Schuylkill Valley Journal


Joseph Geskey’ Alms for the Ravens is a compelling meditation on life, decay, dying, and renewal viewed through a physician’s unflinching eyes. Throughout, Geskey calls on ancient myth, religion, science, Keats, Samuel Johnson, James Wright and a host of parents and children for wisdom and insight into the mystery of existence. As he writes in “Praying to Another God,” “to the craving spirits,/whose cells mock religion/and await the Paeans of the earth,/either living or dead.” Through it all, he looks to the natural world–birds, trees, even the flower that grows through a crack in concrete–for comfort and understanding, proclaiming to the reader that life persists. ~Bill Schulz, Editor, Hole in the Head Review

Alms for the Ravens


I walk among the Plain people
as an emerald sea of cornstalks
rustle under azure skies,

beneath which Percherons preen
for but an instant, until calloused hands,
thick and soiled, snap purpose back in their ways.

Their steward is a bronzed man
with an argent beard who tips
the straw hat he wears heavenward

and dabs rivulets of sweat
from his corrugated forehead,
etched like commandments in clay.

His plow stitches a quilt
of alfalfa, wheat, and corn
through the shrinking fertile land,

harvested by another kind of farmer:
housing developers who visualize
a different form of green.

I stand on the periphery,
between the asphalt highways
and earthen crops,

where heavy machinery absorbs
the hymns of a self-contained
community singing at day’s funeral,

as the conflagration lit by greed
leaves ashes,
serving as alms for the ravens.



Amish Farm


He awakens at four a.m. and lights
A hurricane lamp, its saffron flame silhouetting
Him against an anthracitic night,

Watching the rain wash the earth’s feet
As he gets dressed in his black trousers
And suspenders, lining up the hooks and eyes

Of his work coat before walking outside
To the wood barn filled with musty hay
And manure readying to milk his cows.

Later, this steward of an inherited garden
Will steer mules over limestone soil and plow
The land like fingers panning for earthly gold

Before seeding the ground with corn and wheat,
Alfalfa and tomatoes, never using its yield
For simony, working until twilight,

When the cicadas will sing vespers
And he will be ready to fall asleep,
The ache in his muscles a reward from above.



Hippocratic Oath


I see solitary medical students
poring over stacks of books in libraries,
conference rooms, and tables,
their heads bowed in concentration,
dressed in white jackets while they wait
for their next page, a monk’s lifelong vow
to always be on-call for the body’s ministry.

They will doctor psoriatic and pock-marked
patients who feel leprous in their disposition,
generously doling out balms of ointments
so it can be spread like a chrism over their afflictions
since they may have been quarantined
from a lover’s touch by those with only
a superficial understanding of beauty.

They will be reminded of the deadly sins
And how something as sweet as sugar can fill
Hospital wards like a battlefield of amputees
Screaming in pain from phantom limbs,
Offering a kind of proof when you have a crisis
Of faith in how you can believe
In something that is not there.

They will also see those swayed by temptation,
Caring for teenage women at a time
Hormones and romantic literature converge
On bodies that too easily trusted a faux poet’s
Sweet words, or a vagabond musician’s melody,
And will never forget the labor screams
That begets a second child’s needs.

Even those who are atheists should honor
The Golden Rule, as illness will do unto them
As it does unto others, so when the body
finally rebels against the doctor’s bag
they can gather on the soft bank of pillows,
the body awash in a gentle stream of morphine,
experiencing the last right of their calling.



Daily Commute


Driving at dawn where the optical
illusion of a purple sunrise enlivens
your commute around Labor Day,
the light erasing night’s black slate,
bringing cornstalks, combines, houses,
and an occasional tree into sharper view.
Reading the daily digital edition of rural news—
gas prices, coffee specials and the miles left
to travel to your destination. Thinking
about two watts of power, the heart’s electrical
output, five times less than a cell phone
charger that keeps you connected to
everyone’s needs. Coming home tired,
witnessing the orange sunset from pollution
and particles that scatter and filter the waning
light, careful to give wide berth to the emergency
service vehicles and the funeral processions
you seem to notice more often these days,
and the mixed feelings of realizing soon you
won’t have to worry about the spotty reception.

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