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Michael O'Keefe As an actor, MICHAEL O'KEEFE has garnered both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. He has appeared in the films Michael Clayton, Frozen River, The Pledge, Ironweed, The Great Santini and Caddyshack. Television audiences will remember him as "Fred" on Roseanne. Other TV appearances include The West Wing, Law and Order, House M.D., The Closer and Brothers and Sisters. He's appeared on Broadway in Reckless, Side Man, The Fifth of July and Mass Appeal, for which he received a Theater World Award. As a writer his lyrics were in the Grammy winning song "Longing in their Hearts," which was composed and sung by Bonnie Raitt. He's also written with Irish singer songwriter Paul Brady and numerous other composers. His writing has appeared in BOMB, Lake Affect and Chaparral. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.

Recent Work By Michael O'Keefe

Tolls

By Michael O'Keefe

Poem

(For MG. A.)

We are not much more than water sheathed in skin,
everything passing through us like ships in a thin canal.
Cargoed with expectation, memory and loss,
we levy ourselves with tolls at each juncture.
Visions of us floating on the surface,
heartbeats once faster, now out of sync,
and the unfinished renovations of our home on the shore,
these are the tolls’ foundations.
So when a swan settles onto the waveless bay, I take notice.
Studying its small black mask followed by large white feathers
rushing in the opposite direction of its glide
even toll collectors raise their barriers.
Swans float freely.
Their benevolence is evident and plain.
When it finally lifts off the surface of the bay,
water drips from its wings
leaving tracks in the sky that few see and follow.
Its departure, like yours, is mourned a bit.
Then everything returns to the way it has to be.

I understand you’ve published a first book of poetry but are reluctant to be called “poet.”

Yeah, that’s right. William S. Burroughs was great in Drugstore Cowboy but I wouldn’t call him “actor.”


Who are your poetic influences?

In one sense Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Denis Johnson, William Carlos Williams and a host of others have all had a profound influence on me. In another way my strongest poetic influences are my parents and my endless quest to fathom my own psyche.


How would you describe your poetry?

I wouldn’t describe it. That’s like describing a martini instead of drinking it.


Do you take yourself seriously?

God, that’s a loser question.


If you were to say something that might inspire someone or at least get them to read your poems, come to a reading, or even buy your book what would it be?

I’ve got a puppy and a gun. If you don’t buy my book the puppy dies.


What should people know about you?

My love life looks like an abandoned August Strindberg play. And I stopped excelling as an athlete in sixth grade.


Who was August Strindberg?

Jesus, how did you get this job?


You take the name of ‘God’ and ‘Jesus,’ if not in vain, at least too casually.

This interview is so fucking over.


That’s all the time we have.

Um, my book is called Swimming From Under My Father.


What’s it about?

Sports. You are without a doubt the worst interviewer I’ve ever met.


Thanks. We’re out of time.

You’re repeating yourself.


Tune in next week when I interview actor Michael O’Keefe.

Fat chance.