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Fall 2000, Volume 18.1

Poetry

 

Katie KingstonPhoto of Katie Kingston.


Katie Kingston is the recipient of the 1998 Colorado Council on the Arts Literary Fellowship in Poetry. She has published in various literary magazines including Puerta del Sol, Blue Mesa Review, Ellipsis, Southwestern American Literature, and High Country News. Her poems have also appeared in several anthologies. She received her M.F.A. in Writing at Vermont College and currently teaches poetry at Trinidad State College in Colorado.
See other poetry written by Katie Kingston and published in WeberVol. 10.2,   Vol. 13.3  and Vol. 24.1.

 

Ludlow Massacre Photography Exhibit

One keeps me coming back, a boy
lying on a cot, his hands folded in prayer,
his arms connected by the interlace of fingers.
He could be sleeping except that his face
is too perfect, his body too straight,
in a suit he's never worn before, too long
at the wrists. Someone gave it to the mother
 
after they told her he'd gone for water,
but caught a bullet from the striker's line
instead. Touching the grayness, I wonder
if he lurched from his dugout
and ran, thinking he would return,
a sort of hero with a bucket of water,
or was he sent into the sunlight
in hopes that strikers and militia
would not rival over the young?

He could be my own son, the one
who brings me slivers and torn
sleeves. Black suit coat, black pants,
black hair, a lounge of white wood
covered in black upholstery beneath him,
the kind of furniture used back then
to lay dead on. The gray door behind him
with a darker gray knob and black
where the key should go. The papered wall
repeats the flowers, gray stems
and black petals on white.
Flat white sky above the white streets.
My gray face looking out.


 
Thirteenth Juror, The Alternate

The man pleads not guilty by reason
of insanity
as I listen to his story
unravel, how the rock smashed
into the cheek, left him with the gun
and power to take money, cars, lives,
sex. And just last week my mother looked
at the sassy blue sky, said the long plumes
of jet smoke were her favorite, the way
they formed white crosses on the forehead
of day. How blue, how strange,
she sighed leaning to the window
to enjoy light like I have never seen her enjoy
anything before, while I wondered
at the first prayers she taught me, Our Father,
Hail Mary,
how I learned to send them
skyward with pointed fingers, so that now
they must still be floating up there
close to those wisps of jet exhaust.
And the people inside—seat belts loose,
chair backs tilted, trays down, balancing
iced drinks and copies of Sports Illustrated,
House Beautiful, Newsweek,
—unaware
they are passing faded prayer
trailing off in efferent direction,
while I try to decide sane or insane
of this man shackled to the courthouse
chair who forced oral sex
from an eighteen year old night clerk twice,
three times, then admits he is too tired,
too drunk, to come. How she wept
naked in a stranger's wisteria bush
until she could walk to the door and plead
for clothes, justice, warmth, water. Flesh
still attached to her hands, breasts, vagina,
the anus where he held the gun; flesh
attached to tongue and lips, where he pressed
the cold barrel. That girl with red rim eyes
walks past him to reach the witness chair.
And now he says, I would like to meet that girl
again, apologize to her some day.

 

Fingerbirds

I grew up in a kitchen
full of cutting boards,
the kind you pull out and leave
out all night with noodles
drying in chalky flour.
I'd sit under these, my sky
a wooden lid, my space
small and isolated, watching
the nylon legs of my mother,
her hem of blue gingham
move from drawers to sink
to stove and back again.
One Sunday, after church,
I crouched there with my sister's
new white gloves changing
my hands to finger birds
that would flutter and dive,
and fly away the length
of my arm. I hid at knee level
from my mother's eyes,
while my sister cried
into her own bare hands
on the back steps. With each sob
she peeled the wallpaper
away, strip after long narrow
strip, then fell asleep
with her head propped
against sepia swirls of dried paste
that my mother had dabbed
and brushed to hold pastel
ballerinas in arabasque
above our heads. Now these women
rummage through my dreams,
my nightmares. My mother calls
to tell me I forget things now,
but today she remembers
to call me daughter and asks
for the chicken recipe, the one
with wine vinegar and soy sauce.
After the disconnecting click,
I wonder if she still stares
into the Mulberry branches,
its berries ripening to purple
smudges on her sidewalk
as crickets promise more rain
in their trivia voices. I think
I should go back, place my hands
in the yellow gloves, scour
her porcelain sink, wring soap
water from dish rags, place
lemon rinds and orange husks
with compost. Instead, I listen
to snow fall on snow, several inches
this Sunday, that I had planned
to set onions and coriander slightly
underground. I pick up my leather gloves
creased with black soil, and pull
their rough skin over my knuckles, decide
to plant anyway, to brush snow away,
to pile straw over earth.
 

Winter Light Grieving on Porcelain
for Shaun
 

 Back Steps
 
I walk up the paper stairwell
into my childhood, an umber passage
lifting me like a deep voice
from all my life towards you couldn't
have known.
I pass the picture
of my sister, Snow Queen, in satin
white and silver tiara, then my own picture
with two cousins in white
middy blouses, kilts, and oversized
gold safety pins that hold
the wool flaps closed over our thighs.
  
Bedroom
 
My student, the dead one,
keeps rising up through this remnant
of day. Brown eyes, brown hair,
his casual voice, How are you doing?
as if nothing's changed.
No gutted Blazer in Vegas,
no body on Raton Pass,
no balloons floating over
our cemetery. His photograph
on my wall—striped shirt, even smile,
honest lip—taunts an eye
for an eye, while twin embryos,
revenge and hatred,
struggle in my womb, press
their tiny heels into my rib,
so sure of birth.

Attic
 
A peculiar water filters through sky. Its lisp
travels the slanted roof,
the single gable. Three hundred silent snowflakes
gather on the ledge. This is not
your normal photo. Someone left the lens cover on.
Black on black. I pour through more photos
looking for sanity in the shutter eye.
I drape the soft blue quilt, patches of worn denim
seamed with my daughter's needle,
over my lap. I'll never understand the word
chilblain, only the sound it makes on my skin.

 

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