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Winter 2001, Volume 18.2

Poetry

 

Katherine Davisphoto of katherine Davis.

 

Katherine Davis holds a Ph.D. in English from Duke University and is a freelance writer and part-time instructor at Idaho State University. She has poems forthcoming in CutBank and Anthology and has published prose in Henry Street and American Literature. She is pictured here at the grave of Calamity Jane in Deadwood, South Dakota.


Rella

From the silent canopy,
she would slip—
down the narrow stair
to where bright pans
dangled overhead.
 
She would like to
touch their silky
rims, the blunt edge
of butcher block,
press skins of
onion to smooth
flesh.
 
She no longer knew
knives in her hand
or the rounded bottoms
of apples bobbing
in a dish.
 
Perhaps if she wished
again with the aid
of gourds and rats,
the old life would come
back, dusting her head
with ashes, her knees
with scabs.
 
Then her smoke would
rise from embers
into frigid air.

 

Briar Rose

Like a snip of hair
in a locket, Briar Rose
was bound by desire—
pale men pursed her
name in pillows, stroked
goose-down comforters
until they cried for
the red flower in their
bosoms. They thrust hot
ears to the wind, pushed
trembling fingers into
bushes full of tacks
to reach the faraway
labyrinth, the cradle
of tenderest fruit.
 
On the other side of
the thicket, inhabitants
were indifferent, except
for the duck now snoozing
on the kitchen floor.
 
A few feet away, the cook
stayed with blade in her
hand, hungering for roast
scent, a trickle of juice.

 

Snow White

Years later, she wrote menus
and took naps. On rainy
afternoons, she crept to
the attic where the glass
coffin was kept, to look
at the face still so pale,
the hair now white with
regret. The apples in her
cheeks had disappeared.
In their place were other
enviable gifts: a smokehouse
filled with ribs, drawers
of linen, necklaces to
decorate the throat above
her dress. What more could
she ask for after the poison
was kissed from her lips?
The prince pretended not
to resent the dreams which
shattered the peace of their
bed: the hunter snapping
twigs in her wake, the tight
laces, the venomous comb,
half of the fruit falling
to the floor, the gasps
she could not stem.

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