This one was bad:
I’m in bed with someone,
I don’t know who,
and I’m wrestling
with sweaty sheets. My mother,
who is sleeping in another bed,
has run to the bathroom, to vomit
endlessly. I can’t see her but can
hear the awful river, hear someone
saying your mother’s sick, so sick.
I can’t move, can only listen.
Was it the sad poems I heard
last night at the Zoom reading?
More reports from Ukraine, with all
the twisted bodies lying untended
on a rural road as trees leaf out?
Guilt for not being home when she died,
left me, for good and not for good?
This cold April morning, when the rising
sun first blares in the north window again—
summer’s coming—I climb the steep
stairs to my office, only five years younger
than she was at last, and find her
everywhere: in the ivory and rose
and teal prayer carpet; her trapezoidal
business sign for Foremost Builders;
the rush-seated chair, its ribbon back
incised with hearts; her child’s wooden
footstool with tombstone ends,
painted antique green.
In Praise of Mistaken Identity
Goldie Hawn and Sandy Duncan were not my idols,
and I was irritated when people told me I resembled them.
Didn’t they resemble me? Perhaps it was just the haircut.
Taking compliments at face value isn’t easy
when you’re young. Look outside yourself,
for a change. The red-breasted nuthatch looks
like the white-breasted nuthatch, just a little more ruddy.
Yesterday, as I stood gazing at the lilac’s spent lavender,
a wren landed, rustling. Then spun and launched toward me
at eye level, a winged missile that landed on my hat.
Did I look like a fence post? When I stirred, the wren
took off, pulling me up into the sugar maple, singing.
Salisbury Redemption Center, Early 80s
Outside, the yellow banner:
Open for Business.
The stained screen door moans,
its spring broken. Behind the counter,
a colorless kid, with transparent brows,
shows us all The Way.
In tin can heaven, everything
is segregated: separate bins
for plastic orange seltzer bottles,
aluminum Budweiser cans.
No grace necessary, just a quick flick
of the irreverent wrist.
A couple shoulders in,
D.A. and bouffant blonde, greased
and glued in place, both still stuck
in the 50s. Here the original sin’s
dented and dirty merch, for everything
should be saved. The kid shuts shop
at six sharp. My redemption’s
a buck and change.
Farm girl, rock climber, and professor, Karen Kilcup feels fortunate to be getting old. Her forthcoming book of poems, winner of the 2021 Winter Goose Poetry Prize, is titled The Art of Restoration.