top of page

Kate Kearns

Back at the Party


I’m salsa dancing with my dad again, his hands

bounce mine toward him and away,


a parallel track our feet follow.

I’m nervous at dancing, being seen dancing,


and his lead keeps me moving.

It’s the birthday party we all remember


because Jan dressed as Bette Midler and

rolled in on a table pushed by handsome waiters,


her arms diva-wide, a hibiscus in her ear.

My dad, a brother to her, only needed a Hawaiian shirt


to become Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. 

It’s come forward, that party, ten years since he’s gone.


For the first time, I’ve written him

and not the loss of him


which is the same age

as the granddaughter, my daughter, he just missed meeting.


His ghost, her invisible twin.

Here’s the thing about burial—what the burying


does—the ground takes the whole of him,

the broken hand never explained,


the countless, money-fraught wrongs, into the dark

to root. It takes a long time.


But today, the party’s back.

We’ve moved toward each other again.


My sister and I, some cousins our age,

remember it, too. We keep it in the air with us.


I want to think when I’m long part of the earth,

my daughter’s memory of me, mine of him


in its pocket, will return to her. We’ll all of us

take root again as better versions of ourselves,


wide and tenacious, nourishing

as dandelions signaled back in spring.


Personal Essay on Intimacy


The woman who has cut my hair forever       

washes it in the usual sink, and,         

as I’m sitting up, presses

towel-covered fingers in my ears

dries that uncomfortable pool,           

deft as a habit.

She’s got the moment timed exactly right,                 

my head upward but not quite.          

Our custom is older than my marriage.          

Has she been doing that all along                  

and I only noticed today?       

She must do it for everyone. Even so,

it’s a comfort she doesn’t have to give            

and I didn’t know I needed,   

a touch apart from love,

loving all the same.


Lately I Worry There’s Nothing Left to Notice in My Everyday Days


I came out of the grocery store and there was a star,


not the brightest and


            likely not a star at all, yellowish


            as a syrupy, overripe pear

                        which is shaped like a mother,

                        belonging to the earth.


I got in the car anyway, milk replenished.


Cheerios on the high up shelf,


bananas in the blue bowl


            on the blue laminate counter

            we mean to and mean to replace.


I went back out to see it again


            but it had taken its light


someplace else.


Somebody tell me what that citrus in the sky was


I only know

what I wanted it to be.


I remind myself over and over that a bell needs


            empty air around it


or it won’t make a sound,

that unproductive wonder


            is also abundance,


savory and sharp as the navel, off-center in the orange.


Love Poem to my School Friends



You’re the single I’ll buy again


every time the player changes,


the cassette worn with rewinding,


renewed to shine and spinning.


You’re Vision of Love in the cloud,


where I can’t see you, but know


you’re there—


girls, you’re Waterfalls.



Kate Kearns is the author of You Are Ruining My Loneliness (Littoral Books, 2023) and How to Love an Introvert (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Kate’s work has appeared in Maine Women Magazine, the Maine Sunday Telegram “Deep Waters” section and Maine Public’s “Poems from Here”. Her poems have also been published in Salamander, Peregrine, Northern New England Review, Sugar House Review and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from Lesley University. Learn more at


bottom of page