To have it, be it
those mornings when you wake
and cannot turn your head.
The stiff column of your neck & spine
reminding you they exist & of how
limited peripheral vision is & more so
as we age, the eyes becoming nothing but
slits, wide-eyed wonder no more than a phrase.
This is when you wish for it &, too,
when winter comes ferocious, making its demands:
the coat, the gloves, the hat, the scarf, the boots,
the wariness of ice, press of snow, hands lying
chapped in your lap every evening.
&, lastly, when hungry, that particular ache.
You see it as a flame, some carryover from those Sundays
when you accompanied your mother & served
as acolyte, good girl. The lit candle hovering
is what you imagine, wish to be. Only wind would frighten
or the wet pinch of fingers, nothing more. & not often.
The ease, the ease, & the weightlessness you try for those
days when you walk the house & gather items & drive a mile
to give them away!
Sometimes, in certain settings, you near it:
the ascent into air, the descent into water, those
temporary states. But only sometimes & so briefly.
You dream of a room with one window & white walls,
a bed, a chair, a desk, three books, paper, pen,
the one painting no more than 8 X 8. & still too much
too often. You ask if three is too many, if the image
could rather, instead, be only recalled. If the words need
What is it you wish to cast off?
What more could you disown?
Argue without sense. Just the furor of the bee’s sting
and subsequent weeping. Quick anger and tears, the stopped
phrase, mid-sentence. I do not want. Or: go ahead and.
Tear the pages out in the middle and near the end, where it gets interesting.
She walks offstage and doesn’t return and we ask, What became of her?
Not even a few lines, like in Shakespeare, about her death. Nothing. Last you heard,
she had moved to Texas and wrote with sadness of the never-ending flatness.
Sure, there were sunsets, but.
Way out on the peninsula, there was no service. Even in the town,
before the logging roads, red and wet, nothing.
People used actual maps, folded in haphazard ways, and tried not to think
of the movies they had seen or the books they had read featuring disappearance,
absence, the answer
the cheeky comment in ink on the glossy page,
and another, on the back of a photo. There on the shelf, there
in a box.
And the three-legged stool with its spinning top, no accompanying keys. There
in the corner.
And the white plates and bowls parceled,
stacked in the back of the cabinet.
One, two, and three.
One, two, and three.
And the skin of a berry
or a fruit. Hanging limp on the tree,
lying, gutted, on the cutting board. Or
Kelly R. Samuels
Kelly R. Samuels lives and works as an adjunct English instructor near what some term the “west coast of Wisconsin.” Her work has appeared in PoetsArtists’s JuJuBes, online at apt, Off the Coast, and Cleaver, and is forthcoming in Kestrel.
High School Lunch
My father made me a sandwich for lunch every day,
carefully put the turkey, cheddar, lettuce and mayo
on the sourdough, then zipped it up in a Ziploc.
And every day during orchestra, I slipped the sandwich
into the whooshing plastic of a black trashcan, or palmed
it off to a friend. Those feinted days, when I almost fainted
in the hallways, eating less than three hundred calories.
Once, my father made a spaghetti dinner—the last
he’d cook for us as a family—and I refused to eat
anything but Special K. His dish crashed into the sink
and my mother ran after him (then, she still could).
I held the shards in my hands; the pasta sauce
coated them like coagulated blood. That was
the first time in my life that I felt regret,
true regret, the kind that’s parasitic
and coils up in you like a tape worm,
eating through your intestines,
inside out. The kind that swims
around in your stomach when you wake
covered in the lilacs and butterflies
of your childhood bed, to come downstairs
and find your mother, alone, crying.
The kind that feels like the frozen lace
of love covering your heart
when your aunts are waiting for you at the airport
in Seattle, instead of your mother’s friend,
and they sit you down in those grey vinyl chairs
by baggage claim. You don’t want to look
at them. You want to watch the carousel
until it’s one with painted horses that never
stops spinning. You hop on, grab
a magenta mane, and hold as tight
as your tiny hands will let you.
Visiting my mother’s memory on a stormy Friday night
I stare at the reflection
in the candle, aimlessly,
until it hits me—it looks
like my mother’s eye,
dark as the sea in a storm,
grey and sad but inquisitive.
Then I realize, it’s actually
the matting of our portrait
that I took in college,
in the reflection, of us
in matching outfits,
mounted on my wall.
The cancer had gotten worse
then; she’d started fearing
death for the first time.
When I asked her
that winter where
she wanted her ashes
spread, she said
she didn’t know,
maybe the Grand Canyon,
where she and my dad
were wed, maybe
she spent much
of her childhood,
just outside Los Alamos,
then looked me
in the eyes
and just cried.
I held her until
she fell asleep;
stuck to the pillow
The next morning,
when I kissed her goodbye
and flew away,
it would be
the last time
I’d see her smile.
Kelsey Ann Kerr
Kelsey Ann Kerr has a great interest in loss: holes both metaphorical and physical of the heart, holes in life left by the loss of parents, cauterized by love. She teaches writing composition at the University of Maryland and American University, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in “Stirring,” “New Delta Review” and “The Sewanee Review,” among others.
The first time she fucked a machine, there was some uncomfortable pinching. But it was momentary, corrected after a few thrusts by a data-driven recalibration. The second time was much better. The machine had measured her depths, tested her temperature, listened to the tempo of her breaths, and now it slid into her with the smooth precision of a crescent moon turning in circles for the sun. And the money was incredible. Impossible to beat. She could show up for two study visits a week and spend the rest of her time lounging around the hacienda with her fat black lab, Queero, painting and having languid encounters with lovers of the human variety.
But lately, something was different. She was starting to crave the feeling of the machine’s slithery suit sliding across her skin—the softest organic polymers yet, they said. The other night, Juno came over and seduced her. As they fell to the bed with mouths full of blue agave, tonguing the circles of tequila’s heat, she caught herself listening for the soft purrs of the machine’s sensors transmitting data back to its central server, missing the rhythmic hum of cooling fans spinning behind glassy eyes. After Juno left, she sat on the porch in an old flannel robe, feet tucked under Queero, staring out across the bay. The night was clear, no fog, and there were thousands of drones flying above the waves in coordinated fashion. Manufactured by the same company as the machine. Her machine? God, only two more days until she would see it again. Queero started to snore and she decided there was nothing wrong with drinking alone.
kt farley is an errant daughter of Deseret, birthed by pioneers along the red risk lines of the Wasatch Fault. To humor the gods and keep life’s unavoidable balances in the black, kt spends her days working as an attorney and thinking and talking about bioethics and clinical research. Before making the trek over Donner’s peak and settling in Berkeley, kt taught courses in gender studies, queer theory and trans* studies at the University of Utah. kt lives full time with three woodland nymphs (a boy, a woman, and a man who strangely all have the same diminutive waist size), two cats, one naughty dog, and several despicable South American Cichlids.