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Poetry Summer 2021    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Summer 2021


Diana Akhmetianova

Monique Jonath
& other poems

Alix Christofides Lowenthal
Before and After
& other poems

Rebbekah Vega-Romero
La Persona Que Quiero Ser
& other poems

Oak Morse
Incandescent Light That Peeks Through Secrets
& other poems

George Kramer
The Last Aspen Stand
& other poems

Elizabeth Sutterlin
Meditations on Mars
& other poems

Holly Marie Roland
& other poems

Devon Bohm
A Bouquet of Cherry Blossoms
& other poems

Ana Reisens
In praise of an everyday object
& other poems

Maxi Wardcantori
The Understory
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
& other poems

Karen L Kilcup
The Sky Is Just About to Fall
& other poems

Pamela Wax
He dreams of birds
& other poems

Mary Jane Panke
& other poems

a mykl herdklotz
Mouettes et Mastodontes
& other poems

Claudia Maurino
Good Pilgrim
& other poems

Mary Pacifico Curtis
One Mystical Day
& other poems

Tess Cooper
Airport Poem
& other poems

Peter Kent
Congress of Ravens
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
White Women Running
& other poems

Bill Cushing
Creating a Corpse
& other poems

Everett Roberts
& other poems

Susan Marie Powers
Canada Geese
& other poems

Writer's Site

Karen L Kilcup

The Sky Is Just About to Fall

Clean of ash for months, the fireplace’s breathless mouth

            awaits a match. The storms have pivoted, south

                        to north. Black birds disturbed

by shifts in light, in magnetism, whirl as one body

            in carnival arcs; landing, they clatter

                        in shagbarks. In the quirk

of autumn thunderstorms, their cries merge with leaf-

            speckled wind. The cat scatters carcasses

                        about the yard: rabbit’s foot

amid asters, mouse hindquarters beneath rugosas’

            orange hips. The garden feeds the eyes

                        alone: a single cherry tomato bush bears

green stones that never ripen. In these elongating

            months, the ones with an “r,” a growl, I wake

                        to find you gone to dig for oysters,

as if we’re going to starve. Mornings on the marsh

            teams of hunters in camouflage slog

                        through fog, lugging guns,

decoys, blinds, to return at nightfall dangling

            ragged pairs of geese with smoky eyes.

                        You navigate the shallows,

raking muck, mired in certainty. At home you slide

            the curved knife into cracks and shuck,

                        lustrous flesh exposed.

One night, I’m drifting rudderless, alone, along a muddy

            river full of snags. Your cry shipwrecks me:

                        The sky is just about to fall

inside the stairs! We wake between seasons, dizzy

            in thinning light. These days, we compost

                        leaves and leavings.

Warm in our shells, at dusk we walk into darkness.

            Holding hands through gloves, we kiss,

                        lips thick with balm.


His father, a giant man,

made him learn

the art of restoration.

The workshop boasted

racks and racks of screwdrivers,

slotted and torx, Phillips and hex,

and blades for crosscutting

and ripping pine and oak.

Between sips of Scotch

his father measured

his child against

a blunt-edged board,

then switched the screaming

power saw on high—

every cut the perfect length.

The son’s job was to watch and wait.

He absorbed the moods

and vagaries of wood, the way

a table leg could double

as a baseball bat or club

in practiced hands.

And now on weekends he mends engines.

In an antique, perfect world

pistons slip in oiled cylinders

spark plugs fire in order

and wires are never broken.

He crouches in the tiny cavity.

Expertly, he makes himself small

above a bloom of coil and steel,

grasping scraps of crimson flannel

torn in nine-inch squares

to mop up drops of grease or beer.

He believes nothing

can’t be fixed

in time.

The Drinker’s Wife

The red-tailed hawk circles wide,

never lands.

Yet she’s seen its nest lodged

in the crooked maple, a haven

beyond squirrels or human voices.

And who would dare

disturb the eggs?

The bird spirals up,

down, finding drafts

even in breathless

air, making wind visible.

On the days she sees

them both, she wonders

if, like many birds,

hawks pair for life.

How long can the hawk stay

aloft? The twisted maple lifts

the nest. At its base,

rusty barbed wire bites deep

inside its thickening girth.

“As the Sea Develope Pearl,
and Weed”

But only to Himself be known/ The Fathoms they abide—

Emily Dickinson

Erect at the end

of the bed, he stares,

demanding: Who are you?

Who are you?

Another night he shouts,

his face floats and flames,

she’s pressed against the wall,

sucking air. His fist thrusts

beside her ear and opens

a hole in the plaster,

blind black eye.

Her tongue grows thick

from biting it, drowning

his cargo fathoms

deep: nigger, spic,

and jigaboo, faceless names

that anchor her in muck.

By day, his face abrades

her cheek with every kiss.

She hoards the unmentioned

as a thunderhead holds lightning,

as the child’s tongue

seeks her missing tooth,

as the amputee projects

her lopped-off limb, the hand

that cannot grasp.

Still Life: Divorce

A swollen cirrus veil

trails north. For better

or worse, the season’s

turned. It’s the driest fall

in years. The garden leaves

a stunted seedless cantaloupe

split by frost.

In autumn’s bitter changes

I put the flower beds

to rest, and groom

the gravel drive,

imagine setting bulbs

in a broad ring

fattening for May,

daffodils blooming

in a spring shower.

From an arid sky,

snow falls like rice.

Karen L Kilcup I’ve been teaching for over forty years, writing poetry for over thirty. I’m the Elizabeth Rosenthal Professor of American Literature, Environmental & Sustainability Studies, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at UNC Greensboro. My students, who are diverse, generous, inclusive, and imaginative, astonish and educate me. Getting older has its benefits, which include being able to see the (sometimes very painful) past honestly, even ruthlessly.

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