Issue IX, Volume IV : May 2013
Katrina Roberts has published three collections of poems (How Late Desire Looks, The Quick, and Friendly Fire); her fourth collection Underdog is forthcoming from the University of Washington Press as part of the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series. Roberts is the Mina Schwabacher Professor of English & Humanities at Whitman College, where she directs the Visiting Writers Reading Series. She and her husband Jeremy Barker are the founders of Tytonidae Cellars, and the Walla Walla Distilling Company, the first micro-distillery in southeast Washington state (where they live on a small farm with their three young children).
My boy wakes from the one with the fanged skunk who eats
men, his white halo pasted to his creased face, wet
from the chase. Earlier, they opened the cage door
but the grasshopper stayed.
Agapanthus, love flower, lily of the Nile…
We made our own reasons, wrote our own laws in a book
buried nobody knows where. Eating dirt.
Let the boat drift on black water. No oars. The way it seems
his father needs something antibacterial three days after drinking
from the thin creek that slides through yellow wheat. Yes,
the color is simple. Up above, Aberdeens swing
swaying on their four sturdy Angus hooves each.
Such freighted charges; I can’t carry this anger any further.
Let go let go let go.
Which wind bends over the blades whispering “grow”?
I have mine dress on, she says, twirling.
My boy wakes from the one with the Timpani of clouds.
Kind of pooky, those big drums, she says. Mell this, extending
the stem. Agapanthus.
This is the concept of thunder, he says, agile in daylight
—the younger of brothers, pointing
to something he’s colored: a yellow square. This.
Swimming back toward each other we are.
Nothing harder than putting an animal down. Nothing?
You can be the King of Kindness, I say. My
Underdog. My Rover in the water. Come here…
Where the grasses lie down at their feet.
Where the grasses lie down from their feet walking over.
This damselfly, soft pigment crush of blue iridescent oil.
Only then might we return.
The children prop the door
but the grasshopper stays.
How long they wait, their soft
the mesh… we’ll see. I spy
from my window
to note if anyone has moved.
I am the cage
they flew from not so long ago.
Not one of us breathes.
we’re breathing again.
The hopper, his green
assemblage of legs—poised.
His small soul already
risen? This fragile husk…
He sits, more stilly for
being watched… unwavering.
Barking, a car alarm. The scent
of vanilla reaching my face
the tightly closed oven door.
When I look back
he’s gone. And the children
too, scattering like beads
Tonight the needle grinds its way toward some central end
and in its wavering trail, a sound that swells
to fill the gap you feel. Existential emptiness, eh?
Nipper, your tail thumping softly, head cocked, what do
you hear? Or, whom, I should say, though we know
the answer: his master’s voice…
From where? What patterns our minds? We whirl
always counterclockwise, maybe, or… turn
to see his face before rushing out into it – the sea
or rain, or social fray. I’m with you, pup. Each day, in
fact, I find in unexpected minutes, my mind spins toward
the man—Oh, I’ll call! What would he make of this
ethereal Deco trumpet of glowing petals, this moon-
flower open before me, for instance, like the ear
or maw of Edison’s phonograph anchoring
you there… then stop with a start
to recall—he’s dead. Gone away, wherever that is.
Sometimes I turn my head ever so slightly, late,
very late at night when he played solitaire chess
a continent away, and I think hard about him -- his
body, yes, ashes scattered across grass that surely
this Spring has begun to grow soft beneath
Monadnock’s snowy promontory… but his mind,
can’t not still be spinning within or far overhead, or
here in molecules all around me. I’m dizzy
with him, can’t get off, still willing to let the cylinders roll
if it brings me closer to him. We’re making sense
of absence, aren’t we? You, back in a day of lathe dogs,
mandrels, and Carnauba. And me? I’m listening
through something called “ear pods.” Hush, my love.
to Dr. Johnson,