Sunday Jul 14

YoungKatherineE Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist (U of Arkansas P) and two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, and others. Young is also the translator of Two Poems by Inna Kabysh (Artist’s Proof Editions); her translations of Russian poets Xenia Emelyanova and Inna Kabysh won third prize in the Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender competitions in 2014 and 2011, respectively. In 2015 she was named a Hawthornden Fellow. Her website can be found here.

Leaving Home

Leaving home—my husband’s house—
I lose myself, baffled by streets
bearing names I no longer know,
their curves and contours couched in shadow,
each Eden, El Dorado, Elm
a sign signaling simply “Exit.”
Slipping beneath the city’s skin,
I discover bluegrass, blues, jazz bars,
burr of scotch, whiskey with soda,
I meet a man—many men—
feel fingers flense my face, smell
the way flesh melts into midnight
in temporary rooms. Recently,
I dreamed of home, my husband’s back
partitioning the bed: unbreached,
unbreachable. Here, when it rains,
the skylight weeps; the sink gnaws
its own enamel. Near the window,
an amaryllis arrays itself
anxiously. “So much need,”
my husband once said, in disbelief—
so much needless grief.


When his knuckles graze my cheek,
the blow lands soft, almost gentle,
as if he’s decided in midair
to take it back, but can’t stop.
Most people keep eating; one couple
eyes us from the corner banquette.
An unvoiced o sticks in my throat,
suspended, as if trapped in amber.
Legs, wings viscid with resin,
cluster of eyes filming, fixing,
extinguishing: I pretend—like
the waiter – that nothing’s happening.

Postcards from the Floating World


I cry out. His words
fall, petals on the ocean,
blossoms in a storm.


I cry out. His eyes
flicker, luckless, entangled
in the streetlight’s net.


I cry out. His lips
fold up like birds’ broken wings
tensed against his mouth.


I cry out. His hands
claw fierce, wild, deeper than pain
cradling my face.