2011 Wild and Wyrd Poetry Chapbook Contest
In Three Acts
Beyond this frame an empty prison. Preserved.
A ruin display.
The mirror and I are becoming friends. We have coffee over the idea penitentiary. I
cannot stabilize my age.
When an incarceration is released of inmate, is it poem?
Place and time are also becoming friends, I hear them, but over the wall.
Absolute solitary was piloted as a charitable rehabilitative practice. Hoods over
heads, eating in isolation, force of silence.
Individual postage-stamp exercise yards. Statistically relevant suicides.
Swelling city, overcrowding, white neighborhood, stench (heating and sewage
conduits placed—new engineering—side-by-side). It closes.
Near-feral cats in corridors willed to vine. A caretaker with bowls of cream.
Do we ever know what we will do to those in our power? Sade. If I seek not to use
power, does that leave more power available to its seekers?
A body rots severally inside rusted conundrums.
Exposed root, crumbling plaster, vault, drifting snow, bed frames upended like racks.
Or maybe more like—now like—cellos.
On youtube, on a woman, flogging. Subtitles read, “It is to be 63 lashes.” Someone
She keeps pleading for her mother, there is laughter, a pattern on the back of her robes is
like a target.
Someone is telling her to sit down and put her legs out in front of her.
A car she seeks refuge against. Bright dirt.
Dance teaches this little: what scant thing video has to tell me of a moment. Of
movement. The suppression of movement.
I do not know what the gap is between video and other realities.
(Note: try to remember youtube, video, notetaking, the real.)
I may have been pregnant once. Three times. The woman, she may have been an
adulterer. A lesbian. An intellectual. I don’t see.
I worry about my own offense. Scuffling in the bright dirt.
Butterfly effect—chaos is a theory. I agree we should worry, Wilde. I agree we cannot,
Assange. The whips stir air I will feel some day.
And the air I stir?
I agree. I digress, I concur, I reject.
Am I, Mother, animal? Of course—I am.
A window was offered to the least among them.
On its sill a book. More a pamphlet: autobiography of the first ever saint. The selfhagiography
read from during her beatification.
Sit here at the window. Read how St. Ipolyta chained the baby sea turtles to her sides,
how she encouraged them to drag her bit-by-bit to the ocean.
Read of their failure, the lolling of their fingerling heads into the hot sand.
Read of her disgrace, remorse, redemption.
On the sill, perch to discover how she came to know that two dozen infant turtles were a
Mine by fault and final ordination. I remember the pulse of
eggs in the late sun, their vital push. Beaky mouths rending
what was hard — only then to strive impossibly toward surf.
To have them take me impossibly with them, to quarter me, to
make me chum: I caught them.
But first, myself. With fishhooks I pierced the sides of an
emaciated body like a seam. I bound hooks to chain, chain to
other hooks, and these I sent into the brave fumblers. They’d
no shoulders for yoking but only divots of regret where I
punctured what was not yet hard...
It was then they began their dyings — tiny, errant tugs along
my bloodied edges.
My unspreading form was their first, last constellation: I lay
before their fading as before God now — goliath of fastening.
Read how she wore them as they rotted to rosary. How the fishy stench she covered with
constant lemon. How she avoided all clatter of desiccated shells.
It was her penance: slowest possible motion. Wiles of micro-movement.
The turtles mattered less. It was, the book explains, her belief was the miracle—the heart
she proved. Tremendously slow-beating also. It was a task ascertaining her death, as she
kept startling the grievous with sighs.
Here is an apple. Leave the core just there beside the window. And the tract.
Time is a quality of movement. Every thing will be taken care of.
is the author of two books of poetry: A Beautiful Name for a Girl and Unfathoms. Her first novel, Sleight, is scheduled to be published
by Coffee House Press in October 2011. She has earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and is currently a doctoral fellow in dance
at Temple University. Kirsten lives with her three sons and their father in Philadelphia, where she works with words, bodies, and when she is lucky—other people.