Catherine Kyle is the author of Shelter in Place (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), Coronations (Ghost City Press, 2019), and other collections. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Mid-American Review, Bellingham Review, and other journals, and has been honored by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the Alexa Rose Foundation, and other organizations. She works as an assistant professor of English at the College of Western Idaho. Her website is www.catherinebaileykyle.com.
2019-2020 WINNER, COG POETRY AWARDS
All the mirrors in this house show women whose eyes flicker
fire opal in the 5 a.m. light. The faucet is running. The water
is cold. The veins in our wrists hit the water. Pulse cold.
All the bedsheets in this house are summer sky blue. Embalm us
in wildflower petal hues. Colors like gunpowder I could press
into bombs. Could sculpt them with my hands, press them round
as gingersnaps. Could swallow them, erupt into suns.
Stick out your tongue: Let me see what you have eaten. I see: red
and pink pigments, too. You cup my face. My fire opal ring catches
in your hair. We tug. It will not come loose. So we stay like this:
your hands move to the silk at the waist of my nightgown. Me staring
at the cotton candy paint smear of your mouth.
I am pacing in the bedroom and with every footstep,
lupins bloom through floorboards, mauve and blushing blue.
Lily-of-the-valley winds its way down from the ceiling fan.
Dandelions blossom from the pane of my hand mirror.
Soon, I wade calf-deep in them. I tousle my hair. I keep
pacing. Petals fall from rafters like the ash from some great
barn. The horses, I am sure, have all escaped, muscles taut.
Hyacinth is fluttering from all the dresser drawers. I lie
on a bed made of poppies. Lord, if you cover me,
a shadow shaped like man, and trace with your thumbnail
the line that knits my ribs, expect me to unzip. Expect
to find not blood, but hot melted nectar there.
Everywhere you go, you leave beach glass,
smooth and turquoise. Clouded. Opaque as milk.
Everywhere you go, you leave new shards,
too. Ruby snares. Smoldering flint sparks.
I pluck them from the carpet as though
I am picking berries. As though I am gobbling
breadcrumbs. I gather them in clear jars. They glitter
on the windowpanes. I beachcomb. I navigate by stars.
Singing in my silk slip, I grind them up so finely
in mixing bowls with silver whisks, they rustle there
like sand. I sprinkle them in flowerbeds. They fertilize
the soil there. They shimmer to welcome you home.
Sunday. The rain drips down
as if from some great beast. Shaking
her coat. Her hair numen, the sky.
Inside, the furnace growls. Flexes
its flanks. The curled cat flicks her ear
in dreams, a little loaf. She lets
me stroke her hollow throat. I let
her claw my skin. My husband strokes
my hollow throat. And this is what rises
to trust in this world. You and I and she
and all your flannel are ephemeral. Still,
I incant. Hold this light in my hands.