Jan/Feb 2013 Poetry

Three Poems

by Katie Steele

The body is full of deafened catastrophes

Lose the door's shape
against cellar wall stones
there is only a flicker
down the stairwell light
bulb light on the stone
colored jam the jars the cells
lined up on shelves tall and brittle
ready to come down.

How it threatens to come undone:
The heart valves shudder to
keep from opening to hide it all
thunder of blood keep it cycling out
and back through the body cage
in veins insistent verging on overflow.

A jar falls jellies splayed
onto the stones the glass shatter
like traps in the bile quivering
in the honesty of it all
something of a message

       how a shining body unfolds
       if you will let it.


Night Swimming

Eyes shut, thigh deep in the Atlantic
you thrill in swirls of dark water
the buzz of ocean life all around you.
Waves rise to your chest as you wade
away from the beach, the white sand.
You submerge, struggle to open your eyes,
catch flashes of moonlight squinting
at the seafloor, a wall of deep water
moving on the edge of this new horizon,
silhouettes of fish gliding, weightless.
You reach for it, prepare to dive deeper
until the flat of a fish catches your back.

Leaping from the water, panic blurred
vision, you flail your arms, but the fish clings
even in a world now of heat and stars
and salt filled wind. You gasp,
open your eyes, yank the thing loose.
A remora hits the water, thick and pale
as your arm, flicking its tail in shock,
dull eyes rolling back. You hold still.
How the sky must look, the moon!
With the next wave it darts off like a ghost
leaving you with wind-blown hair,
the white sand glowing behind you.


Burrowing Frogs

Some days, our calls go unanswered.
Dry winds brush over our backs
and home is ebbing away. Everything has left:
the glint of the diving beetle, wavelets
over the surface, the swamphen's shadow.
All that remains are the turtle and snails
frozen in their torpor. These are our signs.
We dig into the mud, the slick of soil
against skin, caverns in the earth
filled with our bodies. All that's left
are heartbeats       slowing.

But living on emptiness isn't hard
if you are patient enough.
Beneath the ground, the shifting of the world
has no bearing. Only bulbs and bodies
dampened by remnants of rain in the soil.
We know that the reeds are weaving roots
above us, that time moves without us.
When the wounds of our home have healed
we will live again.


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