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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Kathryn Kirkpatrick


A tethered fox
snarls and backs away.
I swim across a lake
to reach a thatched cottage.
Inside, a sudden staircase,
a carpet, worn, beyond price.
When I sit down at a desk,
cigarette butts at my left hand,
smoky slice of agate at my right,
I am alone with the rest of my life.
A man standing behind me
has mastered the art of change.
After he vanishes, I pull
down each heavy drape
and the rooms flood with light.
How did I come by this altar,
these windows of stained glass?
When I meet the fox again,
I set her free.
The meadow she finds
is neither desert nor glacier.

At the Turkey Farm

Ghostly sentinels, they stand at the railings,
hundreds deep in the long, dark barn.
Doors opened to the gloaming set free
only the stench of their many pale bodies,
jam-packed, bred featherless and barely winged.
Except a brief sating at feeding,
this is their only solace, to stand
in their own shit, blinking in the fading light.
When we eat them do we take in their longing
for the unentered meadow, their sadness
for the sky they cannot fly into?
Perhaps we become them, soldered to brutal
twilight as their suffered bodies enter our own.
Who will give them back their lives, feathered
and winged? As fair game in the wooded cove,
full of amble and bursts of flight,
their welcomed spirits would not haunt us,
not like these standing naked
pressed against their own deaths.

Strange Meeting

Is this how an animal feels
on the other side of a human eye?

I was a woman speaking
to men I didn’t know.

Large and strong, they
knew about power
in ways I may never

I sat framed and assessed
no threat a square jaw decided
negligible bent knuckles said

I looked back through my animal
eye, saw

the slit throat of the cow
in the leather shoe

the poisons deep in the soil
where the cotton grew

the felled trees
of the papers stacked

the mountains leveled
in the electric hum of light and heat
where we sat.

I saw clearly
all they had done and would do
to make a world we’d be losing fast.

I saw why it was lost.
And I saw how we would lose it.


After the snow, everything is visible—
sudden hills beyond our familiar ridge
and branches, branches, crazed and woven,
under sleeves of fallen

snow. So I’m climbing the ridge and hoping
tracks of deer or even bear appear, rise up
out of trackless white, some small sign to say
we’re here. And not alone.

Father, I am older now than you were, older
now than, dying, you were. The snow ahead
is all unmarked. And friendless, a blank of heavy
cold. Where are they,

bobcat, deer, coyote, the tracks to follow
up this ridge? In deep, then in deeper. Walking
stick and boot. These marks, they’re mine, and leaving them as if leaving

you, again, alone, is what the snow is saying
I’m to do. Ahead, then. The trackless white. But
look. Behind, the snow is riven, riven.
I cannot look. And

turning, climbing, I make such signs
as daughters make, my marks in new snow, however
welcome, hoof and paw of those I can only
love, but not save, not

save. And you? Now overhead, circling, calling,
hawks are parting the air. And if, landing,
their talons mark the branches, the shifted snow
may never reach us here

below. No track, no earthbound sign to lead us on.
Just wings, and the memory of wings. Just cries,
and the memory of cries. After snow
everything not visible.