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Katherine Soniat



At night my old house appears,
its insides confused with time running out

the doors and windows.

Each clock stopped at a different spectral point.

Essences attract me, starting with the striated eastern sky,
then moving into morning in the box canyon.

Perhaps that’s why I took his dare to sleep with the glyph
meaning flick-of-the-gecko’s-tongue; a pleasure that starts
from within, wind making cartwheels of the sand.
Shape unnerved.

Beside me on the boulder is a line of vertebrae. Tiny spine—
a creature no longer. I too am without direction, feckless and
sunning on a rock.

Around the pool at lunch they do the desert thing, piped-in water
misting us like heads of grocery lettuce.
                                                                      Two guys splash about with beer,
yelling this is the worst motel pool they’ve hit all week—freeloaders ready
to vanish at a moment’s notice, beer stacked in their rusted pick-up.

I give up on George by 5 o’clock, the African Gray in the breezeway.
He will not stop talking. Any syllables caught on the fly, this parrot
repeats without reflection.
                                       Now he’s a screeching eagle gliding in
from the arroyo.
                           Raspy voice of a solitary in the sky,
the real eagle on TV finishing its 200 mph descent after a rabbit.

Who doesn’t want to pass through the energy of another? Take that shadow
this morning at the back of Boynton Canyon. Unnamed, it circled vast splits
of hematite, me scurrying about in the red dirt.
                                                                           Bloody earth, I thought
as a mockingbird traded places one at a time. Sort of like George,
who likes being upside down on his swing, yelling, Hands off,
you lowdown two-timer.



Stones covered our notes in the garden,
a thought for each week
you were ill.

One star above the blue lake,
and I began to wonder how you’d ever return,
the horizon discrete even then.

The story of the mountain always points somewhere
else, elusive as a tawny lion disappearing behind
the next high crag.



As a youth, Chagall stared at barnyard animals
from his attic window, then past them to the Volga.

Perhaps in a like frame of mind, my student writes
in his journal, I drift out of time and space, and mostly

think of sex. Who cares how close teacher thinks laughter,
a sneeze and orgasm are? I read this as the incense burns,

smoke not the least concerned with conclusion.
Might each beginning reappear if we let it? Take this

painting by the master of a sled, up in the midnight blue.
In it rides a man, woman, and their baby ready to nurse.

The nipple is red and overly upright, gravity dissolved
at such altitude. Harnessed, a giant rooster pulls them

through stars. How far below churns the Volga?


Talk of Winter

Delirium of broken placenta, snow
on the path to make her ride home clandestine,


That sleigh the sort wolves don’t leave alone
in the moonlight.

Teeth snap in her sleep.
Organs, a ripe darkness on ice.

And too, the dream of the panther in bed, its paws
on both of her shoulders.

Wet winter smell of big cat.

The two of them breathing.
A strange
place to end up, surrender.

Who said, Don’t be afraid to show how it started?

. . . the island covered by sleet, and afterwards
they never got each other out of their blood. Hers, his,
and the ghost capillaries trading oxygen back and forth.
Blue storylines inflated.

She bit her tongue, and it was still his blood in her mouth.
Sap in the maples froze. Talk of strata and winter sadness

under a delicately pricked roof:

Ping, ping. Ice on the tin.

Time, unreasoned and amorphous




Katherine Soniat’s fifth collection of poetry, The Swing Girl, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press, and A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge, from Dream Horse Press in 2012. Earlier collections include A Shared Life, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. New work appears in recent issues of the Iowa Review, Antioch Review, Hotel Amerika, Image: Art, Faith, and Mystery, Tiferet, and Mid-American Review. She now teaches workshops in the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC-Asheville. Contact author. Visit her website.

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