Issue 2:1 | Poetry | John Kitterman

4 Poems
By John Kitterman


Daybreak rumbled into the house on the hill

louder than cats playing,

more like a body falling down the stairs.


Somethings up there, the new wife whispered,

summoning the landlords tale about the last tenant

and her invisible children.


Suddenly he found himself outside in his pajamas

on the wet grass, staring at the roof.

Four and twenty buzzards were lined up on the beam,

going about the business

of ridding the world of death.


This must be a dream, he thought.

Shifting from side to side like parakeets,

they gripped the house with such certitude

that he was folded into their secret.


When you can see that far death

shrinks in importance,

until the evidence disappears entirely

from view,

and marriage is again an Eden.


She watched him through the bedroom window

gather a small bourn of stones in his palm

and heave them at the sky,

then closed the curtain abruptly

before the avalanche of feathers.






A poem is not the door to a bedroom.

At most, it could be slipped

Under a door, a route

A tragic girl once took in a Thomas Hardy novel.

But this is not 1890.

Words must risk their lives now

Like terrorists driving a truckload of explosives,

Or like moonlight piercing

A body in an airless house where cats hiss.

These flickering TV images find me out

In corners where I hide scraps of paper.

There is no escaping them. 

My hands I call Guilt and Anxiety;

They shake at the gunfire of my heart.

The cats know I am falling apart.

Soon they will carry off

My nerves into their wilderness,

Where there is no forgiveness.






One thing I cannot do

Describe the curve of that hill

in moonlight.

I could as easily describe

the sheets where my wife once slept against me,

the scapulas curve,

dark against the unplowed white field

of our bed.

If the words would come, I think,

I could make love to her again.

Instead, this poem wraps me like a hairshirt

against the punishment of winter,

burns my skin like tulips we planted,

and the hill humps under the cover of sky

turning its gaze another way.






Each morning I wake to green pools:

The cat enthroned on my chest,

Staring into my eyes.

Pasht on a sarcophagus.

From the Nile mud

I rise like Pharoah.


When I opened the chest

She leaped out like a soul.

I bent over my desk

And she dropped from the bookcase

Like an avenging cloud.


The dog too has his ways.

Epileptic, he whirls around the living room

Cheeks bulging

Until I am a blur

And he falls on his side in seizure.

I did the same thing as a kid,

Spinning in the yard until clouds caught my motion.


Since you left,

His eyes follow my every move.

On our midnight walks,

He treads the cats shadow

As she balances the fence,

And neither seems disturbed

When the moon pierces me with its shrieking.


Later when I have gone to bed he steals my socks,

As if I could not walk away barefoot.

I sleep deeply

And am not afraid to dream

Of absences, knowing

They are there in the dark,

Guarding the tomb.


John Kitterman