Issue 2:1 | Poetry | John Kitterman
Daybreak rumbled into the house on the hill
louder than cats playing,
more like a body falling down the stairs.
“Something’s up there,” the new wife whispered,
summoning the landlord’s 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
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
I could as easily describe
the sheets where my wife once slept against me,
the scapula’s 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.
WHAT PETS KNOW
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
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 cat’s 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.