Their holiness, their loneliness, the song
they sing in certain barns
on sad, old farms
about the scales on which the love
was weighed, or the terrible
armchair onto which was tossed
a small girl’s nightgown once. The
widower’s broken ankle, and the summer
a transparent fish was caught
in the pond. Invisible if not
for its heart. Its lungs. The throbbing
jelly of its subconscious:
No one would fry it for supper.
Like Dora, Little Hans, the Rat Man.
When Freud told them their own secrets
surely they must have asked, “But,
Herr Doctor, how do you know?”
And these owls in the rafters urging
me all winter now to Go,
go, and throw
your mother’s bones behind you as you go.
From Where Now. Copyright © 2017 by Laura Kasischke. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyon.org.
My neighbor keeps a box of baby pigs
all winter in her kitchen. They are
motherless, always sleeping, sleepy
creatures of blood & fog, a vapor
of them wraps my house
in gauze, and the windows mist up
with their warm breath, their moist snores. They
watch her peel potatoes, boil
water from the floor, wearing
a steamy gown. She must be like
Demeter to them, but, like this weather
to me, this box of pigs
is the cause of all my suffering. They smell
of invalids, lotioned. Death is over there. When I
look toward my neighbor’s house, I see
trouble looking back
at me. Horrible life! Horrible town! I start
to dream their dreams. I dream
my muzzle’s pressed
desperately into the whiskered
belly of my dead mother. No
milk there. I dream
I slumber in a cardboard box
in a human kitchen, wishing, while
a woman I don’t love
mushes corn for me in a dish. In
every kitchen in the Midwest
there are goddesses & pigs, the sacred
contagion of pity, of giving, of loss. You can’t
escape the soft
bellies of your neighbors’ calm, the fuzzy
lullabies that drift
in cloudy piglets across their lawns. I dream
my neighbor cuts
one of them open, and stars fall out, and roll
across the floor. It frightens me. I pray
to God to give me
the ability to write
better poems than the poems of those
whom I despise. But
before spring comes, my neighbor’s
pigs die in her kitchen
one by one, and I
catch a glimpse of my own face
in the empty collection plate, looking
up at me, hungrily, one
Sunday—pink, and smudged—and ask it
Isn’t that enough?
In the mirror, like something strangled by an angel—this
woman glimpsed much later, still
wearing her hospital gown. Behind her—mirrors, and
more mirrors, and, in them, more cold faces. Then
the knocking, the pounding—all of them wanting to be
let out, let in. The one-way conversations. Mostly not
anything to worry about, really. Mild accusations, merely.
Never actual threats. (Anyways, what could they possibly
do to you now from inside their locked, glass places?)
Still, some innocent questions on some special occasion
might bring it all back to you again, such as: Might
you simply have forgotten where you left me when you left me?
Or—Shouldn’t you be searching all the harder for me then?
Or—the question that might frighten any woman being
asked this of her own reflection (no
tears on its face, a smile instead)—How far
did you really think I’d go without you? Then—
Don’t you think that’s where you’ll find us now?
Remember sleep, in May, in the afternoon, like
a girl’s bright feet slipped into dark, new boots.
Or sleep in one another’s arms at 10 o’clock
on a Saturday in June?—that
smiling child hiding behind
the heavy curtain of a photo booth.
All our daysleep, my love, remember sleep
like brides in violets. Sleep
like sleepy pilots casting
the shadows of their silver jets
onto the silver sailboats
they also sailed
on oceans miles below.
Such nothingness, on the other
side of which
into eternity, insisting
that we had lived together forever—and did.