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Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. She received an MFA from the University of Michigan in 1987.

In 1991, she published her first collection of poetry, Wild Brides (New York University Press). She is also the author of Where Now: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), which was long-listed for the National Book Award; The Infinitesimals (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); Space, In Chains (Copper Canyon Press, 2011); Lillies Without (Copper Canyon Press, 2007); Gardening in the Dark (Ausable Press, 2004); Dance and Disappear (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); What It Wasn't (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002); Fire and Flower (Alice James Books, 1998); and Housekeeping In A Dream (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1995).

She is the author of the short story collection If A Stranger Approaches You (Sarabande Books, 2013). She has also published ten novels, of which three have been made into feature films.

She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as several Pushcart Prizes and numerous poetry awards. She teaches at the University of Michigan, and lives in Chelsea, Michigan.

By This Poet

10

Kitchen Song

The white bowls in the orderly
cupboards filled with nothing.

The sound
of applause in running water.
All those who've drowned in oceans, all 
who've drowned in pools, in ponds, the small 
family together in the car hit head on. The pantry

full of lilies, the lobsters scratching to get out of the pot, and God

being pulled across the heavens
in a burning car.

The recipes
like confessions.
The confessions like songs.
The sun. The bomb. The white

bowls in the orderly
cupboards filled with blood. I wanted

something simple, and domestic. A kitchen song.

They were just driving along. Dad 
turned the radio off, and Mom 
turned it back on.

Near misses

The truck that swerved to miss the stroller in which I slept.
 
My mother turning from the laundry basket just in time to see me open 
  the third-story window to call to the cat.
 
In the car, on ice, something spinning and made of history snatched me
  back from the guardrail and set me down between two gentle trees.
  And that time I thought to look both ways on the one-way street.
 
And when the doorbell rang, and I didn’t answer, and just before I slipped
  one night into a drunken dream, I remembered to blow out the candle
  burning on the table beside me.
 
It's a miracle, I tell you, this middle-aged woman scanning the cans on
  the grocery store shelf. Hidden in the works of a mysterious clock are
  her many deaths, and yet the whole world is piled up before her on a
  banquet table again today. The timer, broken. The sunset smeared
  across the horizon in the girlish cursive of the ocean, Forever, For You.
 
And still she can offer only her body as proof:
 
The way it moves a little slower every day. And the cells, ticking away.
  A crow pecking at a sweater. The last hour waiting patiently on a tray
  for her somewhere in the future. The spoon slipping quietly into the
  beautiful soup.
 

The Pain

Like the human brain, which organizes
The swirls and shades of the bathroom tiles
Into faces, faces
With expressions
Of exhaustion, of disdain. The
Virgin Mary in the toast of course
But also the penance in the pain, and the way
My mother invented
Plums and tissue paper, while
My father invented the type of
Sudden kindness
That takes you by surprise
When you’ve expected to be chastised
And makes you cry


 

About this poem:
"The poem's impulse is the same as the poem's subject—a grappling, out of hope?—with the idea that there must be some way to integrate into one's life, if necessary, the experience of physical pain. If I can make out faces and objects every morning (if I stare long enough) at the bathroom tile—or so I was thinking—surely there would be a way to make meaning out of this pain?"

Laura Kasischke