Birdsong

Katrina Kaye

inspired by 1984

A thrush
alight on bough
in the sun

spread wings
then flit them carefully
into place

duck head
an obeisance to the sky
then pour forth
a torrent of song
startling

the bird shows
of its virtuosity
on and on
minute by minute

stops
spread and resettle wings
swell speckled breast
burst again

for whom?
for what?

No mate,
no rival watches,
lonely wood
pouring song
into the nothingness

mixes with
sunlight filtered
through leaves

stop thinking
merely feel

“Birdsong” is previously published on Rabbits for Luck (2016).

 

Bath water

Katrina Kaye

She turns,
belly to porcelain,
white to white.
The bath water turns cold.

She hears him playing.
The gentle rhythm
of childish laughter,
echoing down the hall.
She shivers.

Her eyes turn inward.
With slippery fingers,
she grasps the side of the tub,
and sinks under water,
but still she can hear him.

Only an apparition come
to tease a lonely woman.
She never wanted much
other than to hear the sound
of her boy’s laughter.

Her hair halos her face
in a cloud of chestnut.
Just a sliver of nose and lips,
resting on the surface.

She sips in humid air.
The laughter evaporates.
Eyes open underwater,
The world is blurred.
The sounds of childhood
faded.

“Bath water” is previously published in A Scattering of Imperfections (2009).

When I See You

Katrina Kaye

I count
backwards
from sixty;

I hold
air in lungs
and try to
stop this
involuntary reflex.
A compulsion
to fight or flight.
An urge to
lose myself
in stale memories.

I take turns
breathing life
in and out
like the moon
pulls her tides
and overlook the
heart I left
soaking in
jars of
formaldehyde
awaiting
resurrection.

It is easy
to reclaim the
fleeting fervor
of yesteryear
in quick anticipated
gasps held in chest.
It is best
to release
air from lungs,
count down,
breathe.

“When I See You” is previously published in Rabbits for Luck (2016).

Silence

Katrina Kaye

Silence sat
on the
corner of
cheekbone
and 12th.

She goes
unnoticed,
defies the wind,
flits the skin,
begs recognition.

It is the same
silence that
barricades the
veins with
over sized
platelets causing
the heart
to cease
a beat.

Creating a
moment
of complete
stillness between
our bodies until
with the
tip of finger

eyelash is
removed
and with
pursed lips,
blown away.

“Silence” is previously published in To Anyone Who Has Ever Loved a Writer (2014).

Sway

Katrina Kaye

I could sway
in ways
unwritten.
I could linger,
hands clenched
and wrapped.

Let me love myself
all over you.

I would
simply reach,
touch,
scrape the muscle
of your back,
embrace the
burden of
your weight
on shoulder.

Pinned here,
rib bones peek
through flesh,
body held
in place,
puzzle pieces
align.

“Sway” is previously published in They Don’t Make Memories Like That Anymore (2011).

Water

Katrina Kaye

I want to be
river:

persisting despite rocks
and debris,
moving forward
until the discovery of peace
distinct as reflection
in puddling pond’s
shimmering surface.

I want to be
ocean:

calm when captured,
but contain currents
with the capacity to
overturn ships
and drown a man.

I want to be
rain:

unpredictable as the
size of each drop,
holding the promise
of life as well as the
threat of storm.

I want to be
water:

content to fish bowl,
yet curious for more.
shapeless and vast,
heavy and ethereal.

Like water,
I want to be strong,
indiscernible,
and necessary.

“Water” is previously published in Rabbits for Luck (2016).

tightrope

Katrina Kaye

tonight
i am tightrope

stretched
east to west
held taut

tonight
i dare you
to step on
my back

knowing your
lack of balance

knowing your
lack of precision

tonight
i am uncomfortable
under your weight

knowing you
see me
as one more
feat to complete

thinking
i am cord
and nylon and
easy conquest

i can’t wait
to watch
you fall

“tightrope” is previously published in Rabbits for Luck (2016).

Melt

…that this too solid flesh would melt…

Melt, flesh, melt…

Starve cheeks gaunt.
Count vertebrae poking through
an elephant’s ridged back.

Stretch skin around pile of sticks.
Drape clothes on hanger hipbones.

When arms wrap around frame
say how they go right through,
corporeal diminished to ghost.

Melt, flesh, melt…

Let skin prickle with shiver,
bones clink like wind chimes.

Skirt fingers upon skeleton
exposed through dorsal skin.
Body’s topography foreign
under well terrained fingers.

It’s not about sexy anymore.
Not sure it ever was.

Hard to remember the initial
skipped meal of childhood,
running until knees gave to collapse,
the earliest mirror reflection that spat back.

It seems it was always this way.
Hold backbone together
with thin layers of spit and glue.
Skull bobbles on shoulder blades.

Freshman summer of thirteenth year,
a week’s worth of consumption added
to water and orange juice.

On the seventh day,
stomach heaves with the rot of bile.

At nineteen, diet consists of
coffee, ephedrine, cigarettes.

There are no more curves
to define woman over creature.
Feminine forfeits to stick figure
and it isn’t enough.

Melt, flesh, melt…

Keep count.
Constant comparisons:
measurements, lists, graphs,
charting roads which lead to bone yard.

Slip into winter’s shade.
Shortened days make it easy to hide,
stay veiled in the dim.
There is comfort in the buried.

Secure behind barricade,
confined to bed,
no longer know hunger
or hear telephone.
Locked from the inside,
they take the hinges off the door.

Melt, flesh, melt…
Flee this corpse for better.

All I ever wanted,
all I ever wanted,

all I ever wanted,

was

skin

and bones.

“Melt” is previously published in the collection, my verse…, published by Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC in 2012 and Light as a Feather; an anthology of resilience (2019).

Touch

Katrina Kaye

I.

Though I have not
felt his hands,
I imagine them cold,
like my grandmother’s.

Paper thin skin loose
over rounded veins,
Ice to the touch,
gentle as baby powder.

II.

My hands are always cold,
an untreatable
hereditary condition.
My grandmother shared my fate,
hands turning
from white to blue,
numb until the pain
when the blood flows again.
Always cold.

III.

Their hands are misshapen.
This grayed man
with his large paws
and patient one toothed grin.

He rubs his hands
together, stoking
a fire that has long
abandoned his veins.

Her yellowed fingernails,
a mangled band aid.
It is dirty, old,
it needs to be removed,
the cut revealed.

Expose water winkled flesh.

I imagine her hands
must be warm,
like her temper,
nails sharp as her tongue.

Two lovers mixing
to a temperate balance
lasting over 68 years.

IV.

He shares
the patience and stillness.

He touches her skin,
as her hands drop.
They are gray and they are blue.
They are cold.

“Touch” is previously published in Rabbits for Luck (2016).

The Painter

Katrina Kaye

He wanted to be a painter.

He wanted to paint himself at sixteen,
standing tall on mountain top,
a golden warrior for the helpless,
a beast of burden ready to sacrifice
for tomorrow’s promises.
That’s how he saw himself
when he closed clouding eyes.

Always careful to refuse limitations.

He was ambivalent to skin rubbed raw,
the formation of blisters on hardened heels,
and the weight strapped upon back leaving
marks against white freckled skin.

It took finely sliced transparencies
to etch out the idea that this perception
was self imposed.

Petrified on haunches, he watched
as the reverberation between the hum
drum of reality and the fleeting images of
fancy fabrication left him weak.

The last attempt he made at reclaiming his identity
came in a self portrait:

sprawling crow’s feet and age spots,
so close to his mother’s angry mood
he doesn’t recognize the expression on lips.

A child swallowed inside rib cage
who has been screaming for years.
A man who can’t recognize
lead poisoning seeping into tongue.

He still wants to paint a portrait of life,
a portrayal of desperation and disappointment,
capture howl in brush stroke and oil base,

display the hollow of gut
in strangled sketch and charcoal dust,
portray innocence, youth, freedom
in the colors on canvas.

But the paints have dried,
hardening bristles to stone.
He is merely a man,
too tired to rekindle the
spark long ago abandoned.

He once believed he
could be something magnificent.

“The Painter” is previously published in The Fall of a Sparrow (2014).