Literary Arts | READ LOCAL First

Five Poems by Cindy King

READ LOCAL First boasts Utah’s most comprehensive collection of poets and authors. For this inaugural month of 2021, we present five poems by Cindy King. Her work has appeared in The SunCallalooPrairie SchoonerCrab Orchard ReviewRiver StyxCincinnati ReviewGettysburg ReviewNorth American Review, and elsewhere.

Recently, King’s poetry was  featured on The Slowdown, an NPR podcast hosted by former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. A link to this podcast concludes our selection of King’s poems below.

King’s book, Zoonotic, is forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions later this year. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she currently lives in St. George, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Dixie State University and editor of The Southern Quill.





I sometimes believe that the breath, blunt-forced from his body

Had been returned.


Laid out on the collapsible cot

He begins to move. Beyond ambulance windows


Dusk joins the sky’s dark pieces,

Inspiring all things to come together.


Tom had a way of connecting, of understanding the whole.

The new moon offers its infant light,


Closing wounds, joining fractured bone.

It restarts his heart and the bright organs sing.


Vessels, veins open for joy. Love restores flesh

to memory’s bare bone: In the black night, stars appear.


How the sheet falls as he rises and passes through double doors.

And still I believe he is on his way home.




The Rivers Runneth Black with Mascara


The widows soar-eth with parasols of flies,

with pressed-powder desert faces, the widows runneth over.


With pillbox hats and fascinators,

the widows runneth,


widows behind blind glasses and tinted windows,

broken widows runneth, widows streaked with rain.


The widows walk-eth the widow’s walk in button boots,

widows wear-eth corsets to train their sighs.


In bustles and petticoats, widows rustle-eth,

shower-eth earth with the feathers of ravens.


They bring-eth their lips together, hide-eth their lipstick teeth.

Merry widows will work-eth to please you.


With belladonna, with nightshade, widows

Coif-eth their hair with the precision of angels.


The widows watch-eth pornography

and are-eth not ashamed.


They do-eth the Hustle, a spinoff

of a spinoff that is twice as good as the original.


Ever certain of the finale,

widows will always see-eth things through.


She’s a killer, killer queen, gunpowder, gelatin

they sing-eth, and you may block your ears


but still, you can hear the widows. Widows<

surround-eth you, pass-eth you between them


like a pink tetherball. They drop-eth you in a basket,

push-eth you through reeds


down rivers that runneth black with mascara.




Immaculate Conception


Strawberry rhubarb

The baboon presents


And here’s the little diner at breakfast time,

where she who is the-customer-

who-is-always-right hurls her

hotcakes back at the server


Will you live out the rest of your life alone


Wholly caffeinated

Wholly obscene


Aren’t you tired of extraordinary


No one is really whispering about you

Their lips are wax


You check them out at the checkout

while the checker checks your items

10 items or less

you have 11 or fewer


You make a wish upon a star

then change your mind

but it’s too late


You agreed to that date with a priest


Don’t worry

He won’t


There are only so many eggs

and then none


No reason to gawk at newborns

and their comically small,

grotesquely soft heads

that their mommies kiss

and slap once in a while


Stop calling your pet “baby”

She’ll never make love to you


No need to paint my mouth with lipstick

nor my eyes into black peacocks

No need to purge the chocolate ice cream

though I’d very much like to


I want to be cherished and adored

My hips shout

as time moves throughout my body


The thought, I remember

but that feeling

What is it?




Survivor’s Guide to Grief, Loss, Bereavement, Life-Imploding Tragedies, and Various Other Kinds of Human Suffering (Abridged)


Eliminate action verbs

Say deceased not dead

Don’t think that you’ll ever remodel the kitchen

Even with the modifications to your diet,

the polar icecaps will melt,

the average surface temperature of the Earth will continue to rise,

and still, that dress will never make you look like a movie star


As the house burns, the stove confesses

its love for the refrigerator

(who would have known?)

For all of those years they stood side by side

To save on tissues,

do your crying in the shower

If your clothes are dirty,

throw them out. Spit

if it’s hard to swallow

If it’s ugly, close your eyes


The human brain is not symmetrical

That’s not a rose, it’s an axe

That’s not music, but how were you to know.

That’s no cemetery, it’s landfill.


Your daughter may be my spouse’s killer

Your diagnosis may be my tax return

When God falls asleep, it’s difficult

for him to hear my prayers

Sometime even the wind is confused

A few of us can pretend we’re not looking,

or look as if we are not pretending


At some point comes the wisdom

You came for the insight

And stayed for the refreshments

the drumroll

the curtain call

It’s coming, believe me

Let me tell you, it’s coming



Little Oaths & Apologies


By the time you heard it again,

a therapy dog foiled the bank heist,

the old covered bridge was washed out in the storm,

the dictator was almost overthrown,

and Tom, he almost survived.

The man who slapped his child

came close to saying sorry.

Sorry, you can say it in just about

any situation and feel practically absolved,

better about how you’ve labored in the yard,

in a thunderstorm, yanking out ivy

that will grow back again next year.

Understand that these are Mother Nature’s intentions:

listen to the sizzle of rain on the blacktop,

bacon as it weeps in cast iron,

radio static, television applause.


For whatever it was they told you, forgive them,

because it just isn’t true—

mistakes were made, oversights and misunderstandings

Thank you for holding

your (desperate) call (for help) is being transferred and will be taken

in the order in which it was received by the next available representative


But he did complain about the back of the baby’s head,

about how it was blocking his view of her breast,

and the Cutlass Supreme really did fly

across the river and antiquated ruins.


And the weeks progressed, coupons

expired, milk spoiled in the dead of night—

substantiated, confirmed, corroded, ineffable,

and unspeakably, beautifully sorry.




Listen to King’s poetry on NPR’s podcast The Slowdown, hosted by former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.