Literary Arts | READ LOCAL First

Kim Welliver: Four Poems

READ LOCAL First represents Utah’s most comprehensive collection of celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, and memoir. This month we bring you four poems by Kim Welliver. In 2018, Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum awarded her poem, “Thriving,” First Place in the Utah Original Writing Competition.

Welliver has lived in Indiana and California. Currently, she works and resides in Utah. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Creek Review, Mid-American Review, Eyedrum Periodically, Thief, Palette, Duende, The Healing Muse, and several anthologies.

 

 

 

 

Utterly, This Terrible Red

 

troubles your dreams, rises

like bruised flesh. Retrace your steps

through the wood—toadstools like eyelids,

foxes whelping to a chainstitch

of thrush-song—find the place of thick-bodied

oaks. Remnants of your scarlet cloak showing

through black loam and the bones of trees:

the rags of a corpse, frost-heaved.

 

Half shadow. Half smoke. He follows

 

Sliver of girlhood, your bible

a bestiary bound in fur. Teeth. Fearless

in your scarlet cape and boot-tucked pantry knife

you set out for the Conjure-woman’s cottage.

You’d father’s tuppance, mother’s ruddy

jam and honey. Tender for a charm

to keep crows from the fresh-set field

of rape. Fever from the sow. Always

her house muzzled in tree-dusk and wings.

 

Eyes lantern the undergrowth.

 

Always you, half-spooked by her strange runes

and rootwork. The low ceilinged room blazing

its cauldron-heat. But here is her rocker overturned.

Her yarb bowls shattered. Her body

dappled in gore. And here

the rough beast of need. Your petticoat slid

to the floor.  Fury spent its red mouth at your breast.

You awoke to an empty bed. Tangled

in damp linens—stained.

 

The dark blurs. A ravening against the sweetness of flowers.

 

Clutching the truth, its thrall and sting,

you crafted your story as you ran home. The moon

turned its eye, pulled its spotless skirts

across field and farmland. Dumb sheep.

Sleeping hounds.  Returning to this place

Its tick and whisper of leaves and limb,

the dim animal communion of heat,

of soft dying things. Your own tender wounds.

Your mouth unbeautied,

again and again crying wolf.

 

 

The Shape Beneath the Stone

            St Joseph Cemetery,

             Baby  Girl Bigelow

 

Flickered yellow between dark growth pressed into greening and fading dearth. Here, in this populous city of bone, I am unparented. Folded into, and under, and onto. And nameless. Womb music’s given over to murmuration: distant train rumble, lone whistle. The adumbration of winter cardinal, spring finches, pulling seedy heads from bluestem. And the shhhussshhh of  linden leaves. No mothered lullaby. This susurration. My seeing is twofold: hazed, and panoptic. Underside of stone, dim glazed, wormy. Now incomplete, I am pleated. Birdwing-fold. Iliac glimmer through organza, my small sleep. Stone’s inscription should circumscribe me, (circum-malediction) timbered below stony edifice. I no longer am. No peachskin breast silked cheek, milksuckle. Such stillness. This stone. My stone. My briefness. Thimbled. Shoeboxed into soil and sod. Years wheel overhead. Grayfaced sky low-bent; a kind of mothering. Groundskeeper rides his Deere. Concentrics, repetitions, angles, lines. My story recast in vegetation. Infant greens cut down.  I shoulder into cradled coldness, a kind of forgetting. Crows sort the sky. Blackwing. Shadow. Isolation’s bluing vertices. What is only inferred now. Interred. Beneath this stone. I am forgetting.  My name.

 

 

A Suddenness of Eyes

 

Do you recall

the bouquet of peonies we strung

in the west facing window that June

and how the drying petals,

plummy as the crust on the port’s cork, curled

and puckered? Two weeks later

our floor littered with their dying crimson.  Like smears

in a crime scene photo. Static death.

wildflower seeds grow in unsightly snarls–weedy

cacophony rather than a planned tumble

of bright color.

The nine month wait–

damp bowl of the pelvis opening,  at last,

to shocking deformity. The doctor mapped it:

gene mutation; chromosome deletion.

Nurses, in  a calmness ofpink, offering tepid

thimblefuls of water

refused to meet our gaze.

I needed to believe

that if faced with  a commonplace tragedy (as mundane as the five-

legged calf at the county fair,) I would pull it

to my breast,suckleit

on my body’s warmth; my thin sweet milk.

I didn’t anticipate…                 I didn’t anticipate…

there the ripened child:

the alien hand; a suddenness of eyes.

I become the mirror, draped. The clock

stopped with black crepe. I wrap grief in tissue, tuck

 

it into a drawer behind A Flower Book of Baby Names,

and my apple-pip rosary.

Remember how those windowed  flowers

strained the light through their small bones.

until it fractured on the floor.

I cup loss to my cheek–

a baby’s clipped curl

l slip

into a heart-shaped pocket.

Locket.

Lock it.

 

 

A Carpentry of Angels

 

From the darkness we conjure them,

from the brain’s labial meat, the heart’s

pure disease; how assiduously

we tailor them. Not cup or wolf or star

(though any of these just as practicable, just as adequate entire)

The turn of jaw, line of throat, clavicle sweep, ours.

We burnish our kettled reflection in haloes, in wings.

Beings we fashion so like our better selves,

so glowingly white as to be nacred. Sacred and

yet so approachable. Our own splendid

doppelgangers risen from sawhorse and shavings

pinned with feather spine and covert, arrayed in

buttermilk and oyster. We repeat the mantra

of revival tents and pew, of gothic

windows pouring their vitreous shine over our heads,

silver-stain straining haloes to starburst, we nail

them, beggared of sublimity, to glass and canvas. Steep

their limbs in drapereried light. Tethered

to our shoulders we task them with gathering

lost keys and cats. Safe travels.

Encumber their lean frames with a mundanity of lottery

winnings, parking spaces, winning teams.

Truly nothing of the air about them, despite

their feathery composite. They follow us,

baffled. Obedient as cowed dogs, insubstantial

as swamp fire bobbing behind us.

Our woes, fears, greed, despairs tucked into them

As though they were pockets, or coat racks.

Between  toothbrush and coffee, we bow our heads,

muttering bless us, bless us, bless us.

 

****

Join us on the first Sunday of every month for works-in-progress or recently published work by some of Utah’s most celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction and memoir. Click “Subscribe” at the top of our page to join our email list.

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *