Kate Northrop: Quarterly Featured Poet

 

 

 

 

 

High Plains

(overnight, at 40 below)

The town drawn in and quiet, as the inside
Of a closet. Impenetrable as a dream

But still the interstate slides by

The semis rising from the east,
Outlined in lights, all lighted up!

And dropping into the valley again
Goodbye: they drop

Easily as coins through a broken soda machine

(easily as snow-crust struck by sun: someone I loved once
Opening the curtain and flushed, I remember in the mirror,
Mint-bright, fuck-stunned)

And they drop away from us, from our houses
Facing the prairie

Which we see tonight
As if on the brink: still, moon-white.

 

giraffe1

 

 

Giraffe

(in Wyoming)

Out of chicken wire and weather,
it appears on the neighbors’ lawn

.

It’s simple, the water they spilled over
freezes there
into sheet and icicle –and the dumb bumps
my hand wants.

Now we walk by. Now evening
arrogates a giraffe, its eyes
cold as a light on the surface of a lake.

Vatic giraffe! …if you could gallop savannah,
you would sound like holidays
in our rickety, old apartments

but you are clear as these days
and brutal truthful, like pattern. Someone
passed out on a carpet— flat—

I know the neighbors who imagined you
already have dismantled you: piece
by funny piece.

tatoo2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Pool / Love Poem

(the whirlpool)

It was gritty, where he was sitting
They needed to clean it
.

Then we three there
had stopped talking. Where I’m from
advertisements are disappearing
into old barns. A hay field

junky with the sound of red-wings. We show up
most days, we bubbling strangers. An older woman
lowers herself in. Oh, she says, that’s hot!
What’s your tattoo a tattoo of? To show him her shoulder,

she turns around. It’s a picket fence,
a yellow rose threading through. The point is, my Love!
still you appear to me, like a roadside stand.

 

She was loose-limbed
like stuff in the back of a truck
going over a bump. When she sat reading
she was green and quiet,

distinct at first, then blurred
like a paper napkin’s grease. What time is it?
seemed to be a question

novels asked. The evening
fell like a bird, fell so fast
we could just remember, how it felt

fucking and getting fucked, how we lingered
smoking in the dark outside
but never heard the tall

tree in the ear! Heard only
our own breath, a scuffling
like the sound ballet shoes make

during the ballet. The notes
stuck in our throat? The body
stormed to stay alive? We know

she studied her options,
like us. Like us, she stood
days at the window, the wail of sirens

banging off the city walls—
Then walked out into sun? So bright
it was like walking

into someone else’s applause?
A force as fierce as roses
climbing over a gate.

after (far after) Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea

clarence1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man on my Roof–
(early in the morning)

Hey, my neighbor calls up, Hey Man! His voice
Makes straight for the roof–

But who squats on my roof, arms
Around his knees, stares at the roof

Like a boy in a small field, lighting a fire.

.
And however the early sunlight
Covers my bungalow with streets, pollen, shrubs

The police arrive directly, arranging themselves
Around the dream of the squad car. Let’s quit
Dicking around, someone says.

The man lifts his head.

He shakes his head, a little sadly
And holds one hand up, like someone
Who is sorry, he must interrupt–

But he won’t look at us, as the sun
Rises beyond us

And horns & stereos also rise until whoosh,
The morning’s kaput and day assembles

Into sheet music, storefronts. (The world you know

Will not meet, although the slanted rooftops
Flash, immediately in the light. Gleaming,

They darken, I’m telling you, like large sea-rocks.)

 

The Apartment
Remember the Worcester apartment: third floor
of a three-family, in the upper reaches of the elms. Whole afternoons
could still in it, each room

oddly bright inside, like the bloom at the top of a hollyhock.

                                            .
I remember the apartment, third floor
“like a tree-house” but the layout
forcing a certain passage, a tight

loop: entering into the living room, you turned

right through an arch, into the dining room, and then again
through another, smaller arch

into the kitchen in the back, crammed in
under crooked eaves. Plotted like a child’s story (and just then–) each room

offered a second door, a way onward: through the kitchen
right into the bedroom, through bedroom into the dark,

paneled hall, which ended, at the front door again. Afternoons
you could sit

in the filtered light, obliterating
as a perfect argument. Or watch the leaves rustle, but it was too weird, being up there, eventually

like being a breath. Like being only the thought

your mind was having.

.
The rain thumps against the house. It thumps
on the side of the house. Thumps against it–
In a thicket, a rabbit blinks. That is to say,
in the pause before the boat responds–

I remember your apartment, more peculiar
by night (the candles

only worsened it, a flame disappearing in the apartment’s distance, then reappearing,
like a fire at the far end of a field) and I moved through quietly

like blood in an artery, except
there was nothing at the center, there was

no center there at all, only

the sound of you, turning over, and a car door
slammed below. Often in those moments

I imagined the children. And now they are beautiful, stretched on the floor, chins
in their perfect hands. Now they are watching

this huge, speckled TV– silver TV
  .
And Love, I hear you, but I am tired (so tired!) of sky that comes down in snow

There must be something to believe

But I know there is nothing to believe

treehouse-people-design

 

Aspens

You would say they are white
They are not white
And their secret is
A private cleanliness

You would say the sound
Their leaves make is slight
It is not slight the sound
Of the leaves is the sound

Of very small stones
Rolled under the tide
A sound that’s kept you awake
On certain nights haunted

As if on a back stair
Or here at the window
Drawn again by the meadow
Thin transparent cold

 

_________________________________________________________________

kate-northrop1    wyo1

Kate Northrop’s poetry collections include Evening (Aralia Press); Back Through Interruption (Kent State University Press), winner of the Stan and Tom Wick poetry award; Through Which Footsteps (West Town Press), winner of the Westtown Press chapbook competition; Things Are Disappearing Here (Persea Books), a NY Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and runner-up for the Laughlin award, Clean (Persea Books); and cuntstruck (C and R Press), winner of the Summer Tide Pool Chapbook competition.  Recipient of the Jeanette Haien Ballard award and the Paumanok poetry award, she has also received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Yaddo and MacDowell.  She lives in Laramie, Wyoming and teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming.

Clean on Amazon

clean1

 

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