Saturday, March 24, 2007

Laura Kasischke III and Last

I've now completed my sweep and have all 6 of her poetry collections.

from Housekeeping in a Dream:

"Murdered Girls"

Their voices shimmered in limelight, a fine
talcum of sweet air. Asbestos
and chalk dust strung their hair. At night
they stripped to strobe light
in bars all over town, thought
my father didn't go
to see the show. He
huddled with the other fathers in a fatigue-
green past of hand
grenades and grace. One night he got drunk
and told them how he'd seen
a girl run through a town of flashing light
with her wedding dress on fire. Top
he might've meant. And then
it was Sunday again and the priest
told us how Agatha, virgin
martyr, was tossed
onto burning coals but wouldn't burn. Here
Agatha carries
her own breasts on a tray
. The plain
nodding of nuns and a news-
paper photo of another girl
dug up behind our houses, while
we grew breasts and dated, finally
married our fathers
and daily jogged through the fat
jugular streets of our town, to get
thin or to get away: a brass
fanfare in June
and a toast of a hundred glasses
flashing at the sky.

in memory of Kate Mills


from What It Wasn't:

"My Heart"

When August was finally done, his
wife never mailed the dark
card to me that said, "hon

he's all yours now, good
luck and happy Labor Day," and still
I loved that man, the way

magnolias go
sloppy and wet as pneumonia
on front lawns when summer's oever, the way

a cool moon might appear on a bright September afternoon
to the naked eye to be
just a blind blue infant face

hovering in space. those
human trees: Listen
to them wheeze all night in sleep while

the washing machine churns blood
and whiskey out of your sheets. I
loved that man, whatever that means.

Whatever you need, I thought.
Whatever you eat. GOTCHA
he wrote one morning

in red pen above my breast. Bull's-eye
where my heart was, and the earth
bobbed a bit

on the little string that holds it
over a whoosh of air
and emptiness, the way

when I was a child a magician pulled
a long silk scarf
from my ear. I could hear

red wind when it passed
out of me into his hands. All
the other children at the party

gasped, but I
knew where he'd gotten it from, and felt
my heart spin in me like a sparking

toy when he was done.


from Dance and Disappear:

"Small Boys Petting Caterpillar"

Somewhere, a god
is handling our hearts.
Wonder can kill, accidentally, what it loves.

It's summer. the ditches
are full of fish-scales and glitter. also
the sepulcher, the tomb, the pit. someone
has scraped them out of the air

with the dull edge of a knife. someone

has told them to be gentle, and now
their little hands are light as prayers. If
they breathe, their hands will float away.
The dust of music in water.

One of them is trembling. One

is bouncing with his legs crossed.
Perhaps he needs to pee.

Above us, on the highest limb, a dangerous piece of fruit dangles.
A teenage girl is stepping

all over the sunshine in her tennis shoes. Perhaps

that piece of fruit will simply
drift into her hands.
It did, for me. swiftly,
but with wings.

And the caterpillar

is a word, a soft bit of star. Oblivious, our hearts. could
that word be faith, or trust, or is it

some other word which means
to let go in ignorance, or to hold one's breath and hope?
And would that word be love?

It doesn't matter because
we're helpless in the hands of what does.


Blogger angie said...

Brilliant. I can't thank you enough for these, Howard. I'm on my quest to acquire all six of her books, now, too!

3:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for the link, Hedgie. You may also like to check out John Ahearn at

6:11 AM  
Blogger SarahJane said...

which volume is your favorite?

12:13 PM  
Blogger Hedgie said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Good luck finding all 6, angie; I'm not sure how easy locating her first couple of collections is going to be.

Thanks for the link, minx; the Ahearn blog looks interesting; I'll have to explore it more in a few days when I have more time.

I haven't had the chance to read all 6 volumes cover to cover yet, but the two which seem to have the highest number of poems I liked immediately are Fire & Flower and Gardening in the Dark. Her 4th collection, What It Wasn't, has one of the oddest threads running through the volume as a whole that I've seen in quite a while: girdles (including epigraphs to each of the book's 4 sections taken from an article on girdles in Intimate Apparel magazine). A good poet can turn anything into material for good poems.

6:51 PM  

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