Winner of the 2003 Main Street Rag Chapbook contest, Karla Huston recently earned an
MA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In addition
to winning the Wisconsin Regional Writer's Association Jade Ring for both poetry and
fiction, she has received writing residencies from the Ragdale Foundation in both 1998
and 2002. Her poems have earned five Pushcart nominations. She has published poetry,
reviews and interviews in many national journals including Cimarron Review, Eclectica
Magazine (www.eclectica.org) 5 A.M., Margie, North American Review, One Trick Pony,
Pearl, Poet Lore, Rattle and others. About Huston's chapbook Flight Patterns, poet Denise
Duhamel says, "Karla Huston has a knack for the perfect-pitched narrative, the delicious
revelation of a storyline in verse. In Flight Patterns, the heartbreak of mature and adoles-
cent love, domestic dramas, and issues of the body stun the reader with both their uni-
versality and their particular passions. Huston wrestles with all the 'what ifs', and her
poems put life in a headlock at every turn. A vividly luscious debut."
A game we played when
there weren't enough kids for teams.
I was the only girl allowed.
But since I threw like a girl
and ran like one, too, my brother
assigned me to permanent
catcher. Day after day I stood
behind the dusty x we scratched
in the dirt and watched the boys
hit and run while I tried to catch
them at home or punched
a fist into the giant glove.
Even Virgil, the oldest kid
on the block, put up with me
behind home plate, until I asked
to bat. For a joke, he pitched
an empty bean can that split
my scalp. Later, he caught
up with me in the alley
across the street and asked to touch
the cut. I didn't cry
until he tried to kiss me.
In class today Jenny says
everyone should get eight hugs a day.
Alex announces that we ingest
eight spiders in a lifetime -
during the night as we sleep.
I cringe as I think of those
tiny brushed feet skittering
across my tongue. Or the pop
of the spider's belly between my teeth,
yellow-greasy and fat. But why eight,
I wonder? Aren't odd numbers more
satisfying? The Sacred One,
the Three Graces, the 5 W's
of reporting. The seven sacraments,
nine worlds of Scandinavian myth,
eleven states in the Confederacy
and the original thirteen colonies.
And I think about other eights -
the Beatles' Ooh, I need your love,
babe, guess you know it's true, the eight
Beatitudes, whatever they are,
and the eight vegetables in V8.
And now you're wondering where
I'm going with this. Will there be
eight beats to my line,
eight lines in each stanza?
In that foggy field
I drove past this morning,
eight ladybugs stuck tight
to my windshield.
And the maple trees -
how many swallowed the sun?
When he used it in a sentence,
I had to guess at what it meant,
then discovered that Shelley's gravestone
was engraved with it.
Still I don't understand it what it means;
we don't have the sea in Wisconsin,
only oceans of snow, lakes of corn,
streams with cows drinking from the edges,
stepping through the green murk.
We have rivers of barges coming
and going and coulees when valleys
might do just as well in Pennsylvania.
We have quagmires of winter and rain,
swamps of mosquitoes and birds
who stand watch over summer puddles -
their red shoulders puffed and expectant,
but we have no sea to roar at us, rear up
and spit salt and sand, no hanging
curtains of clouds, no off shore tornados.
Sometimes it's the things we don't
understand that define us,
these words - strange but somehow comforting,
the transformation of what we don't know
into some new and necessary joy.
How I went from cooler than ratshit
to lame and really annoying
You should know there was beer involved
and a third-floor rented room full
of beds, a guy named Bill and a stereo
all sitting on the floor.
Anyone can look good at midnight
with the Rolling Stones and a 12-pack.
Bill grabbed my hand,
leaned in, his lip quivering and said,
You know you're cooler than ratshit,
Thirty years later, and I'm dirty
dancing in the kitchen,
while my daughter watches MTV,
the only thing between us - a box of pasta
and a checkered towel. I pull her
to the floor. She wrinkles her nose
and says, you are so lame.
The singer wails, Hey, you,
get off of my cloud,
and I try, but my hip says no
and I'm spinning in pain.
My daughter laughs
and rolls her eyes, says
and really annoying, and I know,
Somehow between Bill
and respectable, between the 60s
and fifty, I'd lost my edge.
Still, I think I'd come a long way
since guys with bedroom dreams
and beer - but I wonder, how much
does it take to look cool now?
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