Katie Kemple's poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Ligeia,
Longleaf Review, The West Review, and Right Hand Pointing.
She has work forthcoming in Paterson Literary Review, Hawai'i
Pacific Review, Lullwater Review, and The South Carolina Review.
When I was young
I lived in a fluffy street pretzel,
licked and crunched on big salt
crystals, tied my limbs in knots
around your pliant body. I was
infinite mustard packets and
whimsy's destination and heat
radiating in wisps of chill air.
The moon rose in the eye of our
embrace. We danced all night
down streets. And I broke apart
easily in your mouth, New York.
Sometimes I've had enough already.
Life is an endless laundry cycle. If it
gets better with time, it's still dirty.
We used to collect quarters to do
our clothes weekly, one of us sitting
with washer, dryer, book, and phone.
Life, more expensive now, the rumble
heard while I work quietly at my desk,
that violent spin. Wash my mouth out
with soap and salt water. I don't want
to start all over. We're a soggy sock
spinning around the sun. It can't get us
clean enough. Burger, fries, a soda
on slow spin, delicate in my intestines.
We're churned like products down
the conveyor belt of corporate life.
We're in transit to the next office,
next task, next layoff, next paycheck,
next co-pay, next Zoom, next cold call.
I'm so cold, so very, very cold. You can
feel it in my ring. You don't pick up.
When I think of the byproducts of my
life: plastic containers and broken glass,
textiles full of holes, and donated socks,
I have to wonder why we're here. Time glides.
One by one the simple goals pass me by:
graduate from school, find a good spouse,
land upwardly mobile jobs, buy a house.
Have kids. See my middle-aged parents die.
Now watch the earth begin to swell and dry.
We breathe plastic particulates, burned homes.
The sea swallows buildings into her womb,
the desert grows. And we wear masks inside.
We get hotter, so hot, we bloom into Mars.
We have no purpose but to burn like stars.
Some nights we practice for the cemetery
our two bodies stretched out straight, side
by side, our breath barely audible. The bed
pretends it's a plot of dirt. This audition
like the Lamaze class we took when my
belly held our first child, and I hissed:
"hee hee hee"—but the actual event had
much more blood, much more violence.
Here now, we stay very still, comforted
by the eternity we simulate. We get good
at this, fall asleep to death-metal crickets.
When I wake to mourning doves, their
squeaky wings in flight, my hand goes
to you on instinct. Some mornings it falls
flat on the sheet, your indentation fresh
but your body somewhere else, haunting
the bathroom, riding furiously down
the street on your bike, practicing life.
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