Katie Staten

Life through a Literary Lens

NaPoWriMo 30

Spring rain makes pavement
glisten like a still river
or a starry sky.
As we walk on liquid night,
we, too, become holier.


I’m off prompt today. I didn’t really feel like writing and would’ve been fine with not doing so, if it weren’t for the fact that it would mean I’d fail to complete the NaPoWriMo challenge by one stupid day.

I’m not sure how I feel about this year’s results, but if the universe is willing to give me the time and energy, I’ll write something talking about it tomorrow. ❤

Heirloom

When my daughter was first laid on my chest,
I wrapped her in the cloak my mother gave me:
velvet sky and worry. Amazing,

how soft fear can be. How warm.
How we pass it on through generations
like a jewel. My mother’s mother

fenced in the yard where her children played
with warnings. My mother tucked me in
under hypotheticals and worst-case scenarios.

For two years, not a night went by
where I didn’t rest my hand on my daughter’s back
to confirm its rise and fall in her sleep.

Amazing, how we convince ourselves
fear will keep our loved ones safe.
My daughter’s breath will continue

as long as I lie awake listening for it.
We make magic sigils on her pillow
to keep nightmares at bay.

I hug tight my mother’s cloak in my own bed:
velvet sky. I learn to string its fabric
with stars plucked from the sky by giants
so my daughter can inherit something beautiful.

Most Days

Most days I swallow my lonely whole,
scraping fistfuls from the air around me.

I scrape fistfuls of the cold around me
and turn it to fire in my belly.

The fire in my belly doesn’t come out
in my breath–it consumes me.

The fire in my lungs consumes me
without the release of breath.

I release my breath and still burn
from the inside out.

Inside out, I can only live inside myself.
Inside myself is where the lonely stays.

The lonely stays and burns like a cold breath.
Most days I swallow my lonely whole.

What Happened to the Pumpkin After the Ball

I wonder if it was still hollow as a carriage,
or if it got its insides back.
If it longed for mobility again.
If it missed its sense of purpose.

Imagine becoming, for a few hours,
changed by a spell of splendor–
becoming a thing of beauty,
of royalty. Becoming a thing
that can open without a knife.

To pour yourself into others
is like midnight then–
after hollowing yourself out
until you are no longer fit for use,
you can be left to rot in the garden
among the prettier things.

Patron Saint of Nothing

Once, a deer wandered into my nowhere
town–a refugee escaping death
from the nearby hunting preserve.
She graced the alley behind my yard,
surveying it as if ancestral memory
told her of a past without houses here.
I watched her from my kitchen window,
and it seemed she stared steadily back.
Then, slowly, she blinked–

and the walls crumbled to earth,
and the earth sprouted skyscraper trees,
and the trees hummed with the wind,
and the wind made ripples in the fields.
Only the sky remained unchanged,
endless, and that was familiarity enough.

I watched a year pass above me.
Snow fell thick and quiet.
Thunderstorms, with no windows to rattle,
roared into unfazed forest.
The sky ran blue, deeper than ocean,
and in the night galaxies swirled,
high above stretching, yearning treetops.

That much was still home. In a town
ten miles from the nearest traffic light,
with few buildings taller than a maple,
the sky feels much the same
as it must have millennia ago.

The deer stood a dozen trees away.
She lowered her head to graze,
and when she raised it,
home had come back to where I was.

Maybe she hadn’t escaped death.
Maybe she had wandered from the corn fields
that hold the town quiet for miles,
or the woods down the road
where children play at castles in the fall.

She headed further into town
as if taking inventory of her own world.
I felt myself in two homes at once watching her–
goddess of the fields,
patron saint of drowning
in all this nothing.

The Person I Thought I’d Be By Now

has a glance that can make you
feel the way a man must feel
with a six-inch stiletto heel
pressed to his heart.

The way a person can drink
you under the table–
that’s what it’s like
to talk to her some days.

She dresses like she’s going
somewhere–the kind of place
respectable folks wouldn’t
be caught dead at–

and she carries knives
and whiskey the same way
some folks carry pictures.
She still writes poetry, but

she doesn’t sell mattresses for a living.
She doesn’t count seconds like ceiling tiles
to silence her own constant storm.
She isn’t ashamed of her soft parts.

It Pours

Sometimes when it rains
it only drizzles–
no stronger than a fire
as it fizzles to its last
embers. But how we
remember–
even in a light spattering,
quiet scattering of mist,
we carry the memory
of a flood. How it pours–
rain leaving us
more battered than kissed,
gardens more drowned
than watered.
Even when the sky holds
us gentle, as if meant
as an apology
or a promise, how it pours–
as if its sole intent
was to swallow us
whole.

Body

“But look at everything it’s done,” I’m told,
and I know–my body

has made another body,
has fed and nurtured another body,
has held another body,
has brought another body to life,
but that body grows further from mine
every day and my body
has left its usefulness behind.

I know–my body

has been the vehicle that held and moved
all that I am, but sometimes
all that I am feels like too little
and my body feels like too much.
Too much pain, too much maintenance,
too much tired, too much body.

My body is a miracle of mechanics.
“Just look at how it works,” I’m told,
and I know– my body is so intricate,
a balance of water and stardust,
of real and magic; electric
and (mostly) adaptable.

I know.

But my body is a thing of planned obsolescence.
Someone file a customer complaint with God–
she made me too easily cracked when dropped,
with moving parts that wear out too quickly,
meant to be replaced every time a new generation
is released.

Released, like something wild.
My body once made something wild.
My body once contained something wild.
I know the wilderness–I know my body
has broken and tamed it.

Nikki

Gunshot girl, all adrenaline and rage,
who could blame the tornado
for being born of the storm?

Sometimes it takes a house
shredded by wind to learn your body
is also made of stone and metal.

Stone becomes cloth, in ocean-like
waves; becomes a gossamer veil; becomes
skin indented with the pressure of hands.

Where does windswept childhood
go after the storm?