Katie Staten

Life through a Literary Lens

NaPoWriMo #20 – Queer

I began my life backwards–in a grave,
born the day I parted its lips,
pushing up the earthen placenta before me,
and dug myself out, covered in mud
and all the muck of birth.

You would call this “coming out,”
as if opening a door.

As if I hadn’t been buried for decades.
As if this wasn’t my coming
to life, an act of necromancy.

As if this can’t be both an undying
and a cotillion, blooming in azalea,
verbena, and blue iris.


NaPoWRiMo #19 – Erasure


My living disaster,
rhymes surrounding it, standing
waiting to be disassembled. The only
thing that gets sleep, a repetitive chiming,
noise-making things.
never unpacked,
piles of abandoned

NaPoWriMo #18 – Hollow

A box full of mirrors
and someone else’s violence
and broken strings.

My mother sings
like a hollow burnt-out tree,
inviting and pretty,
now a woman felled and falling.

NaPoWriMo #17 – Blue Lady

Arms up.

The babble of a toddler
newly learned
to leave his bed.

An empty hallway

but for that toddler,
footie pajamas and all,
arms up

as if to say, “Hold me.
Lift me. Comfort me.”
The way he might

to his mother

during a thunderstorm.
The way he might
to his father—

Only not.

Instead, content.
As if to say,
“I love you. Love me?”

His parents come to check
on him. Make sure he’s safe.
“Who ya talking to buddy?”

He says, “Blue lady”

to his mother.
Empty hallway.
Arms up.

NaPoWriMo #16 – The Doll

You don’t much mind the rattle;
don’t care about the ball.
The toy you got attached to
is that godforsaken doll.

Her left arm has a squeaker
I could do without, I think.
The other arm just crinkles.
Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle, crink–

Okay, I know, you get it.
And by the way, she sings!
The alphabet, a count to ten, and–
Oh. Just those two things.

But then, I don’t mind hearing
her “voice” from down the hall.
No, that isn’t what bugs me
about that nightmare of a doll.

It’s just that…well, she’s CREEPY,
as all dolls tend to be.
Her soulless eyes wide open
and staring right through me.

Her face is hard and plastic–
which wouldn’t be so strange
if even the rest of her head
was too. Could that be arranged?

But here’s what really gets me–
this part’s a real hoot–
why on earth is she wearing
a freaking monkey suit?

Child, where are your teddy bears?
Did we lose them all?
Please play with them. I’ll bury
this creepy fucking doll.

It might be relevant to mention as a footnote that I spent my entire childhood having recurring nightmares about dolls. The fact that my four-month old’s favorite toy right now is this creepy looking doll in a monkey suit with giant ears (on the suit), a hard plastic face set in a soft head, and an unnaturally high-pitched voice, does not thrill me.

NaPoWriMo #15 – Sea Witch

Ursula puts her feet up on her desk–
at least she would if she had a desk,
or if in fact she had feet–and sighs.
These dogs are barking, she thinks–
or at least she would
if she’d ever heard a dog bark.
Imagine the dogs she must see.
Imagine if the only soft things
that ever made their way to you
were drowned.

She is the greatest, even if the only
salesperson in the sea.
Her own private dealership,
always pulling profits.
Job fulfillment practically zero,
but hey, you can’t argue
with those benefits.

Ursula calls eels to her,
compliments their smiles,
their wide grins ready to devour.
Calls the anglerfish, praises
the beauty of her entrapping light.
Calls the vampire squid to compare
the sheen of their tentacles.
Ursula knows no soft things,
only the beauty of the disavowed.
Ursula knows only kings
and drowning.

NaPoWriMo #14 – The Kiln

You dream lately of dainty things–
            your late grandmother’s teacup set
            (your mother’s mom you never met),
with roses gold, inset in rings
            around the cracked ceramic rim.
You touch it and the teacup sings
            a soft and distant mournful hymn.

You wonder what fear prompted this–
            the prize of a stranger long since dead–
            and in your dream your mother said
you’d been made in the same furnace.
            You think the fear might be of fire.
You lie down and start to reminisce
            on skin sintering in a pyre.

NaPoWriMo #13 – Undone

My dear, you are one
who could bring the sun
to a funeral.
My dear, you are the opposite
of a funeral.
You are the myriad of floods
that could give life
and blood
to mere stones.
You have given life
to these bones, my dear.
You have performed a miracle.
You have undone
my burial.

NaPoWriMo #12 – City Sunrise

Crows settle on the sturdy wooden fence posts, enjoying a temporary peace at dawn. They call to each other across the grassy stretch, that small haven of green packed in by cement and skyscrapers. Each bird’s wing gleams purple-black in the morning light. Each blade of grass stands erect like a sword’s silver shimmer in the dew, an army emerging at sunrise.

Knife-sharp moments stand
at the battlefield before
the violence of day.

NaPoWriMo #11 – This Afternoon

I can’t see beyond this afternoon:
a cup of tea I may or may not take,
or half an hour of Netflix-streamed cartoons–
unless the baby ends up wide awake
in which case all my afternoon is spent
in treaty with a dictator of four
months old. If I remember, I’ll pay rent,
or other bills–God knows there’s always more.
Who knows if I’ll have any peace tonight.
If I do, I’ve always got the PS3.
Look, It’s not a parable I mean to write–
You know already time’s not guaranteed.
This poem is more about the fact that I’m
completely failing at managing my time.