Kathleen Winter

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Late or never
pass through a doorway
proportioned for children,
late or never
over the tollway of fears.
Your role is to be only
greenest of daughters,
freshest branch
of the Innocence Tree.
Late or never
look for a soldier, widow’s boy,
ax-clever planter of vines.
Claim you’re not afraid
to gather the white bear’s
fur in your fingers,
soar over your gone home
crawling with siblings,
over the abattoir’s pool.
Late or never
flown to the stone
halls of power,
search in each corner
for a crone.
Take, late or never,
whatever she offers,
map woven into
the North Wind’s cloak.
There, a black wood
never to exit,
there the trail that goes
only one way.
And here a route
too dear to choose—
its toll is a bucket of tears:
late or never
steer far from his moss-
covered hold, the bridge
of the troll of years.

Bad Blood II—A Review

                                  after Arthur Rimbaud

            Literally, a horror. I’ve known clumsiness in flayers and
scorchers, but theirs I find barbarous ineptitude, a sacrilege to the
trade. All hands liars, sons of good families, but in fighting, lazier
than the toad.

            The master criminals’ blue-white hair and Gallic domesticity,
their idolatry, sickens me: I don’t care. Narrow skulls, disgusting
clothes, what beasts! Honestly, families like that owe everything to
lust—magnificent plough—using the body for a living, butter on the
tongue.

            But oh! my pen is intact: perfidious indolence is grass. Only
a base age of beggars, like my own, could declare this castration
magnificent. I never shall.

Even Wild Birds Know Us, Who We Are

Crystal chandeliers carved out of adjectives,
      feasts you’ve made from phrases,
silences secure enough to dream in
      slung across your shoulders, borne
toward the capitol of our incipient collaborations.

Lend me your forbearance for so long
      bestowed on air, although it pains you
where you breathe. Circle around,
      circle to lie down in this deep
nest of feathers borrowed from each bird

on Earth, from the low-flying barn owl
      who’s tried to tell us for a decade,
over the insistent pulsing of these insect stars,
      we are who, who . . . jugglers in a drama
thick with irony and chaos, walls and swords?

We, the interlude of mild relief?
      Surely there are more disasters than a wit
can make her own through humor,
      word and gesture robbing viper of its venom
power for this evening, one clear hour.

Author Portrait

Kathleen Winter is the author of Nostalgia for the Criminal Past (Elixir Press 2012), which won the Antivenom Poetry Prize and the 2013 Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Memorial Award. In 2014, her current book manuscript won the Marsh Hawk Press Rochelle Ratner Prize, selected by Brenda Hillman. She has received fellowships from the James Merrill House; Brown Foundation Residency at the Dora Maar House, Provence; Vermont Studio Center; and Prague Summer Program. Her poems have appeared in journals including Tin House, Poetry London, AGNI, The New Republic, Memorious, Drunken Boat and The Cincinnati Review.