Kathleen Winter

City Eye Elegy

A toll-taker’s makeup is perfect.
Bridge is the beginning of the city;
waves lick its feet.

After her cubby a tunnel,
pale blue eye/then shut/then sky
how lids of the car-cans glimmer,
little dogs kicking back
dust in the crosswalk.

If my lover were blind
would I dye my hair green?
Is there only one other
in this world to please?

My other other died a year ago.
Since then, the long fringe
on a very long shawl
or is it a tunnel or is it a well
my mind digs toward toward
his painless heaven.

City’s thick with garments,
ties making their men
disciplined, wingtips
keeping their feet
on the ground.

Writing while driving I have to be short I have to
be short all the time,
I look at you & think you’re my height
but I’m five three
with the ambition of a virus
or Rotarian.

As a girl I was a red-haired
Rotarian in running shorts at 6 a.m.,
Lisa Yee & me & fifty men,
a cold buffet.

That was in a little city
three careers away,
place of too many grapes.

Now I’m in the park
with a windmill, Ocean Beach,
home to fragile baby buffalo
who panic in their pasture
when the smaller dog digs in,
panic smash into fence posts break ribs & cry.

So discipline descends again
for little dogs—long ties
& shorter tunnels.

Walking towards water where a vision
of the original Cliff House persists
invisibly on the horizon, now
my absent other with me in the phantom
Victorian tower, sighting these
passing strange pairs of whales
migrating—fathers & daughters.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Ripley’s eating a cricket    its stiff dinner jacket
crackles between her teeth

I just moved my ring to a different finger

                                 as though that makes me a free agent
on the front porch of this home away from home
almost alone

not all my fears followed me
to the house with a sky blue roof      skeleton
of cedar logs    fleshed out by limestone plaster
in the Swedish style    by Germans

immigrants built this place
                            and nobody leaves

the state with our nation’s lowest attrition rate

but this is where I exited
quick as an insect       hunted

I’ve been a wife for eighteen years
but I’m nobody’s Darling

but my own

after decades gone away
                                    Here whips my synapses

acres make all senses twitch      prodigal
memories shake my brain
                         like a hard-hit receiver’s

there’s a knife on this table       mice in my sink
                         lilies like drought trees in a jar

when you want to smash something
living
            pause      to wonder      waver

can a dog do that      a cricket?

Author Portrait

Kathleen Winter is the author of Nostalgia for the Criminal Past (Elixir Press), winner of the Antivenom Prize and Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Award. Her poems appear in Tin House, AGNI, New Republic, Gulf Coast, Poetry London and Cincinnati Review. She was granted fellowships at the Dora Maar House; James Merrill House; Cill Rialaig Retreat and Vermont Studio Center. In Fall 2015, Winter was the Ralph Johnston Fellow at the Dobie Paisano Ranch. She won the 2014 Rochelle Ratner Award from Marsh Hawk Press and the 2016 The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America.