SageGreenJournal.org voices out of the West, mostly poetry, personal to planetary...

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Kate Kingston

Trinidad, Colorado

 

author of two books of poetry, History of Grey, a runner-up in the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and Shaking the Kaleidoscope, a finalist in the 2011 Idaho Prize for Poetry.

 

Kingston is the recipient of the W.D Snodgrass Award for Poetic Endeavor and Excellence, the Ruth Stone Prize, and the Atlanta Review International Publication Prize.

 

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The Miner's Wife

 

Kate Kingston

 

I am not going down into the tunnels

with the men, the boys, the mules. My bad luck

sleeves stay in the kitchen, knead biscuits,

stir rabbit stew until twilight while men pickaxe

 

earth into manageable pieces, load mule carts

with fuel. I am this camp, its backyard of asparagus

and lilac trying to beat the coal’s creep over surface.

I am the mule’s left eye guarding the oat bin.

 

I study my daughter’s hands as she loads chunks

into wheelbarrows, feeds the stove, rinses

her salty fingers. I wait above ground for news.

Who can I marry again if it comes to that?

 

I chain-stitch my hem, blow soot from the forks,

reach into sunlight like other women reach

for flowers, something to bring inside and arrange

on the table like a little basket of hope.

 

 

*

I will not tell him the way bread feels on my palms,

its life of rising and warmth, the crust brewing,

will not tell him about the trip to the well, thistle

 

climbing up my hem, the whole day’s thirst in the bottom

of a lunch pail where apples crisp in the cold.

Morning is a man pulling boots from under the bed,

 

belt buckle clinking, gruff throat clearing, a voice too tired

to speak, brittle shard beginning the day. A child needs

washing, too young for the mine and a girl besides.

 

I will not tell him the curve of her fingers as she traces

hopscotch in dust, picks up pebbles and tosses them, not tell

him the sound stones make as they fall from her hands.

 

 

*

I arrange primroses, cut stems

just below the third leaf, place them

in a window jar full of marbles.

 

My brush strokes the eight-year-old’s hair,

de-snarls. Her braided beauty

carries a lantern, turns at the corner.

 

Hail leaves silver rivulets in corn,

shreds hollyhocks, sharpens

my insane appetite for yesterday.

 

His grey shirts shiver on the line.

Nostalgia reaches up my sleeves, nothing

but moonlight left for the cat.

 

A breeze stirs the black eyes in my garden,

and the door aches like a stone.

 

 

*

Sometimes I whisper blue

just before snow releases down-feathers,

eclipses sun.

 

When this son is born women come to the door

to hear his first cry,

blue lips, chest shimmering.

 

Out my window rouge on the Sangre de Cristos.

I’m home,

I tell the first star that stands like my mother at the door.

 

She told me it would be this way,

child after child, the sky without pelicans.

His body

quivers for a moment. I think of rivers, remember

the frail neck of blue heron over water.

 

 

*

The scent of auburn

                 rises over my head like an aura.

I always knew the saints followed me

                 down the steps of that Irish school

into the world of oxcarts and clotheslines.

                 Saints, as prolific as mosquitos

in August stillness, and this bee,

                 so certain I am a flower.

 

Sometimes I feel like my life

                 is fantasy in a stained apron,

something to wear when biscuits

                 come out of the oven.

I keep coming back to children,

                 tiny lips pressed to my breast,

just for the taste of milk.

                 Think of me

 as a white sheet in wind when the line snaps.

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