Skip to content →

Category archive for: Laura Kasischke

Valentine

What was love to my mother before she was my mother?

Something scarlet

in the cage of doves, just

a glass of burgundy splashed

on a pale tablecloth, blood stain on the white carpet, a red

bra worn

under a sheer silk blouse. Oh,

I hadn’t even been born, but I

was determined to make her a mother. I pulled

a needle and a thin red thread

smoothly through her, like a vein

and on the satin side of my mother’s heart

I embroidered, Be Mine

and on the black lace, my name.

from Space, In ChainsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Mushrooms

Like silent naked monks huddled

around an old tree stump, having

spun themselves in the night

out of thought and nothingness—

And God so pleased with their silence

He grants them teeth and tongues.

Like us.

How long have you been gone?

A child’s hot tears on my bare arms.

from The InfinitesimalsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2014 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Elegy

And now, it’s all the same

to you—

the mouth, the sink, the dream.

A bed at the edge of an ocean’s the same

as a train speeding

through Germany.

The Bureau of Travels

has approved all your plans, so you

no longer need

your passport, your cell phone, your coat

to blaze screaming

through the vast North, waving

a flag on fire in the snowy forest, pouring

wine all over the ground, draping

the rearview mirrors

of my car

with red cloth, fogging

the windows, locking the doors, staging

all this silence and emptiness and rust

to torment me, to reveal to me

the hidden mechanics

of lust, having

graduated,

as you did this morning, from being

a humble student of the universe

to its greatest authority.

from Lilies WithoutFind it in the library

Copyright © 2007 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Manna

And what might it taste like? Think

clotted oxygen. Permanent snow. So

many spongy stones, each

containing at its center

the last earthly word of a ghost.

Think of the flesh on an angel’s hips, pinched

into morsels. Candied soap. Small

lozenges of condensed foam.

Six seconds of bliss, rolled

in powdered sugar, deepfried,

rolled again in the white

blood cells of a child,

then left in the shade to multiply.

Yes.

Solid fluff.

Weighted hopes.

Pale

lumps of fresh

heaven, like

some type of old-fashioned candy

your grandmother always remembered

from childhood, and then

searched for all her life,

never found again, but never

ceased to desire: You

find one of those in your pocket

a few days after she dies.

from Lilies WithoutFind it in the library

Copyright © 2007 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Cigarettes

Back then, we smoked them. In

every family photo, someone’s smoking.

Such ashes, such sarcasm, the jokes

that once made loved ones

who are dead now laugh and laugh.

Cigarette in hand.

Standing glamorously at the mantel.

The fire glowing

ahead and behind

and all the little glasses

and the snow outside

filling up the birdbaths, the open graves, the eyes.

And the orchestras in gymnasiums!

That mismanagement

of sound. The wonderful

smoke afterward

in parking lots, in lungs. How

homeliness was always followed

by extravagance back then.

Like hearing lovemaking

in another room

or passing suffering

on the side of the road

without even slowing down:

So it is to remember

such times

and to see them again

so vividly in the mind.

Like a mysterious child

traveling toward us

on a moonless night

holding a jar

containing a light.

from Space, In ChainsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

January

The howling pretends to bring on winter,

but the howling was there all along.

In the miniature roses, in the tiny bees,

in the glittering bits of whatever that was

we called the wind when it was spring:

(Oh, remember, Sweetheart, we called it breeze.)

from Gardening in the DarkFind it in the library

Copyright © 2004 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

The Thigh

Clothing and weapons set aside, I am simply your thigh, and proof

that underneath the world lies

a warm pool of water overflowing

with drowned blue butterflies.

All these years,

clear up to here:

As you waited, I waited too.

When you were tired,

I lay down with you.

You never noticed,

but now you do. (

boy’s fingers whispering past the hem of your skirt—guess who?)

Guess who.

Sleeve of moony, vaporous voices. The dead ebbing as the living flowed.

The calm milked cows in a field of clover. The long

white fish in a bath. Cellular

shadow on the forest floor. Someone withdraws

a shining sword.

The naked man standing on the deck with his harpoon.

So much water lapping at a mindless shore. So

much spring stuffed into a pale

silk sack.

Or a club

tossed down among the flowers.

I am your memory

of it all, your life, in flesh and hours, statement

and tone, meat and weather

wrapped around a bone.

from Lilies WithoutFind it in the library

Copyright © 2007 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Macaroni & Cheese

One day you may be asked, “How

was it that God brought forth

being

out of nothing?” Then, “Is

there no difference between them—

nothing, and being?” Outside

a strange slow snow, and a big

black bird hunched

over something in the road. The sky

will be a pale

reflection of itself,

like a woman making dreamy circles

at the center of a dish with a cloth.

Love. Hunger. Other alchemies.

You may be asked, “What

are my eyes made of? Can

Santa’s reindeer be burned by fire? In

heaven, does Jesus eat?”

In the oven, something breathing. Rising. Melting.

Shifting

shape and sweetening

in the heat. Now

you can see that the bird in the street

is wrestling something bloody

out of a carcass, trying

to expose its heart. You

put the dish down beside the cloth, and say,

“Darling, I don’t know.”

from Gardening in the DarkFind it in the library

Copyright © 2004 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Childhood Friend

Is this what you asked for, my friend, these words, is

this

what you meant when you said—?

On the bus, it settled between us, the dead

skin of living

children in a blizzard. Sand

from the stars. Ancient violets. The crushed

wings of bees and the dander of birds. So

much small stuff, yes, on the breeze, but at our desks

the sun

made a circus of it. Asthma, weeping, elephants,

and clowns. A man slipped screaming from his trapeze

as a sequined girl twirled

over him in a noose—

Excuse me? I couldn’t

hear what you said

over the roar of the billion

specks descending, over the accumulation of flakes

and scales.

You asked me for something, I know that much, I know

you called my name

as you stumbled down the garden

path beneath my bed, gasping, as you knelt down there

and died

among the childhood flowers made of dust and human

hair.

from Gardening in the DarkFind it in the library

Copyright © 2004 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

At the public pool

I could carry my father in my arms.

I was a small child.

He was a large, strong man.

Muscled, tan.

But he felt like a bearable memory in my arms.

The lion covers his tracks with his tail.

He goes to the terrible Euphrates and drinks.

He is snared there by a little shrub.

The hunter hears his cries, and hurries for his gun.

What of these public waters?

Come in, I said to my little son.

He stood at the edge, looking down.

It was a slowly rolling mirror.

A strange blue porcelain sheet.

A naked lake, transparent as a need.

The public life.

The Radio Songs.

Political Art.

The Hall of Stuff We Bought at the Mall. The plugged-up fountain at the center

of the Museum of Crap That Couldn’t Last

has flooded it all.

Come in, I said again. In here you can carry your mother in your arms.

I still see his beautiful belly forever.

The blond curls on his perfect head.

The whole Botticelli of it crawling on the surface

of the water. And

his sad, considerate expression.

No, he said.

from Space, In ChainsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Laura Kasischke
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.