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Crane Wife

After my mother tosses a sleeping kitten into the dryer

with a basketful of my father’s laundry,

she bows over the kitchen sink for hours,

her long hair hanging like water frozen from a faucet.

She drowns his shirts, twists the bleached sleeves

between her raw fists, like the myth

of the crane wife curling over a loom, weaving

white bolts for her poor husband to sell.

When he discovered her, plucking her own feathers

to spin into cloth, she flew away—

Always we tried to wrangle the newborn kittens,

but with paraffin eyes they wandered under sofas

or woodpiles, and sometimes we found them dead

and piecemeal, the mother cat leaving only

what she couldn’t swallow. At nightfall,

resisting our pleas for red apples she’d be forced

to core and portion with a knife, my mother piles

the still pink-tinged shirts onto the front lawn.

As headlights flood the driveway, she slips her arms

inside shirttails, an origami wingspan

answering wind, answering the whooping calls.

from Surgical WingFind more by Kristin Robertson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Robertson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Kristin Robertson Poems

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.