Winter Of (And I Took the Chemise Off)

And I said to him You are such an atomist
and I took the chemise off
the canal had a scrim of green
the kestrel between my shoulder blades
kept worrying its nest
worrying and worrying
till I grew bored with it
I said My acedia will catch fire soon
there were bulb flowers underground
there was a tent glowing by the sea
it was that kind of quickstep reality
I felt I had reached the edge of myself
I felt that I spilled over
I felt it was not beautiful
I felt I was not beautiful
and my soul stretched thin as a catalpa pod
that goes rattle, rattle rattle
and I said remember those meteorite knives
in the shop in the very wet city
and he said No
I never saw them I was never there
and I realized I was alone in this
have I mentioned how I don’t know how to swim
have I mentioned how I type with one hand
the trees were hardcore gravure
against the muddy sky
and a sort of eclipse coming on
like a fucking beautiful train
I was not ready
I was not ready
winter of light and
winter of feathers leaking out and
winter of berries red against filthy sky and
winter of Where’d your mind go
and ropes of velvet
ropes of velvet for tying up the hush
and I said Eyeless, and so terrible
which weren’t my words at all
the light disorienting the trail muddy
put your body back on
put your body back on and let’s go walking
and I said You with your particality
while I try to make of my mind a workable whole
and I said Hey atomist
well you know they’ve smashed that thing
everything swirling like propolis
filling up the spaces
filling up the light
sealing up the house
until no draught came through
and I took the chemise off

Hulls Gulch



Months from any tree becoming remotely fragrant yet one cannot remain in bed. What if, by the time things forsythia, we no longer recognize the flora, believe it’s some sort of apocalypse, are possibly afraid? All winter the pall clots, a sharpness at the temples. The sky pretends at simple. I have no quarrel with figments. Night garden, whetstone, small alien ships of seedpods tangled in the barbed wire. Here is the skeleton of the hummingbird on a chain around my neck. Let us pretend it’s fleshed, the chain a leash; let us be sad men who keep miniatures on silver threads. Last night in the theater, the couple in the next row masturbated each other in the dark, small dove noises as the city burned. On the vagaries of desire: I too wanted to be fingered, but my lover was occupied, so I drove into the hills, past the reedy underbrush that pretends at fire. I hiked on; the pall did not dissolve, though I felt a little better, thank you.






Here the trailhead; here the sagebrush; here the creek, the glass house on the cliff, the telephone wires, the dust kicked up so that I am never without my little vials of eye drops—“thinking for hours together of having the knife she gave me put in a silver-case—the hair in a Locket—and the Pocket Book in a gold net”—the absences tangible as hummingbird skulls. Having come to the trailhead, I crave a speechless place caught up in a gold net.






Grit in my teeth and the sky about to tear, I peer into the cleft two boulders make. Eye to the wet dark, I hear impossible water. I’m learning to allow for visions. The cliffs give up a sound like howling, which merges with actual howling to become a system of enormous potential. A lightninged thicket; a road sliced out of winter; a tooth buried in the bark of a tree; a bowl of lathed yew; a ewe split like a peach but still bleating. I walk and walk. Like a jellyfish or the annunciation, the heliodore-yellow underlying everything shimmers, is gone.






Sometimes when I wake the furniture’s slightly haloed, sleeping pill screwing with the visual cortex, a pleasant effect for someone who doesn’t believe in holiness. I believe he went home with her smell on his fingers; I believe that on the trail are many handsome dogs. The acedia hums and hums. Soon, excess and magnolia, snow in the mountains moving toward us as runoff, great volumes of water pulled into our valley, swans on the riverbank drinking that snow. I will sit by the trail until my head stops hurting. I will try not to be afraid.

Kerri Webster

Kerri Webster is the author of two books of poetry: Grand & Arsenal (2012) and We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (2005). The recipient of awards from the Whiting Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, she has taught in the MFA programs at Washington University in St. Louis and Boise State University. Webster currently lives in Idaho, where she adjuncts and works as a Writer in the Schools for The Cabin, a literary arts organization.

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