Kate Garrett is the founding/managing editor of several web journals, including Picaroon Poetry, and her own writing is widely published online and in print. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. and her latest chapbook, Land and Sea and Turning, was published by CWP Collective Press in August 2018. Born and raised in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives in Sheffield with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk Twitter @mskateybelle
Once upon a time I shuffled cards, exchanged
insights on the suits of wands and pentacles
for cups of wine and ten cigarettes.
Everyone’s clarity comes in a different
package. Back then a north wind cut
through clouds of tar that wouldn’t stick
on lungs too young to be anything other
than invincible. I’d tell them their new jobs
would work out fine, to make plans for holidays.
The questions they asked of a girl who walked
among them dusted with soot and salt and sparks—
they were easy to answer for Pluto’s stray
daughter, who couldn’t say she’d ever seen
the Pleiades, but knew the wisdom of hiding
inside a yew tree and waiting for spring.
Calculation of the systemic score
in school I would play the piano
by ear, the echo in my head
reaching slender fingers
to dance out a pattern of sounds
today these hands wrap around
this pen, a mug of coffee, my baby
spiders come to grace
with strange dexterity
here is a hollow where all the lies I’ve ever heard are held to my heart
a hiccup pocket between my lungs where I forever catch my breath
this cavern where every I love you curls around each utterance
of you were a mistake and whispers hush now, it’s over
here is a cave: a fire stays burning here when I disappear
I take to the hills, come dead last in the race
on my own terms
as children they laughed at your waddled run
feet splayed, slow and out of air and straggling;
heartbeats running miles ahead of your body
but on this trail, stumbling over stiles
I reach the finish line, saline and smiling
On a Thursday-Friday train
It’s late and your whisky is wrapped in a map of the world. We three take gentle sips around the table and hope for choppy seas, wind and rain, to harmonise with the sound of the long late-night train passing through Huddersfield like a wrong-way phantom. You have said you are certain you’re not destined for great things, but this makes me too sad and I look at another kind of map, relieved to see the sky in the moment you were born says you could be a constellation to outshine us all. Now you tell me! you accuse, as if it’s too late. It’s never too late. The problem is we all think we know too much about time; we talk of estuaries, the magic of mixing a river and the sea, wading in a perpetual moment. We talk of those moments while passing through them. I want to point out the waters where the map doesn’t say here be monsters, but should, so I can show you both where we need to sail. A kraken is nothing to fear; come with me, you won’t get sick if you stay on deck, I promise. When the Shipping Forecast says it’s squally in the Irish Sea, we congratulate whatever gods could hear us. We each speak a pantheon. One of them had to be listening.
I dream Edith Sitwell gives advice about my condition
Between colours unseen during
waking hours, I am given
the upturn of an almost-smile
and the assurance of her incantation.
She says what I lose
in aching hips, slack knees
I gain in straight-backed carriage.
She says, let my shoulders jut
if they must; let my long arms swing.
She says, let the minute-hand
of my unpredictable heart set
my pace. Stick to it.
She says listen to my friends
who say elegance, who say
elfin; listen to my love whose
tenderness is a permanent
kiss on my too-visible clavicle.
She says, if people think
I’m light enough to blow away
on a storm wind
it’s their way of expressing
an impossible wish to fly.