I've long admired Kathryn Kirkpatrick's poetry. A fine scholar and teacher in the English Department at Appalachian State University, she has published work in many of the nation's best journals, including two of my favorites, CAVE WALL and SHENANDOAH. Her book OUT OF THE GARDEN was published by Mayapple Press four years ago. The following two poems are from her forthcoming book, ALTER, to be published by Press 53 in Winston-Salem, NC. Kathryn is a long-distance friend, one I wish I could see more often.
Finding the Heart
Under the hydrangea, a heart
the dogs have found, a deer's
left by a hunter in our woods,
the carcass gutted where it lay, and I,
having never seen anything
like it, larger than anyone's fist
I know of, fetch the shovel because
it is so newly out of the body,
I am sure it was beating
only yesterday or the day before
and so bare beside the knife's
fresh cut and so powerful, somehow,
as if it did the work of living
still that I cannot bear
this awful cleaving from
the breath it made
and I dig a small grave.
Up from the massage table
I catch sight of myself
in the unavoidable mirror.
Afternoon light doesn't blink.
Basic bald head. Bare pudendum.
Soft pile of belly and hips.
Once mirrors drew me like friends,
broke my gloomy moods
with a smile, eyes brighter
than I'd remembered. Now I'm sacra
to myself, a neutral suggestion,
transpersonal form. Stripped
to Neolithic goddess, I'm all
that's behind all that will ever be,
prima mater, prima material,
impersonal as rain, kneaded
to dozens of shapes, except
that my chest is scarred
which is what you'd expect
of a goddess in this 21st century.