TWO POEMS by Kirsten Kaschock

reduced to quatrain

Again. Down at the water birds tread—
feet in mire, wings mucked. Once-fish
wash up and a few beaks pick at, twitch
inside them. The dead and half-dead

littering the shore are plastics. Am
I terrified that these immensities
of what I’ve done are licensed? Yes.
Rage erupts, and me—part-owner of a dam.

Oceans die and to do nothing I wade
into the dying—my body asking to offer
itself comfort: some lulling rhythmic turn
borrowed even longer ago from a wave.


there is no distance

if I poison
I am poisoner

a torturer

doing not a thing am I not a thing

pouring black
into the machine I

become thing-like
wound darkly

a wounding clock

a keep for
killing I watch I

watch and watching
am what I do not

stop nor seek to unwind

who might I
be I’ve caged

she thins dis-
persed inside

her sorry so-the-fuck-what jailor

all mad here—it’s
mercury it’s petrol

bottled she bolts
her desire to fly

her best-worst attribute to the earth

waters were once
a kind of flight—if

I fly I’m a f-ing

what? while ink-dark milk plumes through

unslaking sobs of
we: babies, takers

–Kirsten Kaschock



I don’t know how one should make poems out of sorrow, complicity, and impotence.  I only hope that making poems can be a first step toward action.  While this is happening, I have been reading aloud Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time to my sons. In that book, three children travel light years from home to fight a dark cloud that they are told also shadows the earth.  Such a shadow has leapt from metaphor into our water—the amniotic fluid of the planet.  Art can feel small against this—and crucial.


Kirsten Kaschock’s first book of poetry, Unfathoms, is available from Slope Editions. a beautiful name for a girl is upcoming from Ahsahta Press.  Kirsten is currently a Ph.D. fellow in dance at Temple University and resides in Manayunk, Pennsylvania, where she makes things.

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