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Katie Byrum

August 2008

Meditations on Women


means the same person split:
two bodies, one shadow, hinged
at the seams. Your body
peeled apart, it sang my name.

Oracle means a wild queen scattering
bone shards. My body,
your burden, the grit and grated ashes
I rose from, under your hands.

Pica means the hunger for red earth,
the desire, the insatiable
quest: the mouth, the waiting
mouth. Returning, there are secrets

you cannot keep.

The Gathering

Grief-splintered, in search
of bones, the goddess
wanders blind in the village of death.
The blood-link yokes hunter to hunted.
She plucks his limbs like scattered fruit –
nestles each sacred fragment
in a winnowing basket.

Ascending in grief,
she climbs the spine of the body universal
to the veiled intersection
of heaven and earth.

For lack of what is found there
she kneels before the father’s threshold
and gravely braves the asking:
Give me your name. She moves
In her skins, she does not know the answer.

To die for the knowing, she braces for blossom.

Earth stirs: the blood-hewn
roar of understanding, terrible
numinous gust like the charging
of a great boar. The night-sky buckles

with the unspeakable descent, the thousand
particles of breath
surrender in the great exhale

burying finally the great lie –
To sacrifice is to die.


This is how I buried my mother
in song. She always had the tiniest
feet, like fragile birds. Mornings in the kitchen
rose up around her whistling,
over the teakettle steam and the cat
rasping at the door.

The timer on the oven has been going off for ages.

In the backyard she hunted nightingales,
though their wings beat at her chainlink ribs.
From the birds she learned how not to sleep,
how to read the greenish shards of April, when to
start, and when to run

She whistled through the siren wails
the tiles peeled off the roof like
playing cards, like a car hurrying out of the driveway.
Peeled like the kitchen wallpaper,
tiny pilgrims repeating, their faces
splitting at the seams, mutely
offering their baskets: Squash. Maize.
Fowl. Their wind-husked
bounty trembling off the walls
while we crouched in the bathtub
clutching radios like life rafts.

The nightingales lashed their wings against the wall.
Inside, our hair tangled in the air
around our faces – horrible, our mouths unhinged,
swallowing an avalanche of song,
already harvesting the dead.

Katie Byrum is a poet living in Louisville, KY, where she is the intern at Sarabande Books. Her poetry is forthcoming from O Tempora! magazine.
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