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Interview with James Cherry by Kimberly Mathes in this issue

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Poetry by Kimberly Mathes in a previous issue

Kimberly’s poems in 200 New Mexican Poems

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Contributor Notes




Kimberly Mathes


 

How to Say Goodbye


            for Claudia Rankine

 

The way your kindness met

me on the Sunday of my life

makes it hard for me to express

Kindness is too tiny a word

to describe your yourness 

so I falter instead I return

 

the borrowed book of your own

poems and unpack the bulky grocery bag

you left

like I am pulling presents

from a stocking Christmas day

holding each gift in my hands

 

to feel what it brings at the end

which is the Monday of my week

I revel in the dried pasta

balsamic vinegar

sweet yellow onions

and a pair of shoes

 

you never wore

How did we meet half

way? Now this is Tuesday

you are done here

you will leave

a trail of golden across

 

the sky one way

from Cleveland to Manhattan

just the sparkling dust of you

and underneath new

shoes for me and groceries

The new package of Philadelphia cream

cheese at the bottom of the bag

 

delighted me

I am beginning in the middle

you are ending in the middle

to begin again

I unpack my groceries

and think it really is time to unpack

too and leave, shelve

 

fear next to the pasta and walk or fly

away come Wednesday

which is now tomorrow

Oh Ho!  you say

This is you

what I will hear, what is imprinted

your palindromic exclamation

 

opening textures

each word its own package

to be held and weighed

            its own gift in the end

Meeting me

teaching me

leaving me unpacking groceries

looking down at my new shoes

 

 

 


Grace

 

The child works on printing, the fat black

crayon marking paper the color of the sun.

Upper case letters align like soldiers:

 

G G G G G G G G G

J J J J J J J J J J J J J

But lower case letters mis-

 

behave, reverse and drift:  d d d d d b d d d b

                                      p p p q q p p p p p q

She gets the first letter of her name

 

right every time:  K K K K K K K K K,

but the last letter is tricky.  Which way

to extend the leg on the v?  And she wonders if

 

F is supposed to blow west

or east.  Each letter forces finger

cramps.  Her mother patiently

 

insists--again, again--already teaching

the child the mystery of birth: the great

unease which leads to unwavering

 

devotion. Late one night, she accelerates

through the dark. Rounding the curves

of San Juan Boulevard reminds

 

her of the crayon tracing loops and filling

empty paper.  She sees words

carved from the darkness.  All

 

that time at the antique desk

scraping shapes into letters, learning

reverence: letters to words, words to love.

 

 

 

 

It Must Be Something Else

 

The angels fill the house, gathering

in the ceilings and upper walls. They

roust about. They laugh. They describe how

we live inside the sleep

 

of the wounded. They tell me to love—

despite, and even if. They give me

these words, pouring them like pebbles

into my cupped hands. And when I tell them

 

there’s no love strong enough to make me

want to live in this world—not even

the love of my son, they say nothing

at first. (So it must be something else.)

 

Then they answer with silent ovation.

“You’re so tired,” they applaud. “Just wait.”

 

 

 


Two Guns

 

I. West Bound

 

We are quiet on the freeway and now there is nothing

to say but to watch the sun ease down the horizon,

leaving a wavy pink wake. We have traveled over four

hundred miles after working a full day. We pass Two

 

Guns, Arizona, and now, work ended for one day,

there is nothing to do but note Mt. Humphries growing

closer. We have been gliding under grey

 

since we left, and the end of the cloud

front hovers between us and the mountain. When we

arrive beneath the star-filled sky, we will be halfway.

 

 

II. East Bound

 

The same stretch of abandoned train cars line I-40.

Whose day will be filled with hooking up to their loneliness

and pulling them home?  The fourth car explodes

with graffiti: HOLLA. The H, taller than a grown man, leans

 

into the O, which bounces into the double L, which sidles

up to the peaking A. My mother-in-law, refusing to believe

that phones are now mobile, calls near Gallup and thinks

 

we are at home. But the land turns into reservation and more

emptiness as we point the car north for the final leg, and the call

drops as her voice rises and her hollering engulfs the night.