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Christine's work online:

Adirondack Review

Atomicpetals

Born Magazine

Branches Quarterly

The Diagram

DMQ Review

In Posse

Natural Bridge

Octavo

The Pedestal

pif

three candles

Bitter Oleander

Tupelo Press

Mammoth Books

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Christine Boyka Kluge
Christine Boyka Kluge


Talking to My Familiar

1.
The crow lands on the deck to watch me write,
my head bent over the arm of my red chair.
He's always there, staring.
Something untouchable burns bright between us.
Like passing my hand through blue-gold flame,
I push my thoughts fast through this sacred space.
When I do, a change in light,
a pupil-imploding flicker, registers.
Flesh unsinged,
my fingers close around nothing,
but my mind cups an ancient language.
When my lips hesitate in a lapse of faith,
my thoughts collapse.
Invisible fire-tongues leap,
leaving blister tracks on my open palm,
pen fallen.

2.
I love the sound of black feathers in flight:
ffwp-ffwp brushing overhead,
so close I know their song by heart.
I memorize this glossy back-and-forth music.
From the maple, the crow clucks at me.
I cluck back, commenting on his burnished beauty.
He moves closer, to the overhanging branch.
Then he hops to the railing,
his claws catching noisily,
scratching rough wood as he walks toward me.
My skin crawls with ice
at his unearthly attempt at speech:
a moan like a human voice
struggling to rise from crow throat.
He clicks together consonants like pebbles.
Around these skipped stones,
hoarse vowels ripple wide, then subside.

3.
I pity the soul trapped in this inky throat,
lips sealed beneath dark beak—
lost heart trembling inside the ribs of a crow,
transported by wings now.
He thinks: bread crusts, sorrow, ruined stars.

4.
On the telephone wire he coyly turns his back to me,
polished profile sharp against May's emerald light.
He preens his elegant dream of our escape,
but he's afraid to swoop closer,
to match black eye to blue.
To claim something.
I know I know you.
Before
.

5.
Flame beyond grasp.
A wasp drags dangling yellow legs
across my arm in an odd caress.
I stop writing.
Yes—I'll pay attention.
I look at the bright sky framing my black crow,
perched on the head of the carved beast.
He forms a bird-shaped hole in the tight blue air.
His drowned voice is articulate in its need;
his diamond eye searches mine in silence.
He decides not to fly beyond reach—
trusting me not to reach,
but to let my mind leap sideways
through sunlight,
into his shadow.


Lamb

In your dreams, if you squint,
you will see your life wandering
like a lamb on a distant hill.
It appears for only an instant—
startling white, unshorn—
prancing in a sun-pierced hole in the mist.
You look into its onyx eyes,
and it leaps.

Cloud into cloud, it disappears.
You call to it, tenderly,
but only fill the air with ashes and pity.
It cannot hear you.

There is no longer fire where you stand,
no valley of smoke between you.
But, still—
no way to find the lost lamb,
to lift it, trembling, to your chest.
There is only this gift of clarity,
pressing a cold nose to your palm—
when you thought you were awake—
when you thought
you could still step through that hole
into the grass
and travel on.


Spindle

Like a puppet hand
pulled by invisible strings,
her hand lingers over the spindle.
Her forefinger hovers,
aligning the whorls,
focusing bull's-eye-to-arrow.
Beneath her skin,
blood surges forward,
guiding the glittering point to its mark.
Here is the moment
she's aimed toward since christening:
this sharp focus, electric pain, the taste of iron
when she lifts the wound's twinkling ruby
to her lips.
As if the spiral stairs had led to sky,
her flickering eyes
take in the spinning, star-pricked room.
Time billows, diffuse as a cloud,
casting a shadow over the castle.
Her head droops, but she smiles as she swoons.
Who wouldn't want to sleep for a century,
dreaming toward a kiss,
the name of a prince—
Florimund!
sweet as a bud, a drop of blood,
on the tip of your tongue?


Bell Foundry

On the summer porch,
our words took the shape of bells.
As if each sound were newly made,
they chimed with resonance,
meeting between us in music.
String upon string,
harmony pleasing,
their bronze tongues masqueraded
as instruments of celestial beings.
Our last word for the evening
swayed easily between us,
more an otherworldly gong or sigh
than human language.
Breathed by both of us at once,
it was forged from perfect halves,
and in the darkness
barely showed its faint gold seam.


Unclasped

Overnight, the wind
delivers a gift to your sill:
a dead yellow jacket,
rocking on its back—
summer's gold brooch,
unclasped.