See our feature on Daughter's Latitude


Karen Swenson's poetry collections:

A Daughter's Latitude: New and Selected Poems

The Landlady in Bangkok (National Poetry Series)

Karen Swenson

Rage in Malaysia

The rooms of my rage are empty of actors,
parents in coffins sleep kittens in drawers
yet harsh voices scold in yesterday's dust
drag unfinished quarrels through present chambers.

On earth's other side from my western childhood
tide mutters among bones and brains of corals
whose tenements vacant, but for the sea,
have only that one voice to haunt their bare cells.

I wish that this salt, so far from my birth,
could rinse from the empty chambers of childhood
the querulous voice to leave only white
bones in the murmuring lace of surf.

Dead Cat

On your journey from alley to trust
you scabbed my hands with your fear,
lived crouched under the sofa, ate tuna
but raided the garbage for chicken bones
because what is enough?

Car sick ten times cross country,
almost lost in Yellowstone
still you learned to leap on laps,
to curl into the crook of my knees.

Laying you limp, but still warm,
into the spring damp of earth,
I am a good gardener, tamping dirt
down over your death to grow.

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