Three Poems by Katharine Whitcomb

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Meaning All Meaning Ending Here

there’s a way the crash
             of a boisterous river scoring the air above itself


when the trail bends into a grove of trees
             and the air hangs blank and clean

             for a second for three seconds five total-nothing

                         roaring world suddenly still as
                                                                                          still as what?

space that feels like a living animal
                         beating-blood breathing surrounded with its own beingness
then not anymore

                                     but where? how?

                         so much noise
                                     up-ended (over there by the alders)




I left my wallet on the back bumper of the Jetta
               after buying beer at a border store where it stayed
                             over 200 miles of sketchy northern highway miles
                                           burgundy leather lump intact.                 My favorite
                             Aimee Bender story describes an orphan who finds
               lost objects by concentrating on the tug of memory
awake in everything.                     My friends say of course you
               like that one, because in the story trees remember
                             where they were born and the lost boy is returned
                                           home unharmed.            Of course.          I used to dream
                             that if I got too tired to drive a big god would reach
               into the car and carry me the rest of the way like a party-
weary toddler.                I wore my ex-husband’s hat for years, a man’s
               brimmed fedora, large on me, so that maybe for a while
                             my cigarette-smoking alter-ego could think the same
                                           thoughts.            We would wait out the thunderstorms
                             together in our bungalow’s screened porch high above
               the Mississippi.              My father sometimes remembers
from his assisted living facility in Chicago his sisters
               are dead and the farm is long sold.         But I tell him
                             not to fret.         Those things are not where we can
                                           find them, though we listen after them hard when they
                             flash back up.                  We lost Mom, we lost Maggie,
               too much, and kitchens, rings, gorgeous songs.
What happens to the bargain we make with each other—you
               stay alive while I am alive. If I am missing, please
                             come find me.                  By accident once I found myself
                                           down a wild grassed-over field-side road in Wisconsin
                             with no one around and the wind whispering in
               collusion.                                        I can see that secret moment more
clearly than any face, as if that place might have
               offered me a choice I lost, like a garment or a life.




hold her waist so her head can hang
              into the mouth of the well backward
down in the cool exhalation of stone-water

              her mother’s hand mirror tipped behind
reflects the pattern a sunlight bargello
              on the oily surface the image of a man

like a black smudge in the snow she sees
              him exactly black crow shot cloudward
above the frozen un-named path




Katharine WhitcombKatharine Whitcomb is the author of four collections of poems: The Daughter’s Almanac (chosen by Patricia Smith as winner of the 2014 Backwaters Prize), Lamp of Letters (winner of the 2009 Floating Bridge Chapbook Award), Saints of South Dakota & Other Poems (chosen by Lucia Perillo as winner of the 2000 Bluestem Award), and Hosannas (Parallel Press, 1999). She is a Distinguished Professor of English at Central Washington University and lives in Ellensburg, Washington.
Header photo of trail and grass by Pitsch, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Katharine Whitcomb by Rosanne Olson.

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