Four Poems by Kate Northrop

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The Thick of It

A bird cam with no birds
but I can feel a current pulling—
The house drops down.

Sometimes being with you
is like seeing sand trails beneath a lake,
other times, it’s itchy

like fucking in an orchard, like knocking
tea leaves stuck in the mesh of a strainer. 
Beyond the blinds, the moon’s

out floating the yard around
and everything else abandoned, especially
the shovel, especially

the mud-hard ruts of the alley. Oh my god
our neighbor said, last year, the tornado
moving overhead, growing outward

while drawing inward, though mostly
our neighbor is chatty and suspicious,
like a chicken. This year,

I’d like her dogs to shut up. I’d like
something to stand still. Maybe
it’s you? I’d like new forms

to allow us all spaciousness
and not to feel I am labelling
parts of a bridle, still a girl. Amen.



Maria Moved the Shed

There, between
earth and where
the floor had been,
a pile of debris—

A nest, sticking
at the center
of our attention,
like a toothache—

The edges we saw
were made up of shit; bits
of twig; and further in,
three or four pieces

of cactus, bitten out of;
the front feet
of a mouse, toes
splayed, like wires inside

a light bulb.   The rat
stayed absent and we stood
looking like we look
at accidents, saw then

another thing, tucked
around back, a hollow
egg-shape built, or blown,
from feathers

fluttering in the breeze.
It was still, as a barn
on a hill, or a cup
washed up in a gutter,

with an opening
at the wider end
through which the rat
went to sleep? Inside

we imagined
a spacious place, a sort
of quiet dreaming
we could not let go—

Took photos, and learned,
from Maria later, it deflated,
on her deck chair, slowly
over a number of days.

This poem came of collaborative work with Tucson artist Marie Lee. Jennifer Rife, from Laramie County Public Library in Cheyenne, and Mark Ritchie, from University of Wyoming, paired up writers and artists and we were asked to make a broadside on the theme of “Habitat.” The broadside will be featured in an exhibit which moves around from library to library in Wyoming.




They’d made a fabric, I could see it from the street, and the windows swung out and back, out and back.

Spinning downstream, the days were like that and we fell in after, up so high there was no coming down and the aspens overhead looking fantastic. We lay around on the couch. We lay around, fucking happily, our bodies much younger, and saw, in the morning, messages chalked up the sidewalk. It will be alright. And the dog on camera, we saw that. We saw the Whimbrel report, flurry of photos then one bill curved against the sky, a moon around the corner from new. Downtown the streets stood ajar and when the city folded in, I turned back, but already we’d broken up, each alone, adrift out front, like lawn ornaments driven into patches of grass.




Story all the stairs, love

a story? It burbles up,
a version anyway—  Stinks
a bit, sure. Worms curled in the meal

Texture: can of beans (refried)


Listening’s stuffed with, Once—

… mornings ticked around, each
stripped, as a shelf onto which meat fell. Sticky.

And jitters in the leaves, the sunlight I knew

but distant.   The mornings  
ticked around and I snapped

at the ground, the meal there, my jaws
clicking like lake water

against the side of a canoe


but was not yet


not alive or tucked
up into the field


Still, I know my marks.

To become a current, this sighting

through trees  —sailing
my old stripes—  I had
to vanish. One night

(weirdly) it was freezing.

It snowed for years
but here’s

more to the piece: inside I kept
opening my mouth, the billow

in a curtain, a sound for you.




Kate NorthropKate Northrop’s newest collection is Homewrecker, forthcoming from New Letters in October 2022. She teaches at the University of Wyoming and lives in Laramie.

Header photo by Ann Boulais, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Kate Northrop by Harvey Hix. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.