Cathryn Hankla

Three Poems

White Out

Painted arrows far below the tenth floor
Point right across the bridges.
Outside Mother’s hos­pi­tal window
A bliz­zard blots the soc­cer fields.

The river’s dark gash curves up and away.
Double yel­low lines and train rails
Gird the waters, cross­ing past, present,
And future.  Snow bees swarm,

Losing grav­i­ty in furi­ous gusts.
Mother coughs, says, “I am dying, I think.”
Her pain drums my spine and gut, as
Coal cars chug then stop, heavy with snow.

Yellow Kayak

A yel­low kayak hov­ers on the grey driz­zled river,
Beneath a swirling bliz­zard, flakes the size of swallows,
Gliding slick­ly meet­ing elements.

Black pad­dles dip, bal­anc­ing back, forth, east and west,
As a man in wet­suit traverses
Long shelves of sub­merged geo-time paper-clipped with rocks.

A great blue heron opens one giant flap of wings,
Embracing low sky,
Then dips toward shag­gy edges where debris

Hinges in every jag and scis­sor tooth of land,
Blocking easy attempts at flow.
The white sheet edges high­er on the body of the world

As I wait for Mother to stay or go
To surgery, and nurs­es, aids, and doc­tors can­not help
But search through win­dows check­ing dan­ger­ous roads home.

Two Watches

It will be good for those ser­vants whose mas­ter finds them ready, even if he comes in the sec­ond or third watch of the night. Luke 12:38

With no adorn­ment allowed
In surgery, I’m wear­ing two watches.
The first watch is Mother’s on a plain leather band.
It ties my wrist to anoth­er century.

The sec­ond watch, a gold and sil­ver Seiko
With navy face, returned to me
From a lover, a pale copy
Of the Rolex final­ly achieved.  I wait

For the surgeon’s call, alone, in a vast room
Offering inane mag­a­zines and vend­ing machines.
It’s Sunday night
With snow freez­ing every road.

What is your birth date?”
September 25, 1918, Mother rasped,
Looking to me to answer the rest of the pre-op
Test when the nurse asked, “And why are you here?”


Cathryn Hankla is the author of eleven books of poet­ry and fic­tion, includ­ing Last Exposures: a sequence of poems and Fortune Teller Miracle Fish: sto­ries. She won the James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry from Shenandoah mag­a­zine in 2009, serves as poet­ry edi­tor for The Hollins Critic, and cur­rent­ly holds the Susan Gager Jackson Professorship in Creative Writing at Hollins University.