I liked them almost green, she preferred them soft.
You might be thinking that I’m speaking of
the way we slurred our men, but when
I fucked up, when she thought I might become
three scoops of hazard drenched with nuts,
she taught me not to be the oil in the skin.
The slang in the burlesque. The nuisance
in the pratfall of a romance. The artificial
flavoring. Instead she taught me how to be
the substance in the bunch. Not the finger on
the hand but the hand that commands.
That is, in abundance, the top banana.
a swaddled squeal repeats, echoes when we come like bernadettes into the miracle of crystal caverns, admission twenty dollars for two hours—or however long it takes to amaze us in the reefs of pale white straws and popcorn, ghostly sponges, to reflect in glassy pools the columns (humans) rising screwlike into towers, to ponder drapes as colorless as coral bleached in oceans we’ve disrupted—the steady dripdriodrop, deposits pressed to rock like flattened ears, the correspondence muttered to each other such that parents should know better than to bring an infant wailing to the wonder.
breathing under water
… besides the sperm
I egged into existence
glittered in this world
wharfed at rowhouse doors
all our Christmases
all their paper buoys
packed with little notes
they sold for cash
Kathleen Hellen’s third full-length collection Meet Me at the Bottom was released in 2022. Her publications include The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin, her award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, her work has appeared widely in such journals as Arts & Letters, The Carolina Quarterly, Cimarron Review. Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Nimrod, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Subtropics, The Sycamore Review, Tampa Review Online, West Branch, and Witness, among others. Hellen’s awards include the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review.