Kathleen Hellen ~ 3 Poems


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.


formed, informing

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

noth­ing other
glit­tered in this world

wharfed at row­house doors
we floundered

all our Christmases
like drownings

all their paper buoys
packed with lit­tle notes
on apples


they sold for cash
to pearled


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.