Kathleen Hellen ~ Two poems

cowgirl in the underworld

I dri­ve due east with wolf-song and the night­jar. Drive
under the big steel wings of wind farms, past
roads named after ranch­es, after Methodists. Past
fur­rowed fields that mark the miles in siloes. Fields
that used to glint like gold­en shields, now blast­ed, bare
like grief I hold in ele­vat­ed store. In ash­es. I’m barely
hold­ing in the sad­dle since the ambush. What low-
down fate shot tar­gets off my head? Orphaned all the hope
I had in hap­py end­ings? How to man­age the escape?
This rodeo of wind and tum­bling weed, this interstate
of woe­be­gone and weary. The stars like snakes
sidewind­ing. The stars like bulls stampeding.

I pull off at a lone­some two-pump station.
She tells me there’s an under­pass, a bridge that cross­es over.
She tells me I’m not far. Another hun­dred miles. Another detour.
The only chance I have.


blue stags dancing

reek of mischief
of sad­ness from within

one leg

the other

hoof­ing in the flannel

to the closet
where they stop

zip up fleecy boots
but­ton up the hood
pull on gloves

open to the frozen gras
the glis­tened branches

the white moon
bed­ded in the rut
of milky stars

I say the skin
lis­tens, ears pricked

blue stags dancing
for clap-shut of the trap
for hun­gry dogs

too dan­ger­ous
to make a sound


Kathleen Hellen’s col­lec­tion Umberto’s Night won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for poet­ry in 2012. Hellen’s hon­ors include the Thomas Merton poet­ry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review, as well as indi­vid­ual artist awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. Featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, Colorado Review, Diode Poetry Journal, jubi­lat, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry East, Poetry International, The Rumpus, and West Branch, among oth­ers. Her lat­est poet­ry col­lec­tion is The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin.