Anatomy of a Home
On every wall, knotted pine
Checks and splits flaw the wood
beams where fibers compress
into empty space. A daughter bites
her graham cracker into the shape
of a moon and laughs. A son fusses
over a puzzle on the floor—piece
by piece, bucks interlocking
on an unknown hill. They are waiting
for the first flakes of another storm,
the baby to wake from her nap.
Outside, bald flashes of wood
ache where ice fractured branches.
Cells harden beneath the crack
of bark, the way silica remains
liquid as it is super-cooled into glass.
A father is away at work—wind pulls
and stretches the tree roots.
A mother, the heartwood, alive
inside death, log on log into fire.
She was mother. She was
body in house, dedicated
to bleach until shine
spilled across porcelain.
She was feminist—flame
struggling to break from candle.
She swallowed a pill
that removed herself from her-self.
She joined ordinary people
in the bottom-up insurgency.
She plucked delicate excesses;
untied God from her body
and let her skin spill
in the purple penitential light.
She was problematic
to the coddled American mind.
She had the eye of a woman looking
to leap from her own painting.
She was not old or wise,
and no longer pretty.
She was a waterless
blessing. An empty garden.
And when she fucked
she was man and woman,
crashing her-selves on herself,
glad to be crushed by her own redundancy.
She was suffering—
cinder flashing heat back into fire.
Should you decide that I might be saved, consider the ink
of my wicked pride—my white overexposed nakedness.
I am an unplaceable woman. A tired bitch
announced in heavy footfalls down the stairs.
The bird of my lover’s heart sags on the vine like fruit
over-fattening between two worlds.
The cuckoo clock teases out time, with every door slap
my old dog throws a sigh from his dirty floor bed.
I want my dog to die. His rancid fur stains oil in the hardwood,
his knowing eyes beg me to let him perish.
I thought I understood love, but it is just a feral
need of the body, a tedious, aging thirst.
Chemicals flush through mazes—a regular sickness
reaching out, but my pen needs to make a name of it.
If Hell is fire then may heaven be a cool wet wind
at the car window for my dog’s final drive.
In the middle of this dark wood, let leaves drop
into dumb air. Let me glitter between the two halves.
The ash of my dog is not what I expected.
There are shards of bone—fragments in the fragment of his weight,
I let myself say the world has no meaning.
The words leak effortlessly, like blood rushing from a wound.
I thought myself more a woman than lie down
lie down. The man has needs, the man has chemicals too.
The children are each their own empyrean. It is enough to have
them, fleeting as it may be, like an unkindness of ravens, and then none.
My dead dog was handed back like a bag of flour. I placed him into
a small box on the shelf. I lie to the children and say he’s still here.
Maybe we are no more than our human peaks. The heaven of us lives
in the swells and stretches before the inevitable crack.
I stroke the cedar box of my dog’s dust. Good
old boy. My purest friend. I do not feel you at all.
A child’s hand fits into a mother’s like two gears clinked together.
Two gears clink together and that is the still-point-poem before the turn.
Kate Hanson Foster
Kate Hanson Foster's collection of poems, Crow Funeral, was published in March 2022 by EastOver Press. She is also the author of Mid Drift, a finalist for the Massachusetts Center for the Book Award. Her writing has appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Comstock Review, Harpur Palate, Poet Lore, Salamander, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. A recipient of the NEA Parent Fellowship through the Vermont Studio Center, she lives and writes in Groton, Massachusetts.
Altered stills from the film "Wilby Wonderful" (2004), directed by Daniel MacIvor and starring Callum Keith Rennie, James Allodi, and Sandra Oh.