Laura King


Fanny Mendelssohn, my gardening companion
this morning beneath a viola sky, her string quartet
glistens through my earbuds.
I rake decay.
The old man nosy neighbor interrupts:
That’s what women do. Make things beautiful.

Reminds me of statements from my past:
Pastor, we trust you will lead the hospitality committee.
Anyway, I return to the earth.

Fanny’s third movement is sad-slow.
Did she suffer jealousy toward her brother
who penned full symphonic compositions,
while she was relegated to the chamber?

Clara Schumann, her pieces rarely performed.
Amy Beech, whose husband
didn’t want music to take too much of her time.
Florence Price, her fourth symphony
stuffed in a trunk, found in a ramshackle bungalow
fifty-six years after she died.

Yesterday I spent time with Emily.
Why was she known as the Belle of Amherst?
Death, destruction, madness;
it all haunted her poetry. Hardly beautiful.
Yet, hardly the reason she hardly published.

Now, in today’s world,
beware your beautiful words,
avoid clarity about what is evil, what is good.
And make sure that your poems
aren’t about something you actually think about,
like your kids, for example.
Make them raw. Give them power.
Deftly add images with heft: a penis or a set of balls.

Last week I described a fig: soft as a scrotum.
A man-poet told me male anatomy
should never be described as soft.
He has more publications than I do,
so perhaps I should be jealous.

Mendelssohn’s quartet comes to a close
like the worm pricked between my tines.
The poor fellow halves in my hand
then wriggles and writhes on the walk.

It’s the Leaving That Stays

the way a car goes and all that remains
are vapors dissipating into nothing
a father drives away
a little girl stands in the driveway
recurring nightmare—each time I wake
the sheets reek of benzine

the other side of the bed creased and cold
you’re in Tokyo
two long weeks too long apart
too many times in a row

turning on my side
sleep takes me under its pinions
again slips me into a dream
watching you from a distance you walk away
and me only seeing your back
the way Moses saw God

then morning light blurs my eyes a dreamy haze
I stare through tears
at a silk strand that’s there
and not and there again
trying to remember details
our feet were bare
my love, we’re being cavalier—

the way a hawk falls from the pinnacle of a pine
trusting nothing but her ability
to satisfy her hunger

you touch my back
at first I gasp

Other People’s Mothers

Gangly my wings lofting off that cliff
an albatross
and thought I’d never look back.

Tide riding permanences, eternity
like sea waves in fractals.
What did I know of death?

The crying became a stranger.
Tears that saline-stained my face,
for months salt

slipping between my lips
before the beginning
of a way back

to a place where mothers
live down the street from daughters
down around the way from sisters

who connect in the tending,
the quiet witness
of staying in the bay.

Her mother has Parkinson’s
and glides her walker slow
alongside my friend Beth,

and how can I feel envy at this, until
I remember the whale who pushed
her calf a thousand miles. Death

never lifts the longing for attachment,
and what is grief anyway but a wish
for something different.

Here is nothing but a mud nest
on a cold beach littered with driftwood.
It’s the returning that hurts.

Laura King holds a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and is in the MFA program for Creative Writing at Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Her work has appeared in Evening Street Review, The Los Angeles Times, Modern Haiku, Neologism Poetry Journal, and The Opiate. She lives in Sacramento, California, where she is a pecan farmer and a hospital chaplain.