Poems by Kirsten Casey

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1976 Gonzales, California

by Kirsten Casey

From Canary Fall 2016

Kirsten lives at the top of Banner Lava Cap Mountain, once a volcano. Her home is minutes from Scott's Flat Lake, and less than an hour from the Yuba River in the South Yuba River watershed.

This is not Italy, not these golden hills
tangled with the reaches of oak
that click with worms at the end of summer.
Two rows of eucalyptus trees line a dirt road.
The air is dry dust, tastes like the color brown.
Our fingernails are packed with farm dirt.
As we walk between perfectly spaced tree towers,
their pods fall like oxidized amusement park tokens,
thrown from a pier by a child, now washed
into barnacle beauties—rough and scented.

The pomegranate tree, shoulders sloped,
arms weighted, is dressed in heavy spots,
a rash of red. Every hanging circle is more
than an ornament, each is a swollen berry
ripe with its own secret fruits.
When halves are torn, two clusters of crimson
arils stain our chins and fingertips
a more delicate shade of blood,
the lipstick of childhood.

Goodbye to Paper

by Kirsten Casey

From Canary Summer 2012

I would write paper a letter,
mix the language into scribbles
of a vernacular that made sense,
except the paper is gone.
Where did we go wrong?
Was it the indiscriminate origami,
hundreds of folded swans
fading on my windowsill?
Was it the paper footballs,
callously flicked across the desk,
in boredom? And who decided
to turn paper into work?
The endless forms, the dead horses
painted on the flaps of envelopes,
the infinite rows of trees,
milled and pressed, each with their own
rings of stories, of forest nights
and chainsaws, of snow breaks,
and bear claw climbs, of fire wind
and pine needle silence.
Paper, forgive us,
for the picnic plates and cheap
napkins, for the stench
of ink in printers, for the abusive
light of copy machines, for the soft
bound books we throw in our bags, keep
on our nightstands, drop
in our bathtubs.
I cannot believe that this is the end.
Who will I crumple now?
My tears run like blue fountain pen ink,
like words streaming down a page, in a poem
about pauses and absence,
written on what is blank and flat,
now stained with a colored needle
below a canvas of skin.

From the authorís book Ex Vivo (Hip Pocket Press, 2012)

Learning About Trees

by Kirsten Casey

From Canary December 2008

Notice first, that they are tall, beyond
the power poles that bend and spark
under the weight of January snow.
The trees know their yoga, have stretched
and bowed only to return square shouldered,
in proper posture.
Please recognize the deep moles, blackened
by lightning strikes, in the thick bark
that was once sapling skin
now ragged and squirrel-abused, a home
and a maypole and a scratching post.
Most of the roots are hidden, bulging
wooden veins.  They hold trees to the ground,
heavy, primitive ship anchors,
eventually rusting and rotting through.
When they are old enough they fall
because their insides are now beetles,
or the wind shifts to the north,
or there is not enough water,
or the late winter soil is too drenched
and has to let go.
You've already seen the diagram,
know the arrows' path, all of that oxygen
and carbon dioxide.  And you've read
that slim green book about a boy
who sold his tree in pieces
and ended up old on a stump.
This isn't to warn you, but just to let you know,
that sometimes they outlive the people in their shade
with their wide trunks and mysterious rings
and treetop perspective.  Sometimes they burn,
they crack and shake hands in a bluster of sparks.
Sometime people carve letters into them,
a scar they can't read, in a language
that is only ours.

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