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A Novice’s Guide to Cartography

The end
of any Monday
leads children to question
the fine print
of beginnings, and you
my daughter, whose freckles misfired
across the synapse
of your skin
ask how it is
that any watch makes its own promises.
I crunch the leaves
with my worn out red heels.
You and I were sure
we wouldn’t need to know
the way back home.

Self Portrait, Evicted

While the roof leaked oil through slim, glittering cracks
their edges black with petroleum and rainwater,
I slept like a drunk in my stalled blue Honda.

The buses pass over me like men in the aisles of bars,
each cigarette burned to the filter.

But towers are for the lovely girls, their hair
smoke rippling upward from a burning book.
White teeth striking sparks when clamped together.

My mother knew this would happen.
I’m a badly aimed bottle rocket, my blue flames scattering sideways.

She said it’s easy to build a house under a bridge.
And don’t ask the men in suits for money.

Before I left, my father was dark like a used up candle,
the bottom of the dish oily and rank.
He held me by the arm and whispered:

Our apartment is a place for prayer cards and silver statues.
Not your stolen lipsticks, or filched toe rings.
Home should shine like a mirror seen from sideways.

The Stars Have Formed Their Equilibrium

The stars have formed their equilibrium
of imperfections & to ellipses that circle
the places abroad it must be
nothing that there are dark hours
among ruins of kitchen tile & the unread
recipes from mother near the stove.

I have taken measure
of your love with a shattered
instrument and was not the first. A fleet
of glass fracture could tell only distance.

I begin to think that there are gravities
other than repetitions charted and observed –
those that have existed
independent of any thought.

When I see you, as I have for the duration
of the flux in February & its forgeries
of warmth, I am absolved of any
destination. Again it becomes the question
of a desecrated place of waiting.
Some things are undone by what is tied to them –
the ashes that linger or glass
unswept even by the wind.

And when all remnants have fled
there is still an awakening near the window –
           the slow
realization that there will be only that same
equilibrium where most are left
alone, the few pieces of the sky
that have not drowned in brightness
& tea that is made every morning like this
           that un-darkens eyes and bears away
any remembrance of the night.


Copyright © 2009 Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling is an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of four chapbooks, which include Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006). A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2006, her poems and reviews have appeared in many publications, which include The Mid-America Poetry Review, Redactions: Poetry and Poetics, Rattle, Janus Head, The Midwest Book Review, The Arabesques Review, and others. Recent awards include residencies at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, the Centrum Foundation, and the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts.