Kathleen Kirk

Sakuntala

You made me a promise you could not keep.
I returned to the forest, green and deep.

Waiting and grieving, I bore us a son,
and all that I suffered, I suffered alone.

Cursed in your kingdom, oblivious king,
lost in the lake, our vow and our ring.

These are the stories we tell to keep going,
myths we believe to defy our own knowing.

One day a fisherman brings you a fish.
Inside it, our ring, our love, and my wish.

Abandoned too long, I hold myself back,
hearing the veins to our marble hearts crack.

Here is Sakuntala, you on your knees.
I am Sakuntala, tender my pleas.

 

Contributor’s Notes: Kathleen Kirk is the author of four poetry chapbooks, most recently Nocturnes (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012).  Her work has appeared previously in Fickle Muses, and in a variety of other print and online journals, including Arsenic LobsterGlasschordMenacing Hedge, Poetry East, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.  “Sakuntala” and “Red Umbrella” are from a set of poems in the voice of sculptor Camille Claudel, commissioned by Columbus Dance Theatre for Claudel, with performances January 24-25, 2014.

Red Umbrella

They say I leave at night
by the window of my tower,
hanging from a red umbrella…

I use it, they say, to set
fire to the forest. Descend
down a hope that colors

my life forever, my fate
seen only from afar.
From the ashes of a forest

come morels. From the ashes
of a hearth, a garden. From
the ashes of a fable—what?

They say a phoenix rises.
My hat slips down my face,
my hands in my lap, useless.

 

Contributor’s Notes: Kathleen Kirk is the author of four poetry chapbooks, most recently Nocturnes (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012).  Her work has appeared previously in Fickle Muses, and in a variety of other print and online journals, including Arsenic LobsterGlasschordMenacing Hedge, Poetry East, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.  “Sakuntala” and “Red Umbrella” are from a set of poems in the voice of sculptor Camille Claudel, commissioned by Columbus Dance Theatre for Claudel, with performances January 24-25, 2014.

Cassandra Stands in Front of the House

of Atreus again, unwilling to go in.
She wonders why she keeps finding herself here.
She pretends to wonder.
She tells anyone who will listen, but they’ve
all got their iPods on, all got their earbuds in.
So she points to the blood seeping under the doorsill.
It’s like a movie, or a movie trailer.
The paving stones are ragged discards.
She plays hopscotch on her way to the stoop.

Cassandra Goes Over the Top

With her sunglasses on, Cassandra can see
rays of rain descending from the clouds to the south,
where everyone else still sees blue,
a puffy whiteness around the edges.
She cannot have a normal life
but pretends to have one, anyway:
two kids, a boy and a girl.
He’s an artist, she’s an athlete.
Neither one has ever rolled his or her eyes
or blamed her for being what she is.
When she sits on the bleachers
with the other parents
they all forgive her for wearing last year’s spirit
clothes, in red and black.
It’s still the same team, the Mighty Amazon,
a band of archers on white chargers
digging the ball before it touches the polished floor,
passing to the wine-dark setter, spiking the punch
over the top of the net to the other side,
not a soul able to handle that white fire.

Cassandra Teaches Everything to Her Brother

and watches, more amazed than annoyed,
while everyone listens to him. The barn still burns down
when Gus uses a hand-held flame thrower to kill weeds,
but they win the Trojan War
and the Student Council convinces the administration to approve open lunch.
Cassandra’s imaginary daughter uses mascara
and an eyelash curler. Nobody’s heard of backlash.
How can women liberate themselves
if Agamemnon can’t even get his head out of a towel
long enough not to get murdered in his own bathtub?
Not believing in linear time is not the same as the Power of Now.
Not believing in linear time is not the same as schizophrenia.
Cassandra resents psychological interpretations
of her prophecies.
That’s just more backlash, which, like her, nobody’s heard of.