Kaaren Kitchell



I who was never afraid
as a child learn fear
from him,

live in hiding far as I can go
from the western edge, Sausalito,
little willow grove.

Coming home in Cambridge, I turn the key
silently, fling the door against the wall
in case he’s standing there.

I huddle at the kitchen table
with my new friends,
Friedrich, Rainer and Lou,

the woman who mirrors my fate—
men stabbing themselves,
threatening her—

the kitchen the only room
where I’m sure no one can see in
from the dark.


At the bookstore I scan
through the plate glass window
for his black Dodge Ram.

The poet
whose troupe I danced in
that wild year in Berkeley,

comes in with books to sell.
He asks if he can stay with me
and bring his wife.

She follows well behind him
as he walks beside me
home to Maple Avenue,

she who was once an artist
and maenad, tamed to Muslim obedience
by her once Dionysian man.

He lectures me on prayer
and giving up poetry
as idolatrous imagery,

and when he goes, tells me
I haven’t found god. Neither has he,
I know, by the dark he leaves in his wake.


When the Minnesota poet
who sounds like my Norwegian kin,
reads Blake and Rumi at Radcliffe,

something leaps up in me.
I dance down Harvard Street
at midnight, singing,

first bright moment
in this blue blue town.
A wound-up stranger asks the time.

I smell his intent,
cross and hide in the
nearest doorway

600 seconds.
Passing the abandoned
building, I know.

Screaming splits the night.
Fuck it!” he says and caroms off me
like a billiard ball that just missed the pocket.

I curl against a car,
wonder if the person screaming
is all right. Don’t know

till people have gathered around me,
how great
is the alarm in my throat.

First published in "51%."