Amy Small-McKinney won The Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press) for her second full-length collection of poems, Walking Toward Cranes. She is also the author of, Life is Perfect (BookArts Press, 2014) and two chapbooks of poetry, Body of Surrender (2004) and Clear Moon, Frost (2009), both with Finishing Line Press. Small-McKinney was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was the 2011 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, judged by poet, Chris Bursk. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, for example, The American Poetry Review, The Cortland Review, and Tiferet Journal. Small-McKinney’s poems also appear in two anthologies: Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women, Edited by Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, and BARED: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts, Edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman (Les Femmes Folles Books). Small-McKinney has a Masters in Clinical Neuropsychology from Drexel University, but recently returned to school for an MFA in Poetry at Drew University’s low residency program. She facilitates a poetry workshop in Chestnut Hill.
The Story of Fire
“These are the remembrances of the wakes and the parties,
of the girl pure and fiery who keeps burning underground.”
Gabriela Mistral, from The Shaggy Woman
She doesn’t agree with him, the chef
who assures his listeners: Fire is masculine.
Her house is burning.
There is nothing left for her to open or shut, except herself.
She hears everything inside flames.
For the couch, it is the shaved head,
hours of a body hanging on as though a raft.
The couch sighs while remembering because it is sad.
The chair was once surrounded by elegance, not hers,
its green velvet cared for as though a pet.
The table remembers it differently.
It is solid oak, wears scars well.
The rug is jute, sheds into her room,
then into another, where rings of sapphire and amber
are manic stars, and nothing else remains.
The French vitrine, what it holds inside,
what it says to the gold trimmed teacup:
I am here, do not be afraid.
Well, she is afraid. Seductive fire,
articulate rain, all of this being alive.
When You Say the Sky Burns
Which sky do you see?
Is it the same as mine, a skewwhiff roof?
Or the one above a town where they lock their doors all day?
Like you, I waited with patience for blue,
made love to yellow when my world
was still yellow, then bathed in red:
our bodies’ color when only commemoration remains.
When I walk through the park, the sky disappears
behind trees so huge they take up too much room.
I am not a fan of trees these days,
prefer city streets, always changing.
Where should I travel?
An unpracticed body comes apart.
I will climb stairs with someone I love.
If it is Munich, there will be gray, if Spain, La Jota.
How do I know? I have never been anywhere.
Your paintings are airplanes with seating for my heart.
I was lying when I said I prefer change.
At night, I am afraid if I look away,
into a sky with fire,
I will look away.
Note: Written in response to Alfred Ortega’s painting, I Can See the Sky and It’s Gonna Burn
La Jota: A Spanish folk dance