Dr. KATE GALE is Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of the Los Angeles Review and President of the American Composers Forum, LA. She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. She serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation, Kore Press and Poetry Society of America. She is author of five books of poetry and six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis which had its world premiere October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Her current projects include a co-written libretto, Paradises Lost with Ursula K. LeGuin and composer Stephen Taylor, and a libretto based on The Inner Circle by T. C. Boyle, based on Dr. Kinsey’s life with composer Daniel Felsenfeld which is in production in 2014 by the American Opera Projects. Her newest book is The Goldilocks Zone from the University of Nebraska Press in January 2014, and her forthcoming book Echo Light is from Red Mountain Press fall of 2014. It won the Red Mountain Press Editor Choice Award.
MY GRANDFATHER WATCHED BIRDS
Don’t tell me terrible things
my grandfather said when he got old.
Tell me nice things.
Don’t tell me if you’re
lonely, cold or homeless.
Don’t tell me if you’re out of work.
Or without a boyfriend.
Don’t tell me if you have a boyfriend.
Or if you have a boyfriend living with you.
I started a journal.
To have someone to tell when I got laid.
When I didn’t.
When I went hungry.
When all the boys bought me Happy Hour.
That scrape with the police.
When my dog got run over.
The crow I rescued.
The guy with the knife.
All the terrible stories
of my college years.
My grandfather watched birds.
Who am I when I
shut out the light?
The dark? The stories?
Am I trampled? Have I lived with my own stories?
Am I powerless to change anything?
Am I old?
My children hold stories for years.
Tell me when they’re safe.
When they think I can chew through it.
The cops, the parties, the break-ups.
The breakdowns, the mad love.
They give me shards of stories, pieces.
They give me what they think I can hold.
We have baskets of stories.
Some writhe like snakes.
What can your basket hold?
Would you marry a cop? A therapist?
A judge? Hold their stories?
I put my stories
in my lover’s basket.
Except this one terrible story.
Which I won’t tell anyone.
It’s the story that first
made my grandfather shut the door.
I began to tell him in a letter.
He shut me down. If I were Scheherazade,
he would have cut off my head.
So I don’t tell it, it’s my secret.
Even from my lover, who
I don’t want to leave me, here it is.
I’m all alone if there is no God.
And he’s left me, or I him.
I’m afraid of dying alone.
I’m so afraid I’ve made a party,
then a mess of my life,
So someone’s with me.
They’re laughing, but they’re with me.
Watching me create this topsy turvy world
Where change is the only constant.
I’m living in a party now; but I’m not alone.
Where does that leave me?
I must keep the party going.
And going and going, That quiet in the room
when a fly buzzed; it’s not my story.
No angels waiting.
Not after what I’ve done.
I’ve loved; I’ve loved again.
And lived outside all night.
With terrible stories.
You should see me making them up.
You should come out here in the rain.
Questions on the Curve of Light
The kitchen looks out on the storied glass of morning.
Our flowers with their backs against the wall.
They’re observers as we spin straw into words.
We raised three sons here and a daughter.
The house boiled over onto the stove, caught fire.
That too became a myth, the fire walking.
Flames hanging in air. Even asleep there was noise.
Even asleep, I come to you, lie down in circle.
Even asleep, they talked, whispered secrets.
We talk about sky and forget spoons and forks.
Mostly we like questions on the curve of the light.
We miss little things. But they happen anyway.
The frame of a story, the sticky beginnings, stuffy middle,
should we unstuff it? The ending drooling in its porridge.
Did he get lost or was he on walkabout? That story.
We liked stories that fell off the earth like it was a table.
All flat, then riding hard over the edge.
We liked stories with too much plot. Not enough craft.
A whale of hips, limbs, cascade of the un-belongings.
One eyelash blinking morning light. Kitchen astir and dreaming.
Our daughter slept in the kitchen cupboard, broke dishes.
That too was a story. Light falling through the palms.
The cat climbing onto the roof. The tiny bird’s nest empty.
In the yard, there are seeds, broken eggs. In the sky, wings.