Thursday 10 March 2022

Four Poems by Kika Dorsey

The Ditch Inside Her

She felt she should be grateful
she didn’t have to walk
across the two-by-four bridge,
the ditch dry.
She could scramble down
its bank, cross it to
the grassy plains,
yellow with winter and drought.

But in the ditch was
the red scab of dried algae,
discarded plastic bottles,
and a tiny baby shoe
torn by the water and weathering,
with grey braided laces
and a frayed sole.
The grey may have been
blue beneath its dust.

What child walked barefoot
where the spiky yucca pierces?
What child are we missing
from the laconic ditch’s stories?

We have missed her for far too long.
Her hair fell into its water
in the summer, and the crown vetch
grew ravenous near the shore,
and there was no war to fear.

She walks across the plank
regardless of the dry ground
offering what is easy.
She is working on her balance,
and she is caught
in all its damming
and all its release—

barefoot, ruined,
grey as rain.

In Every Soldier

I dreamed March
was my son listening
for soldiers.
St. Petersburg’s
bronze horseman
hosted a murder of crows,
its stone plinth
made of mirrors
where my son
polished their reflection
to get paid.

We always see ourselves
in what we can make
and what we destroy.

Another war
and my husband says
he would murder Putin
as he shoulders Ukraine.
It is almost familiar,
this rage,
adorned and armed,
as the children feed the crows
sunflower seeds.

The city was not named
for its founder, Peter the Great,
but for a saint,
the guardian of the keys
to the gates of heaven.
But we are always forgetting
and our songs become mondegreens
and history’s seeds
are carelessly harvested,
the dictator exhumes
the wrong corpse,
brands the gravestone,
bridles the patriarchs

and my son’s reflection
lies in every soldier
watching the dark birds,
sunflowers turning
to face the shadows.


Did I tell you Dad said
they’ve installed more wildlife cameras
on the path that winds northwest
toward the Triple Ponds?
He broke that trail, our secret.
I haven’t been there for months,
the ice too hard to navigate,
just like I haven’t seen you.
The plains remind me of you—

spiky yucca your sharp sassiness,
grasslands a warm yellow
with tips of red like your pulse
in every wound that healed,
cottonwoods drinking sparse water,
yellow primrose in the summer
resurrecting every moment
you have fought for
and every wind you have swallowed.

He says it’s not a good sign.
They will calculate our impact.
Soon there will be rangers
and rules and the wild
will kneel on both knees
in either gratitude or sorrow,
I don’t know,
because we long to escape
and our paths will become known.

Oh, Eliza, there are secrets to keep
and secrets to tell if they can save a life.
In them I’m pregnant with you
in a waiting room as shrugged inward
as a cave, and my own secrets
confess to me that all my hard work
was done with my perilous love.

I miss watching you
passing my torch of blue eyes,
the drawing back lending a wing
to your glorious shadows.
In the waiting room
people will gossip of autocracy,
furniture, and salt,
and the mountains rising from the plains
will become symbol
of the consecration of joy
or the heights of resolution.

But there is no downstream to these ponds.
The cattails are taking over.
Perhaps the cameras capture the coyotes
or the bobcat that cornered me
until I turned away.

You aim your camera at cats,
friends in California, and the tumultuous
waves of a moody water.
You are in love with the invisibility
of the ocean,
how no one could ever believe
the secrets of its depth.

Driving in the Snow

It makes me think
of Indiana
and lake-effect storms
on learning how to pump
brakes ahead of time
how to turn and lift your foot
from the gas pedal
and feel your back end
slide into the turn

I had a dream that my car
was a bull I was riding
with horns spiking
a wide blue sky
We were careening downhill
and it was always November,
the time of the slaughter
I was going to go home
to tell my lover
that a fence was down

You see,
no love of mine
has sufficient fencing
but at least the cattle
can roam free
and we have to give
the sacrificed
another chance
I mean, we concocted
a whole religion out of it

Now I’m driving on ice
and I can skid
buck and spin
I can crawl slowly
and I can tell you
that the slaughter
is long over
the freezer packed with meat

We’re right in the center
of winter’s cross
riding a bull
playing with the edge
its rotten pickets
and coiled barbed wire
dust packed and frozen
ropes untied
the road a long shadow

and you in the cold sun

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado. Her books include the chapbook Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020), which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times.

Her work has been published in numerous journals and books, including The Comstock Review, Cleaver Magazine, The Denver Quarterly, The California Quarterly, The Columbia Review, Narrative Northeast, among many others. She has published a chapbook of her poetry, Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections, Rust, Coming Up for Air. (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020), winner of the Colorado Authors’ League Award. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington in Seattle and currently teach composition, creative writing, and poetry at Front Range Community College.

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