Five poems by Karen Little

The morning after

I explain everything while you’re sleeping;
how I got lost by the river, how the banks were
slippery as eels, how time slipped away, yet
got caught in the weeds at the same time. How
the hooting of owls hypnotized me. How the boat
called me on board; the turbulent water, the throb
of the engine lulled me to sleep.

I was alone, no one touched me, I wasn’t afraid.

When you wake, before I say anything, you assure me
you’d like to tear the lies right out of my throat.  I’m
delicately removing splinters, the needle still hot
from the flame. I feel like the rabbit’s foot dangling
from your key chain, the one you shake in my face. Not
lucky; more like severed, more, loss mixed with shame.



On the first day she learned not to wear underwear
or tight jeans: they mark the flesh and waste time.

She learned you can get very high in half an hour
waiting for flesh marks to fade, and during that time

a professional could assume the right to behave
unprofessionally towards a seventeen year old. She

learned three new descriptive phrases: beaver, split
beaver,  split wet beaver. She learned to pinch her

nipples erect when the heat of the lamps relaxed them.
She learned she could earn more money in a day than

many people earn in a week. When the photos were
published the caption disclosed the shame of seeing

her suitcase split open at the airport, and her multitude
of sex toys spill into the lap of a security officer.


On my Mind

There is a way of getting answers without
being sure of the question. A prayer, a poem,
a painting. Find the sharpest tool to gouge your way
in. Or the gentlest; oil on water. I harbour the intention
of deceiving you; struggle with twin desires of polishing
your ego or shattering you. You are a shrill kettle demanding
to be noticed. An energetic complaint. In the vivarium of desire,
the tomb of the bewildered, I’m in a suffering kind of place,
the web of the bewildered, the last sizzle of wax
hitting the bottom of the wine bottle. I notice the way
the slatted blind traps light and throws it with mathematical
precision, or intimate groping, against the wall of my trailer.
My mystical timepiece, restrained flamboyance,
a contradiction of light and shadow.



This road has seen and heard it all before; the walking
wounded never commit suicide on a whim. I pull her
out of the water. Stones soften in the rain’s silent jostle.

A hover of pigeons, scattered by an old face and the stride
of a young male, are captured waist-high, threaded to suffering.
I begin with a revelation of breath, balanced on legs of air.

Mountains deny artificial explosives can be put to good use;
we explode naturally at times—all that fat. Ash and steam
create the loudest sound ever heard, while history doffs its hat.

We surmise that if we bubble and expand long enough,
someone out there will hear the report.


The Baths

She cut off her hair. It wasn’t where her strength lay;
now no one would hold her by it, swing her by it. Plus,

it was better for swimming. On the bus she split
and wove together her ticket, split and wove together

her ticket, and thought about choosing ice gems
from the machine. She didn’t think about the guy

waiting in the deep end, under the diving board. She
was the best swimmer in class, could save herself

by turning pyjama pants into a float. Afterwards she
walked along the jetty to dry her hair, took the bus home.

2 thoughts on “Five poems by Karen Little

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