“Marginalia” by Katherine Barrett Swett

Katherine Barrett Swett


I read my daughter’s old Freud,
her college book, an introduction
to parapraxes, how we avoid

significance in small disruptions.
I read her margin notes,
quick summaries and explanations

of his points. What’s lost
is her. I want to hear her
make some crack to roast

the guy. I turn the page. Nearer:
she’s written Dad by forgetting names,
and something made her jot down Flubber.

I also look for hints of blame,
some scribbled clue about intent,
the words that might help me to frame

the subsequent event.
Then this: if worried about a slip—
tend to—does that make it real?—or accident?

A friend said she stopped at the top.
We’ll never know why she paused—
To catch the sun? Check out the slope?

Likely a patch of ice caused—
No way to know or to avoid—
She used to “why” and I “becaused,”
but now all answers are destroyed.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018


Katherine Barrett Swett: “I write a poem every day. I always write in a notebook, on lined paper, with a sharp pencil. Some days I do not get to my notebook until late at night and have no more than ten minutes; other days I spend more than an hour on a poem. I write in the house and outdoors, at my desk and on the subway, before my first cup of coffee and after my last glass of wine. I write free verse, haiku, sonnets, villanelles. Subsequently I choose the better efforts, and revise and edit on the computer. I can go a month and write nothing that will ever leave my notebook, or I could have a week where every day I write something that I want to type up. I live with a photographer, and I think my notebook is a bit like his contact sheets—you look for the image that is worth working over in the dark room—or nowadays in Photoshop—and then printing.”

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