September 22, 2012

Katie Kingston


I want to read poetry, the kind that sheds its skin
and leaves translucence lying on the back step,
or read like starlings, excited birds that chatter endlessly
above my head, shuffling through pages of juniper.
I don’t know foreign alphabets or strange insects.
I only know the flutter at the window
when the light goes out,
                        and the moth has no center,
like my mother’s dementia. I remember my neck, she says,
propping her chin in the hammock of her hands,
while I compare the color red to the color red,
trace the burgundy lines of tallow waxed to the kitchen table,
read about medieval castles, their maroon tapestries
strung from doorposts.
                        I can read all the parts of red.
It starts with an open vein and ends in the Sangre de Cristo range
streaked with pale pink, burgundy, maroon, berry-berry,
classic red, double mocha until I think I am describing lipstick,
and choose process narration. I paint my mother’s nails
and her lips to match,
                        dip the brush in pink coral and stroke
its tiny bristles over her thumbnail, twist the tube marked rose
and stroke her upper lip. I don’t conceal anything,
just keep on stroking until I get cause and effect,
until the color of wine tints my memory, until the starling moth
clings to the night shade,
                        until nothing but red frames the blue opal
of her necklace, and the owl picks up the snake skins,
one by one, wings them away, and I am left
with a familiar alphabet stringing the margin,
the tenacious feet of frail insects clutching the screen.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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August 15, 2011

Review by Katie Kingston

by Nancy Takacs

Limberlost Press
17 Canyon Trail
Boise, Idaho 83716
ISBN 0-931659-60-4
2010, 26pp., $15.00

Once again Limberlost Press has lived up to its reputation in bringing to the foreground a poet who emerges with a fresh voice, as well as a deep understanding of western landscape and the resilience of the self. Each of the poems selected for this limited edition of hand-sewn, letterpress print is a literary work of art resonating with the strength and fragility of desert that exists inside each of us.

Nancy Takacs takes us for a drive in her red jeep to explore and reconsider high desert as a metaphor for the intricacies that make us human. In her title poem, Juniper, the keen eye of the poet, always observant, reveals to us the “shaggy-body universes of dark blue-berries/ that know deep in each green center/how to pine the air, how to/ curry the tongue.” Desert light shimmies up through these poems, scattering through branches of juniper, cottonwood, even old American elm. Her attention to brilliance is evident in the “The Yellow Tree” where she takes her reader into a spectrum of visual bliss:

All along the desert horizon,
they’re cadmium,
hardly any green now,
in stands and circles that spray

Through imagery Takacs continues to transform not only the desert cottonwoods, but the human potential, as she continues to integrate landscape with self “You take on
their huge translucence . . .You can’t help but look at them,/carry leaves/in your pocket,/ smell vanilla wood.” Takacs’ last lines have always earmarked Takacs poetry for their resonance, and here again they stun: “You who are/not rooted enough in your life.”

With unflinching steadiness, a woman in a red jeep travels through the gullies and rock panels of landscape harvesting the beauty and resilience of willows, cottonwoods, spruce, crows, badgers, and lynx. Occasionally she diverts through memory to her cityscapes. Surprisingly this does not come as a contrast to her immersion in desert landscape, but rather as a root, a tap source from which she has learned to appreciate and internalize her environment, so that when she draws on landscape images, the resonance of desert, cityscape, and self merge seamlessly. This is evident in the opening of the poem “The Deer” where she begins, “They’ve become part of the city-desert like the magpies,/moon-lit fruit trees, hard lights, the diesels, our voices.”

Takacs allows memory to take her back to her childhood without stepping out of the rugged landscape she now wears like another of her many jackets as revealed in her poem “The Great American Jackets.” With descriptions like “your Catholic school’s dark/green wool, which forested you,” and “spring jackets your mother bought,/all pale yellow and repellent,” the poet meanders through personal history, drawing on clothing as a hinge to swing open the gate to memory and metaphor.

Through this litany of jackets, a type of shelter that protects us as well as defines us, Takacs brings us to the present: “Now harmless in canvas, denim, or down,/your jackets lean more to the mountains.” Moving through these revealing images, she arrives to the last lines that again pose landscape and self as integral to each other:

The sky would lead to that first bitter tinge. To fire, where you could
open in front of the flames in the plain spruce dark, unsnap, unzip.

Many of Takac’s poems begin by placing the reader in ordinary situations as in “Blasphemy,” where she begins the desert journey, “It’s early in Wellington, Utah./This time I bump the jeep/up onto the shoulder and walk to the fence.” As each stanza builds with imagery and appeal to the senses, she moves away from the ordinary toward the unexpected.

But I get colder and colder.
If I stepped out
of my body, I would be
split into kindling

What transpires between these direct, concrete opening lines and the resonating last lines are sheer transformation for the reader, the realization that the fragility of desert is an extension of the fragility of self.


Katie Kingston has published two chapbooks, In My Dreams Neruda, which placed as a finalist in the Main Street Rag Press Chapbook Award and El Río de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio, which won the White Eagle Coffee Store Press Chapbook Award. Her poem, “History of My Body,” appeared in Rattle #31.

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February 4, 2010

Katie Kingston


Once this body went into treason. The flat-chested girl
pushed Willie Wall into the thorn bush, and never
stopped riding her pogo stick up and down the driveway
until her brother broke it. The history of this body
is the angel in snow working her arms and legs in long
slashes. The history of this body is like breaking up
a jigsaw puzzle, then letting the pieces float in the river.
Have I told you I am the hero of this body? I’m as
fluid as water spilling into the boat. I could save you,
but first, you have to almost drown. Once a mosquito
laid botfly eggs in this thigh. Hatchlings trekked
pink stripes across my skin, newborn veins radiating
from the mother egg. The history of this body has a fly
in its ear, buzz radiating like geometric lace. Take
this history back to the tonsillectomy, back to ice cream
in its swollen throat, back to the way these lips enter
a room full of men. Take this ear, a barrage of spider veins
trapping sound. History of my body is about inhaling
secondary smoke from my father’s cigar, inhaling primary
perfume from my mother’s neck, inhaling the broken
leaves of autumn crushed beneath my boot, that pile
of minuscule hands prying at the lawn, until I sweep them
into a heap and plow through them like a sorceress
with conical hat and faithful broom. The body remembers
trick-or-treat, its Snickers bars and bruised apples.
This body remembers the way dried leaves scratch the skin
when I somersault into the pile of tattooed veins: oak,
elm, maple, then wrap myself in a sarong of silver water.
Inside this body, flies buzz, this body with cake on its tongue.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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Katie Kingston: “I live and write in Trinidad, Colorado, located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, an area known as the coal fields. I am a coal miner’s wife, and in my writing, I explores the history, landscapes, and cultures that have existed on the banks of the river, El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio.” (website)

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