Katherine Markey


Wake me and I’ll be a prayer.
Count the slow hours between dark and dawn
like rosary beads—the litanies made by the lonely
in crowded rooms. Listen to the slight breath,
stale of sleeping bodies, all ripe with Midwest discontent,
rough-hewn by the unease of empty hands.
No way to unstick the darkness, I want to splay
over the blades of your fingertips
until I’m made lantern, bleeding light.

What’s the key to living easy?
The earth offers no recompense for its sufferings,
so let us keep turning too. Spin me into the pull
of your mouth, the gravity of your tongue.
Sometimes it’s nice to be touched
a little too rough. Sometimes home is a man
on the stairs, heaven a god without laws.
Life, an invocation of want.

Want is the way you tear into a pomegranate—

the skillful patience, the plucking of jewels.
There is good in this. Something like allure
in the time it takes to destroy a body
and enjoy it. Because the world is sure
to fade even with the morning sun ringing
above us, I burn the candle to resist the flesh—
make of this cathedral a shadowed sepulcher.

Because my mother wouldn’t want me to,
of three brothers I would choose the one
constantly burning, who can do the worst things
without flinching. Who would rather parse out my bones
like he’s spitting seeds than see me walk away.
Both flame and the oxygen it eats alive, the one
who waits behind my teeth, singing in my sleep.
Better to cut my bowtie lips than seek some other
solvent, better to wish me stranded all than to die a good girl.


all sinew and sharp edges,
let your mother be

a white-tailed deer


in the salt-stained streets
of crowded subdivision,

each motion an impulse—
quick skin. muscle
memory, a faith.

piston, axle, trigger pull,
marrow—liquid steel. let your father be

the snow falling around her, covering
the shotgun houses and empty yards,

dampening the earth
that bruises her feet.

think too much
and life becomes ruminant.

and if there is any lesson
to be learned,

let it be this:
pain belongs to no one,

and if there is redemption,
let it be

the cracked tree limbs above her, the sky
too close—a pressing down of stars.


Katherine Markey is a PhD candidate in poetry at Oklahoma State University and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her work in Cave Region Review