Four Poems by Katherine DeCoste


synth symphonics

the way we talk over each other / during these
Monday-night arguments is polyphonic / you’re
playing the discordant Stravinsky / me / I feel
like John Cage / when I blink the silent world
crumbles to a stop / and here you always are
blasting away on your trumpet / the corners rust
we have no time signature / we have no road map
and far away / you taste like Nutella and spray
cheese (not together) and macaroni loaf / I
hate your blue sneakers / I hate your sixteenth notes
and your hissing cat / yelling at you is like
trying to analyze a fugue that keeps slipping
in and out of atonalism / in other words—you’re
incoherent—you make me feel—incoherent too

spruce stare

here are the rickety stumble-stairs
slivers between each toe
cresting an unforeseen cliff face
squirrelling out footholds from the moss mulch
your mouth is a hobgoblin’s home
in the scroungy hole where your
molar was once
here is the deconstructed ladder to the choir loft
built once without nails
or affixations to the vaulted ceiling
a clandestine mythology
retold for the new world scene, fluid-drenched

on breathing through gills after an oil spill

Stretches of night, once old bones
shimmering summery heat-glazed
slick on the water, slick on the water

This hot spell has lasted for years
and the marshal won’t lift the fire ban
rainbows melted down into black cast iron
slick on the water, slick on the water

Who are the dead? Lingering like burnt hair
and crackling wood and kindling weeds
summer desolation and the sweet sweet petrol
smells a bit of history, our natural history laid out
slick on the water, slick on the water

You poured graveyards into the sea
for the sake of dying wishes and last orders
legal obligations, wills, tight binding words
at the bottom of each trench lies a cemetery
a million miles down; it’s skeletons spilled
slick on the water, slick on the water

Some cryptic Madonna tracing bony hands
pulling up with black ink dripping off
where is the salt? We were supposed to be
floating, but instead we’re stuck, aground, oil
slick on the water, slick on the water

Now you’ve hung black in front windows
motor still sputtering, leaking choking smog
thick cloud in the sky and souls in the Styx chant
slick, slick on the water

Stretches in the night, once bright flesh
shimmering summery sun-baked
slick on the water, slick on the water

how to get to tomorrow evening

walk slowly until you reach the first insurmountable hill
and feel the burning stretch of your calves hoisting you

over its peak. if you see the place where clover and foxtails
grow between sidewalk cracks, you’ve gone too far. when

you reach the curve’s apex, turn east: then stick your tongue
out to taste the sunset and determine the direction of candy

cane park. start rolling down. collect dew in the creases
of your turtleneck and drink from it when you reach

Athabasca’s rolling sand dunes: desert in the mid-prairie,
sky and earth both grainy tan and sloping. here I must

instruct you to build three sandcastles, one each for the place
you are, you want to be, and you will be. pause for breath.

to enter the second fortress you must relax your shoulders
and imagine the happiest thing—remember all the scenery

behind you, but take no photos, leave no footsteps, glide
through the open door into the shimmering newness

of the self-created, wondering body. glitter and bleed. if you
feel locked-in, you’re in the wrong place, but you can’t go back.

Katherine DeCoste is a poet/student of literature and history in Edmonton, Alberta. Her primary goal in life is to do all her grocery shopping at farmer’s markets. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Structural Damage, Sybil Journal, Rag Queen Periodical, and others. Find her on Twitter/Instagram @katydecoste, or at her website:

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