Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review; Frogpond; Hawai’i Review; Japanophile; Kartika Review; Lantern Review; Mythium; Natural Bridge; Nimrod; Pirene’s Fountain; Platte Valley Review; Poetry International; Prairie Schooner; Southern California Review; and Witness, among others; and on WYPR’s “The Signal.” She is senior editor for The Baltimore Review.
In this earthly garden
jay is sometimes hawk
sometimes rusty pump
calling. I am trying to find you
in that hide and seek we do
in which we both are hiding
You, sometimes haughty,
sometimes in your hiddenness, aloof
sometimes scolding. You—
an attitude, like that bobbing thing uh-huh
the lilies do. Like the leaves of
the dracaena waving see-you-later, baby
I was stupid over you
A croton clowning
changing colors up my sleeve to please
the winds in you. I was red I was blue,
hiding my true nature.
I was wandering jew. Trailing
stem and patient as grass
A shadow on the sun-dial of your
if only I had asked, even if doubtful
Come out, come out
Not in white paste flecked with lead
but equally geisha. The wearer’s death
pretending to be flesh. A mask
for the kabuki, affected for the theater
of sorrows. Several husbands gone, fewer friends.
Even children, groomed to never know me,
if they ever knew the nature I repair—
spotted, lined with care— they wouldn’t recognize me.
None have ever penetrated to the skin the nape surrenders
in the rare accident of costume. A cover-up
judged as the foundation to a bare existence.
Base, yes. The essence
of the image of myself reflected in this dressing
room of mirrors. A triptych of pretense
The winter perfume of a doubt
Nanking is my mother
In self, those who are alive and dead
—from the Chandogya Upanishad
What does she want?
to her back
that furious hump?
Pointing to her lips
without the saying
Whisper of a foreign tongue
Cane that coughs a thumping
Should I offer?
On a sidewalk on a street
near the Medicine Shop
She shoves a crumpled dollar
for the trouble that she is
or she is not. The sun
The bus the bus about to stop