Three Little Flames

Detail of Bee © Kathryn Jordan


Ivory-billed woodpecker,
white-streaked neck,
red crest, a flare.
Swooping flight,
pterosaurian elegance.
I read you in the past tense:
jewel beetles scuttled
before your halberd
as you stripped the bark
from dying bald cypresses.
You meant to survive—as is only fair.
You’re all washed up.
If only you could
fly again,
an angel,
through the upland pines,
away from boiling forests
and poisoned waters,
far from what we’ve done.

Oak on hillside © Kathryn Jordan

Three Little Flames

My eyes might be open or shut,
the sounds of morning silent,
no birds or trains, no crying cat,
my dream gone, will-o’-the-wisp
bouncing on winds of sad. I mean,
she said she was on fire, ending
the line with three little flames.
I give the fire two more days.
What if I told her all I seem to
be and attempt for her benefit
is nothing but spirit? Would she
release me from a pact with pain
that I never intended to sign?
Bunch grass, yarrow, quince, maple.
I know how to help them, grasp
the center of what’s wanted:
water, pruning, looking after.
Shelter from that night animal
that digs holes under the fence.

Parade © Kathryn Jordan

Post Office

I’m waiting for the downtown
post office to open—first
time since a stranger’s breath
might mean death.
A woman and her two boys
run relays up and down
the cement portico of Berkeley’s
grandest old building.
When fun mom suddenly shrieks,
“Look, pigeons!” the brothers skid to a stop.
“Remember when you were in Mary Poppins?”
she says to her eldest son, who gives a weak nod,
then turns to punch his brother.
And I, once a choir leader of disaffected
boys, belt out, Feed the birds,
and the man behind me adds his baritone,
Show them you care. Fun mom joins
so our voices link in pitch and tone:
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
The triple-locked doors snap and clang
open, as we stop singing now
to file in to the stately hall.
There, behind the dull plastic shield,
stamp in hand, the mutton-chopped clerk
is singing to beat the band.

Kathryn Jordan holds an English M.A. from UC Berkeley. Her poems have twice won Honorable Mention for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize and the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, and have twice garnered Special Merit for the Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Prize. Her work appears in The Sun, Atlanta Review and New Ohio Review, among others. She loves to hike the hills in search of birdsong to translate to poetry. For more on her work, please visit Kathryn’s website