Katherine E. Young’s poetry appears in the forthcoming Massachusetts Review. Her poems have also appeared in The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, and many others. For the last twenty-five years, Young has lived off and on in Russia and the former Soviet Union as a journalist, diplomat, business owner, and student of Russian poetry. A chapbook, Gentling the Bones, will be published by Finishing Line Press in late 2007.
After the hazardous materials crew
has cleaned the rooms, I move among familiar
things, touching here and there a vase, a lamp,
straightening the absurdly clean cloth
in front of the baby’s place. We are obsessed
with decay, with bodily fluids, inconvenient
remnants of our animal selves. I think
of rabbis in latex gloves scraping the blood
from Jerusalem streets, of the Muslim custom
of burial within twenty-four hours.
Surely the bone hunters and reliquary
makers, the city fathers warring over
John the Baptist’s knucklebone had it right:
flesh is Essential. Flesh is Divine.
I subscribe to the religion of airplanes,
silver-winged vessels that transport a person
to realms unfamiliar, where alien temples
ennoble the hair, the nails, the body
and blood of obscure local saints. These are
my relics: a rug rescued from scissors, a cat
plucked from an engine, a book that — once —
would have won its possessor a bullet
in the skull. Some say Death’s an angel — this, too,
I have seen — flash of steel wings, whirlwind
of atomized flesh, dust carpeting rug,
cat, book, interior spaces and private
reliquaries, particles of shared disbelief.
From the SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW (42:2, 2003)