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Katherine E. Young '83
Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. Her poems appear in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Subtropics, and many others. She is the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli and Blue Birds and Red Horses and Two Poems, both by Inna Kabysh. Young’s translations have won international awards; they appear in Asymptote, ;LA Review of Books, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, and 100 Poems about Moscow, among others. Young was named a 2020 Arlington County Individual Artist Grant recipient, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow, and a 2015 Hawthornden Fellow (Scotland). From 2016-2018, she served as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia.
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)