Alumnae Poets

Katherine E. Young '83

Katherine E. Young

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.

Select Poems

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)