Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist (U of Arkansas Press), and two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, and others. Young is also the translator of Two Poems by Inna Kabysh (Artist’s Proof Editions); her translations of Russian poets Xenia Emelyanova and Inna Kabysh won third prize in the Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender competitions in 2014 and 2011, respectively. Young’s translations have appeared in Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The White Review, and The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry. In 2015, Young was named a Hawthornden Fellow, and in 2016 she was named the inaugural Poet Laureate of Arlington, VA.
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)