Kara Knickerbocker

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the poet

Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, HOBART, Levee Magazine, Portland Review, and the anthologies Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Poets, Crack the Spine, and more. Her work has received support from Murphy Writing at Stockton University, Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, and the Gullkistan Center in Iceland. She currently lives in Pennsylvania where she writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curated the MadFridays Reading Series.

the poems

If You're Asking Why I'm Leaving

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Because this row of brick houses ghosts with heads on backwards,

because my skin sleeps

under your nailbeds, because there isn’t a color red I’ve loved since the car crash.

Because even birds fly south

Because without wings, your lips travel down just the same because I let you,

because religion was the well-oiled machine of our bodies.

Because thoughts of a baby’s open mouth,

because I am egg yolk,

Because I cannot imagine anything more breakable than if I stay.

Etymology of a Middle Name

After Airea D Matthews

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Rose— of Latin origin, rosa, meaning fragrant flower,

meaning my mother bloomed with me until I came out,

pink & right for the world, the last precious baby

dangling on the branch of our family tree, because after

my brother & before me there was a seed that only bled

where it was planted, never grew into a face, or name,

& they crowned me Rosie, because my cheeks flush redder

than they should be from petaling my way back to the womb,

drunk-blushed attempts to stay long-stemmed, always wild &

because a daughter is a beautiful thing, my mother tells me

though I know the letters sound more lovely in her mouth.

O, Rose that grew from the concrete, rose into a woman—

I wonder if she will ever accept there are thorns around my hips

not by nature but by my own doing, if she fully knows

I’ve buried bouquets from lovers because what other pretty hurt

do you know that both stalks the living & adorns all the dead?

Show Me How to Trace This

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& if you had a map out of your body, where would it go?

What is the point of exit you’d choose to leave yourself?

I’d choose the wounds already claimed:

the fried egg-shaped scar burned above my left knee,

my crooked pointer finger like an almost question mark,

or better yet straight from the new titanium heart—

where a stranger sleeps at the wheel, keeping time.

That slicing open drove me into questions I still can’t answer,

like where is the intersection of my own skin & all that hides

underneath? How to steer away from the bump in the road

that lives in my chest, unmake detours into strange tomorrows.

Pulse lines are wires that got crossed along the way & now

I need a key to a home I’ve already lost.

These blue veins were never routes that would carry me there.

All the rivers I’ve known are muddied,

emptying into the mouth of someone else.

Publishing credits

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