Julie Kane – Three Poems
Every spring I try
to photograph my pink
magnolia tree in bloom,
but the angles aren’t
right—either the sun’s blazing
or the pink looks drab.
Focus on the lace
abstract patterns and miss those
zoom for a close-up
and miss that pink filigree
on powder-blue sky.
Carpet of petals
the shade of my peppermint
lipstick in 8th grade,
sweetness in the air
thick as grandmother’s perfume
or Lenten incense . . .
Silly to want to
get it into one still frame.
A lifetime, trying.
How is it that the two of us take up
Less mattress space than either one apart,
Despite three kitty-cats (but not the dog)
Nestling in the gaps of body parts?
And then the loveseat where we watch TV
Would not support a midget lying prone,
But seems to bear our bodies comfortably
When curving flesh to flesh and bone to bone.
I think there’s some dimension where we slip
When touching all the way from heads to toes,
Though you (a skeptic and a scientist)
Would scoff at that. I know no matter goes
From this expanding universe we’re in,
But, dear: together we grow awfully thin.
A Pair of Nylon Stockings
“But she went on feeling the soft, sheeny luxurious things—with both hands now, holding them up to see them glisten, and to feel them glide serpent-like through her fingers.” – Kate Chopin, “A Pair of Silk Stockings”
My mother washed her stockings all at once.
The bathroom was a cave on nights they hung
Stalactite-like and dripping. I had one
Lone pair and prayed to God they wouldn’t run
(Long hours of babysitting neighbor brats
My way of earning the replacement cash).
The only stocking color I could buy
To not be outcast from my junior high
Was “Cinnamon.” My red-brown legs would clash
Bizarrely with the rest of me’s pale flesh,
But all we teenage girls had legs that matched
And we conformists were relieved at that.
That whiff of acetone when someone dabbed
Clear polish on a run to stop its tracks,
Right in the middle of algebra class:
The odor filled our lungs like mustard gas.
My mother saw conspiracies. She swore
That stockings never ran before the war,
When nylon went to making parachutes.
“Those chemists made them run, to rake in loot,”
She’d hiss. But she had more than she could wear,
Still in their packaging, to my one pair.
Those times I’d buy a brand unknown to me,
Only to find they only reached mid-knee;
Those black mascara tears I used to cry—
These days, even a death can leave eyes dry.
I washed my stockings in the bathroom sink
Before I went to bed at night, and cringed
On mornings they were damp against my skin.
Imagine buying stockings on a whim!
I could afford to now, but I don’t care,
Teaching in sandals with my veined legs bare.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
All that I really understand about the nature of beauty is that it is somehow bound up with time. When we witness something that overwhelms our senses with its beauty, we are briefly anchored in the present moment—not swinging back and forth like a mad pendulum between memory and expectation. Simultaneously, the experience of beauty makes us want to stop the flow of time, to capture the experience (in memory, in a cell phone photo, in a poem) and make it last—which, like pinning a butterfly to a board, only succeeds in killing it. I think my late teacher Archie Ammons may have said it best: “Oh, beauty, beauty is so disturbingly nice” (“Guitar Recitativos”). Beauty disturbs us, demands a response from us (“Oh”), but the response can only be flat and underwhelming (“nice”) in comparison to the original stimulus.
Julie Kane has published four collections of poetry including the National Poetry Series winning Rhythm & Booze and the Donald Justice Prize winning Jazz Funeral. Her poems appear in over fifty anthologies including Best American Poetry 2016, the Norton Seagull Reader, and Penguin’s Poetry: A Pocket Anthology. It has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. The 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate, she is Professor Emeritus of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. More at: juliekanepoet.com.