Karla Huston | 3 poems


Not exactly a patchwork, not 
exactly a paisley print. 
Small pieces of earth, woods, 
rivers connected with stone 
fences and puffs of green, 
flags of wheat, spikes of corn, 
those of flowering tiny rooftops. 
I imagine a land of mischief 
and banshees and love poems. 
Dark rooms of monks scribbling 
their poor verses in the margins 
of fields. Somewhere below 
a man drinks his sorrows, 
a woman worries hers, children 
shriek and splash, the gods of long ago 
swirl through their dreams. 
We are traveling too fast. I can’t 
hear the green stones calling, 
only crying babies, a shift 
of sky as we move through it, 
the sizzle and whine in my ears: 
you’re almost there. 
You’re almost there.

(first published at Rusty Truck)


Your heart isn’t in charge. Nor your lungs, 
those loose balloons. I’m the little god 
here. I rumble and expel; I fill you 
or keep you from being filled. I’m of many 
minds. Many needs. I’ll satisfy 
at your pleasure or at your peril. 
I may or may not give back. 
You will be aware of me all day, 
and while you’re sleeping, I am Mazak 
on the elevator, “speaking words 
of wisdom.” in the background. 
You may recognize it. Mother Mary 
comfort me, I am an earworm, 
a melody that hisses in your ears. 
I’ve been here forever. An infant, 
you cried and cried. That was when 
I first insisted on myself.  And when 
your father filled your plate and made you 
eat, I knew you’d be mine forever.  
It’s sweetness that you crave, the cold 
melting hit. But there is never 
enough. Some days I’m filled with blue 
glass, rolling in your bottomless bowl with it. 
Let it be. I may grumble, when I’m looking 
for more. Like a volcano, I may 
go off at any time. Or hold 
tight to a tremble of bees.


Not the car, but an excavator, 
the kind that can flatten a house 
in three swipes, then spin on its track 
and pluck cut limbs and lay them 
gently in a truck bed. This one’s a noisy
thug while the engine warms in front 
of my house, roadwork the order of the day. 
The operator is wearing Day-Glo 
yellow, a shirt with cut off sleeves. He’s gentle
bellied and bearded, jeans slung low, 
his hair wispy as wheat in a breeze. 
But behind the levers of this machine, 
he is genius, a conductor of an orchestra
of concrete and wet clay. Deep below 
the street, the bucket digs in 
and with a flick of a steel wrist, 
picks up a load, positions its burden of muck
and tips it gently into a waiting receptacle.
How delicate this dance, such power 
and precision; I can’t help but admire him 
and marvel at his training, 
his instincts and sense of balance.
My house shudders at the thought,
then settles for more.

(first published at Rusty Truck)


photo by Philippa Stannard

Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2017-2018, lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. Huston’s poems find their roots in the stories we tell, those memories which define us as human. Her poems often draw on personae from Greek myth to art to Hollywood movie stars of yore to explore a range of ideas and issues—recurrent among them are topics related to aging and women.

The author of eight chapbooks of poems, the latest Grief Bone, (Five Oaks Press), and a full collection A Theory of Lipstick (Main Street Rag Publications), Huston’s work has garnered many awards, including a Pushcart Prize for the poem “Theory of Lipstick.” She received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association for her collection of the same title. Her writing has earned residencies at Ragdale Foundation as well as the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, Flight Patterns won the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest in 2003. Huston has also been awarded three Jade Rings (one for fiction, two for poetry) from Wisconsin Writers’ Association.


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