Etched Text

           For My Fallen Artist

You were dark, Grand Canyon sky,
blossoming stars before stars,
before tilted sunrise.

I was dayglow dusk,
shoulders sliding unclamped,
worried ache, clenched teeth,
for blissful nothing.

The crows had been wrong.
The murder that leapt into fading sunset lied.

You must have chided my cavorting Lysol terror.
And love, not lover,
I wish that moment I had been
unable to read or write like before.
My tongue thick and heavy, brain
syrup oozing from tree.
Maybe I did expect her favorite Rom/Com end,
where you dashed hundreds of miles
to me and gripped me tight from lilting universe,
laws and danger no matter.

But I typed “she died.”

You, silent, gasping, your wrongness overcoming you—
she saved you right then
for me.

In my head, my lips, my quivering tongue,
formed syllables, and I forced out
“She died magenta.”


How Poets See

Decay follows death—the most beautiful/terrible—transformation.
Bacteria and fungi savor, taste cellular breakdown.
Lichen split stone.
There is power in reducing mountains to sand.

It is like that with the two of us—trapped—caught alone.
We break down—anger—tears—
What does it mean to be alone? To die alone?
It means only decay.

There is beauty in “after.”
How could there not be?

Poets see everything.
They know starlight and moss—lichen and mushrooms.
Poets see rubble, cracked granites, sirens, body bags.
Nature reclaims.

Poets know the wind, stench of death.
Poets know words—pray that they are comfort and balm,
honey for wounds.

I worship Death.

If she comes—let her lie me down in bower,
moonbeams strewn around.
Let there be mushroom circles amidst fever.

If we must, let us return to clay,
lie down in silt and loam.
Let us reach for Polaris,
dream ourselves rebirth.


Aunt Anna’s Pie

Aunt Anna’s pumpkin pie started out
with copious amounts of lard and flour.
I wrung dough, so long, so hard,
my eight-year-old hands ached.
Dough mangled and smushed into pie dish,
want-to-be crust. Lumpy, salty—
filled with promise, too much love.

Aunt Anna could not explain why her pinch
was better, mine so bad.
Or why she could beat eggs to cream
and mine betrayed me like floating paper boats.

Was she some type of pumpkin and lard witch?
She smiled at me like when she cheated at cards.
Somehow, the page long shopping list sunk
into mixture—not without incantations.

As I combined flour, I learned to slide spoon along sides.
As I sprinkled in cardamon, plopped in cinnamon,
poured too much salt—I learned.

She must have cheated at baking like she did at cards.
How many times had it taken to perfect that pinch?
To test the pie with knife—how would I know when mine was done?
I wasn’t allowed to hold a knife.

Mine was a crater.
Hers glowed like the photo in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook—
only real—delicately dollied before me.

Both tasted of clove, bright pumpkin,
slide of vanilla, sweat.
And she did cheat, too unashamed and brazen to call herself witch.
She created the recipe
and I only followed its spell. 


Kim Malinowski is a lover of words. Her collection Home was published by Kelsay Books. Her verse novel Clutching Narcissus was published by Twelve House Books and her verse novel Phantom Reflection was published by Silver Bow Publishing. She has two forthcoming verse novels. Her chapbook Death: A Love Story was published by Flutter Press. She was nominated for the 2022 Rhysling Award and the 2023 Best of Net Award. She writes because the alternative is unthinkable.