Month: February 2012

All the Siren Pains

for Judy Garland

Songs pushed you through.
Something that sniffs at God
in your veins.

Your room rainbows music.
And all the siren pains
that break to build voice
believe you are written
to grave away names
silvering, property of all.

Whatever a wizard shields you
to snap the laughing back of dream,
there is the green witch of Kansas
and wind enough to sing.

— Steve Kline


Long Like Wisconsin Wind

I did not expect this season
To be so full of you.
It is 10 p.m. I think it will be morning
Before the chill of the walk
Has left my fingers.
I went down the street, came back,
Walked down again. Passed a dozen houses
Tamed and domestic. Reason
Tells me otherwise, but I feel
It is something more alien
Than a dozen TV sets
That filled the living rooms
With that weird flickering,
Colorless light.
Reason tells me otherwise,
But the chill
Seems an internal atmosphere:
The core knowledge
That I have become a stranger here.

In this photograph, you stand
To the bride’s right. Your hair
Is long like Wisconsin wind,
In the coulees, in your home.
Your gloved hands, white,
Gather in the bouquet,
And your garment is gold.
I count eleven candles
Behind you. Only the hair
Is unmistakeable,
Long like Wisconsin wind,
Wind in your home.

There was a time each morning,
Before the Monroe County sun
Had climbed high enough
To light the Forty’s valley floor,
That the softening darkness
Fused the trees, making them blue fogs
Along the lines of bluffs.
Then, talking to you
About those fogs,
Guessing what creatures
Must be in those hills,
Was like
Now, trying to hear you sleep
In one of these tired rooms.

And though I did not expect
To dwell again on Wisconsin wind,
I still have questions for you.
Questions that live

In these rooms like pets,
Well acquainted with every space,
Sleeping in chosen corners.

I did not expect this wind,
To hear your song again.
And I was not prepared for this season.

Look. There’s the dawn.
An alien light
In a stranger’s window.

— Steve Kline

The Uses of Light

Here is the pendant

I picked up at LaGuardia.

Blue enamel on gold, a chain.

One fine-edged character

Devised with Egyptian care,

With self-infatuated grace.

I do not recall how it looked

When you wore it. Here, now,

At the hour shops close

And their keepers move toward sleep,

It seems an alien amulet

Come to me from a country I cannot name.

Nor can I frame what is in the craft

That gives it meaning

Beyond its raw matter: a yellow disk.

It has uses I cannot learn.

It was made to be given or kept.

You wore it

One night by a window,

Watching clouds and lightning

That made your face flicker

Above the disk, distant.


A lantern carved of  bone.

— Steve Kline | February 1983

Is the Moon God and Does She Have Hair?

by Steve Kline

for my daughter

Is the moon god and does she have hair?

You asked me that when you were three years old

Riding in your booster seat in our old Camry,

The car where some time later you would

Take tiny bites out of the upholstery on the door panel.

Mid-day and the moon was pasted on the bright broad sky

A sliver of white ice visible in the space

Your eyes would take in when you rolled your head to the right

And spoke to me in that tiny precise voice of yours as if

You were just whispering a question to yourself:

Is the moon god and does she have hair?

This riveted my father’s heart.

Oh, each daughter

No doubt drives poetry into her father’s heart.

But this was you there

That day moving just outside the circle of my

What? Fatherness?

It is fatherness, knowing

There will be things to stalk a child’s soul.

Fatherness startled

To learn the child, too, knows, in ways that lead to

Overwhelming questions:

Is the moon god and does she have hair?

Fatherness a long old time

In the warm house:

Your chubby upreaching arms.

Your little arching tiptoe bounce.

A solemn set of your mouth below

Eyes wise with everything you knew.

By the violet flowers

Frowsing in the breeze near the walk

You crouched grasping your knees, your still

Fixed gaze on the bloom.

No question.

Something wise in you

Said here is a thing. Give it regard.