Month: March 2012

Ash Hollow

Rachel taken sick in the morning, died in the night.
— June 1849 journal of Nathan Pattison, 23, on the death from cholera of his 18-year-old wife Rachel.

They stopped here near trees and water.
There was no windlass on Windlass Hill
where they brought the wagons down.
(The windlass story arose years later
in fanciful tales about how those wagons
descended the hillside).
In fact, the animals were hitched behind and
wheels were braked with lashed logs. Then the
whole groaning mess gouged its way down
tearing sod again and again. The gashes are still visible
from the top of the hill.

In June of 1849, here
on the tableland, she spent her final hours
tended by Dr. Caleb N. Ormsby late of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
They buried Rachel
at the west side of the canyon’s mouth. In stone
her name stands out
above the wildflowers.

The flowers die in bunches
and we do not mark them.

— Steve Kline, 1983

Razoring Angel

Twice the month bloodied him.
Each time, he got two nights
in the tank
and a handful of librium.

If April’s cruel, then
October’s a killer.

First it was blood in the moon’s mouth:
the carved pumpkin on the step
of the house opposite.
Then it was that
crazy grinning nun dressed
in her stiff blue
at his door
hissing like frost against his skin.
By all the stars that companion
these dark windows, he swears,
one shuddering touch was enough
to freeze him through.

Her face like wires
arcing in his gut.

Cold comes on tonight. We keep
to our own fires.
Some blind devouring thing
makes ready. Children masquerade
at the edge of the pit.

Each minute, as it schooled in logic,
ends itself and runs
like fat white wax
into the cold mold of what has passed.

It is something to survive
Autumn’s razoring angel.

— Steve Kline
1985

Mass

A priest in green.
Chaliced, his hands. Prayer
and songs like chalk
in the lamb’s throat.

Abandonment, denial
grind our altared bodies.
Slow stained wood
cracks rescue of flesh.

We come here
to feed to eye of air,
to scratch creed
on the unbroken stone
of random rebirth
and healing that hunts us
in the intricate grass of pain.
Hunts us to a certainty,
to an absolute kill.

— Steve Kline
1986

Photographs Shot Between Returning from Japan and June

When they are viewed,
it will be easiest to blame
something in the bones,
the sounds of children,
or my hair.

Her body, shown here
with wind chimes, clouds
and prairie grass,
always assumed I would be
what she called
the giver. Yes. Well.
For that, we’ll blame my hair,
which she held in bunches
and called pretty.

Her hair is a different matter.
It went black when light
was washed from the room.
It falls straight past the shoulders
in her wedding picture,
which is a dozen or more years old
and has nothing to do
with why I am here tonight.

— Steve Kline
June 1984