Four Poems

by Katherine Anderson Howell


Gertrude Studies

Your left hand on my neck,
your right reaches for your Southpaw,
piles of Shakespeare
in the center of the table.

You on one side of the dorm
your bottle of beer a backbone.
Me on the other,
my Hamlet as shield.

I read my doubting lines.
You take the book, deliver Claudius’s
triumphant speech, square
your eyes, grin.


Your mother is a cypress tree,
knees arising in a circle
to suck out all the air.

I am the park bench
you cry on, mockingbird.
My legs stiff, wrought
iron, my arms meant to stop
you nesting overnight.

The bayou is treacherous,
full of cottonmouths,
submerged roots.
Neither of us belong here.

Bedroom at Night

Wind scuttles dry leaves
like beetles across concrete.
Cheap blue polyester curtains
filter the alley security
light, which settles like
sediment on the walls.

Next to me, his silent inhales
give no preparation for
the gusts of his exhales.

Shafts push through the pillow
case, poorly plucked feathers
catching my skin.

The cotton bunches,
a 200 thread count trap
snares my feet.


Some days, a bowling ball;
I drag it around, resisting
the temptation to throw
spirit down the street,
striking and sparing the traffic cones.

Other days, a stockpiled warhead;
mushroom cloud of resentment
leaking poison and rage in
the sarcophagus of my body.

Never a lily, or a bulb waiting.
Mine doesn’t bloom,
lure others in for pollination.

A tide mostly,
steady with gravity.
Ebbs, leaves pools of crabs.
Flows, brings in jellyfish, driftwood, boats.

Katherine Anderson Howell writes and parents in Washington DC, and her poems are informed by growing up in Mississippi and her passion for literature. A multigenre writer, she is the editor of Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide, from University of Iowa Press. Her most recent poems can be found in Juke Joint Magazine, Algebra of Owls, and Stillwater Review.

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