Two Poems By Kirsten Kinnell


Maybe it’s true that it all comes out in the wash—
drought, war, plague: it’s all reprise.
Mothers bury children, blood sloshes
in fields—what can’t be borne must be revised.
The rain will come, the cavalry arrive,
the wound, unless infected, will soon just ache,
and those of us who manage to survive
will live to laugh, if like drunks at a wake.
But that’s not yet. Today, the void mocks.
Your single, endless question fills the sky 
and chills our rodent hearts, like a screeching hawk.
To answer is to falsify.
In time, it’s true, time may be kind,
but this is what we call the meantime.

Tall, still, in his dress blues, my grandfather 
is a heron. He is solitary among the cattails,
about his work. Mists skim the reservoir.

His movements are so deliberate they barely shirr
the surface. Like the pillar of a scale
he is still: weighing, choosing. My grandfather

glides above the waters. What terror
to the fish below is the beak’s orange rail,
its swift stroke. The mists that skim the reservoir

are pierced by the exacting, awful saber,
like bombs delivered through the clouds. He sails
above what skitters below. My grandfather

whispers—maps, pins, charts; not names, for there are
no names for the dead. I’m sorry he exhales
to what watches from the mist of the reservoir.

The heron’s grating cry warns of coming war,
but even that which dominates soon fails. 
Tall, still, in his dress blues, my grandfather
is claimed by mists that skim the reservoir. 

Kirsten Kinnell lives in Columbus, Ohio where she works as a freelance editor. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta ReviewQuarterly West, and Presence. She can be found rarely tweeting @KirstenKinnell.


  1. Meantime- we are in the meantime. I like that way of describing the now. Also: “maps, pins, charts; not names, for there are no names for the dead.” is so ominous and sadly accurate. What a way with words, conjuring new images from the familiar. Thank you.


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