Catherine’s Furnace

Catherine’s Furnace


There were diamonds in the ground beneath us

formed out of the volcanic rock, hidden in the smelting mines.

We could feel them, pulsing, pinging like radar into our prayers.


Ours was a family of seekers, pick ax and lust, searching

                            for a substitution, some bread and wine for what was lost.


My mother’s Jesus and Reagan, my stepfather’s beer and secretaries,

their joint quest of catharsis in lusts and fistfights, headbutt and pulled hair,

the sawdust trail of the tent revival.  


I know one thing.

I was worth beating down, a pulp. Someone wanted me so damn bad,

like a desire that was desperate, hogtied.

Didn’t it feel like some kind of love, baby girl, rabbit-punched?


I found out years later, my real father hunted butterflies,

like Nabokov, the blue ones, all over North America,

aerial net in his delicate hands,

cabinets of fastened apex,  thorax pinched between thumb and forefinger,

scent of napthalene.


He would spend days lost in the Paris Museum, drawers sliding open and shut,

rustle of pearl-bordered forewings and blue crenuled hind wings,

tiny scales on his fingers and palms in lustrous dust.


I imagined them coming in waves to the New World.


I didn’t know who my father was; he’d just gone one day

when I was very young, a throbbing in my neck, cervical vertebra burst.


Under the seraph’s beat, a deflagration of the self, burning away to suck it all in,

something never there from the beginning, irretrievable

              as the dead, lingering, the way the dead do in resistance,

 like the ticks we burned with a match. Or the startle

        of recognition when the mockingbird sings and flies away

                                and then you grow weary with the song and come to know


it was just an imitation of some other beast.


What you thought was there, substantial,

was just the wind’s thickly veined limbs in the false indigo.


Nabokov said nature was a form of magic, like art.


The grub-bored holes in the moth’s wings, imitating a leaf,

     enchantment and deception, he said.


My home was No Man’s Land, perfume of magnolias in the dusk.

The prophet said, Put hot coals on your head.


Make love out of the kick and the punch.

Make beauty out of cunt, a glowing ember.


( Missouri Review, Winter Issue 2016. From Thrust, Winner Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award, Persea Books, October 2017)