poem index

About this poet

Katie Ford is the author of Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014). She lives in Philadelphia.

Koi

Katie Ford
After all the days and nights we've spent 
with Starry Messenger, with Dante, 
with Plato, his temperance
painted as a woman who pours 
water into a bowl but does not spill, 
after particle theory and the geologic time of this quartz 
gilded beneath the roaming gone, 
composites of limestone calculated down to the animal
that laid upon it and quietly died, 

after hearing how camels carted away the broken 
Colossus of Rhodes, showing us how to carry 
and build back our destroyed selves,

hearing there was once a hand 
that first learned to turn 
an infant right in the womb, 

that there was, inside Michelangelo, an Isaiah to carve out 
the David, the idea, the one buried 
in us who can slay the enormities, 

after all visions and prophecies that made the heart large, 
once and again, true or untrue, 

after learning to shave the gleaming steel down—
the weapon, the bomb we make, 
and the watercolor made after 
of the dropped-upon crowd, thin strokes 
over a pale wash—
                            after all this, still 
one of us can’t know another.  
	
Once under an iron sky I listened 
to a small assemblage of voices. 
Two by two broke off into the field 
to strip down the unbroken flock of starling dark 
between them. The ceremony of the closing in,
the hope each to each might not stay tourists
before the separate, chiseled ruin of the other: 

The unspeakable, illegible one before us—

this is what the linguists call the dead, isn't it? 

But how are you, we say, 
meaning how have you been made,  
what is wrong, what 
happened, we ask, how long have you been waiting, 
are you on my side, can you promise to stay, 
will you keep 
the etchings clear on my stone 
and come visit me, your never-known,  
			                     
                                                           will you lean over my ghost 
how we leaned over the green pools of the Japanese garden,
a cluster of lanterns blowing out above us
wisp by wisp, a school of koi pausing at the surface, 
letting us look all the way in
until we saw each eye 
                                 was like a net heaped on shore.

Just like our eyes, weren’t they? all accidents, wastes, 
all saving needs filled and unfilled, the cracked shells, 
the kelp fronds torn from their buoys, all caught here, 
inside us—
               the seven we loved, the six we lost— 
seaglass the living
and the human, alone.

Copyright © 2008 by Katie Ford. Reprinted from Colosseum with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Katie Ford

Katie Ford

Katie Ford is the author of Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014). She lives in Philadelphia.

by this poet

poem

When a human is asked about a particular fire,
she comes close:
then it is too hot,
so she turns her face—

and that’s when the forest of her bearable life appears,
always on the other side of the fire. The fire
she’s been asked to tell the story of,
she has to turn from it,

poem
I began to see things in parts again,
segments, a pen drawn against the skin
to show where to cut, lamppost through the stained glass
with its etchings of light against the wall —
it was the middle of the night. It was something we would tell no one:
The hospital roads with standing water, I drove quickly
poem
I stared at the ruin, the powder of the dead 
now beneath ground, a crowd 
assembled and breathing with 
indiscernible sadnesses, light 
from other light, far off 
and without explanation. Somewhere unseen 
the ocean deepened then and now 
into more ocean, the black fins 
of the bony fish obscuring 
its