poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

“‘Star in the Throat, Fire in the Cupboard’ is loosely based on events that occurred throughout northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan during the 1800s and early 1900s. The poem comes from a collection about a fictional town in which several conflated and highly-altered historical disasters happen over and over. The town keeps burning, flooding, dwindling, and finally disappearing. This particular poem speculates on how an event (in this case the Peshtigo, Wisconsin, firestorm of 1871—the worst recorded forest fire in United States history) becomes distorted through repetition and retelling.”

—Catie Rosemurgy

Star in the Throat, Fire in the Cupboard

When I was young, I hid under the porch with a star in my throat.
When I got a little older, my mother opened the cupboard to let the fire out. 

I should’ve known the cliffs meant a coming blankness.
We should’ve noticed the competition growing deadly between the masts and the trees.
The problem wasn’t the lateness of our parties
but what we used for wood to keep them lit.

What is it people say—take my arm and walk with me along the shore for a minute? 

My mother, bless her, is a speck of color in the flush of a great cheek. 
I’ve come to ask you to consider praying for that giant child. 
Remember when we began to forget the babies once we tossed them in the air?
First it was the completion of those simple gestures, but then entire sections of the story
went missing. In our lips we could feel the slight buzz
of the edge where the cut was made.  We crawled in and out of those holes 
wearing different faces. 

I believe the stories got wet and began to bleed together. 
I believe we built the sides of the town too high and the events kept rolling back. 
I didn’t know that the water was going to keep rising as well, 
but if you have any say in the matter, while the boats go down,
I’d like to be on a ladder,
peeking into a loft made narcotic with children, 
a dead pool with rolling, living waves. If possible, 
I’d like the water to douse the match that’s growing out of the bones of my hand. 

Copyright © 2014 by Catie Rosemurgy. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2014.

Copyright © 2014 by Catie Rosemurgy. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2014.

Catie Rosemurgy

Catie Rosemurgy

Catie Rosemurgy is the author of The Stranger Manual (Graywolf Press, 2009) and My Favorite Apocalypse (Graywolf Press, 2001).

by this poet

Pretty girl. The weather has knocked her down again
and given her to the lake to wear as a skin.

Why am I always being the weather?
There were days in the winter
when her smile was so lovely I felt
the breathing of my own goodness, 

though it remained fetal and separate.
I was a scavenger who survives

with a

Don’t worry. One kills in dreams
but wakes having not killed.

Having not killed is part of waking. Some mornings, though,
you lay there pinned under layers of light, fear,

and woolen blankets.
You know what’s right and what’s wrong,
what you don’t know is what happened
and if

What is red and singing on the inside, gray and moaning on the outside?
(The opera house)

What is green, damp, and stuck between the forest's teeth? 
(The doctor)

What drags on the floor and catches fire? 
What reveals the girl's legs while destroying them? 
(The afternoon sun) 

What grows tall, blocks the