Poetry by Kate Gray
You are not a spoon. You do not have to curve in service, carry a man’s insecurities, fill with small portions, turn yourself to spill. You are knife, a cutting machine through the strings history sticks to your fingers, plays you, splays you, makes you puppet. Cut, saw, use the serration of stories, those the outlaws tell, the stuttering words of the bullied, whose face streams with tears. Find your edge. Wreck the story erected around you. Wreck yourself with sawing, wreck the image of your mother she tries to bend in you, that she wants you to swallow, “Soup should be spooned away, like so.” Go ahead and lick, little girl. Steam the spoon, and stick it on your nose. Kick the pot of your parents’ emptiness, knock it off the stove. You are good. Listen to me. You are so good. You are good like the smell in a newborn’s palm when her fist is unfurled. You have always been good, like a fiddlehead fern, like a Rough-legged Hawk riding a thermal. Look up. Let the sun ride your cheekbones, slide along your jaw, and fill your mouth. You are not edible. You do not grow subject to sun or water or soil. You are neither muscle nor bone for broth nor brisket on Easter platters. You are not grist or gristle or gut. You are not vegetable, diced, delivered, reduced to stew or stock. You are star, beyond time, beyond touching. You are more than your father’s puncturing, your sister’s punching. You shine a spotlight on violence, call it violence, a bruise by any other name would hurt so deep. The way you break night, you hold the first wish I wish tonight. What you hold, what you let go, what you offer is hope. You are light. You light up the hickory trees, their leaves like bear paws, the tips touched in the morning, the perch of Cardinals and Pileated. You guide travelers who’ve lost their stars, whom others want to harm, who cannot walk. You are vessel, wave, spectrum, umbilicus. You are good. Hear me. Take this in like water dropped to a nomad, like a breath to a cigarette quitter, like rain. You are good.
Kate Gray’s first novel, Carry the Sky, (Forest Avenue, 2014) stares at bullying without blinking. Her first full-length book of poems, Another Sunset We Survive (2007) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and followed chapbooks, Bone-Knowing (2006), winner of the Gertrude Press Poetry Prize and Where She Goes (2000), winner of the Blue Light Chapbook Prize. Over the years she’s been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Norcroft, and Soapstone, and a fellowship from the Oregon Literary Arts. Her passion comes as a teacher, writing coach, and a volunteer writing facilitator with women inmates and women Veterans.