Elisa Karbin

On Transcending

When the god with the false
front tooth & gossamer wings
rigged up with wire arrived,

I was already talking myself down,
climbing sure-footed from a steep
ridge, already fixed on the field of deer

running gold through a blueing
fade into night.                 Before
the god with flames for hands

& hooks for teeth & jasmine
breath kissed open my front
door & folded his jacket, the spackled

patch on the drywall was already
dry. Already the very picture of a placid
moon’s child-face, without even

having to squint.             I expect
the next will arrive like mist
burning off wet grass— Haze-hot

trail of morning’s early pink—
A stagecoach of ghosts, I’ll think.
& I, haunted by stranger animals,
will stay quiet, look on.



The Fox Sisters Orchard

Mister Splitfoot Descends

Accident made manifest, Mister arrived
the day we plucked the body from the lime

lining the false nursery wall. Spectral
telegraph, something loosed. Mister arrived

hungry, having been away, he said. Mister
arrived with a hunger like a glutted ember’s

burning mouth. I know. And would.
The rustling at our nightdress hems, vibration

crawled through sissy & me each night,
full hunter to full wolf moon.


Mister Splitfoot Visits the Nursery

Once laced through us with
the stink of curse, every darkening

hour became another boiling
pan of pitch tipped and set on fire.

At first, we only ran fevers. For weeks
the doctors shook their heads

in our doorway and Mama talked to god
through her good handkerchief. Night

by night, Mister came to the bed
to stroke at our hair, flicking his tongue

through the ether, gorging himself
on every of Mama’s tongue-stuck prayers.

At first, we failed to consider
the meal always has courses.


Mister Splitfoot Sends Regards

Before the day gleams surly, we east
soundless to the orchard. Apple peck

scattering our red-laid laps, we hunt
sweetest skins―a gift for him to cut

his teeth, to stem the current of his want.
Tonight, a gift, we’ll heap a feast

across the bed in our place. Sweet for sweet,
I tell my sister but I have to look away.


Mister Splitfoot Versus

Nothing quells the endless lamb
flocks I’ve counted through to fool’s

gold sleep. Such a soft endlessness
is a gift. The silence of this room

is a gift, and sissy’s silence, the rain-
stopped silence―a gift to better

hear how leisurely the blood paces
my veins.



Elisa Karbin is the author of the chapbook, Snare, as well as poems in, or forthcoming from, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, West Branch, and Blackbird, among others. She holds a PhD in poetry from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she was a Tinsley Helton Dissertation Fellow. Currently, she serves as Visiting Assistant Professor in English at Marquette University. Find more info at www.elisakarbin.com