Kathleen McGookey

Postcard from Zurich

Dear Mother, Here by Lake 273 I let my babyself climb boulders by shore. Edith thought this a bad idea.  But you know me, slow to notice a problem or its possibilities. My babyself despises the slight rot of old women when they approach and offer centimes. She likes her chocolate with milk. The rocks burned her bare feet, which I see as one kind of experience. Edith, of course, disagreed. At least five people could fit on our shady bench, but for now it’s us and our moods, watching sharp white triangles drift from shore to shore. A long line of rectangles guards the low bridge. We speak different languages with very little hope. Twice I’ve caught Edith dreamily eyeing dappled leaf-shadows, just like you.


Upside Down Postcard from Zurich

Dear Mother, Sun-dappled dirt is a kind of sky. Lake 273 is another, sprouting sailboats like fangs. Trees are trees, regardless. Edith loves being dizzy so she and my babyself held hands and spun until they fell, gasping and laughing, again and again and again. Now they are braiding each other’s hair. Not speaking the language has helped in this one way. Edith agrees about the fangs.  She says they are like a cottonmouth’s, only enlarged.  Thin black train tracks, filigreed like lace, run through the corner of our sky, en route to the porch swing back home. They vibrate a little. They hum. Both the train tracks and swing are empty, what we like best.


Postcard from la Tour Saint-Jacques

Dear Mother, This particular marvel unnerved me, with its eighteen prickly saints and adjacent open-mouthed sphinx. A creamy stone adder rose from her headdress while snow settled in trees around us and gargoyles leered down.  Would a moth or feather drift from her mouth? Would she speak? You know the general shimmer and clatter I want around advice. Edith pointed to the drained fountain, its coins and wishes vanished, and hooked elbows with me.

Has she sent anything she promised you?

Here in the city, I don’t miss the horizon. I can guess its location. Last night, as we cut cabbage for dinner, I sliced my fingertip. I have tried not to smudge this card with my mistake.




A Partial List of Her Shortcomings

1. Nosy.

2. Lonely.

3. Inflexible. She insists on twin beds and won’t ever share a queen.

4. Will not ride in a train car with “too many” other passengers.

5. When the handle on her suitcase broke, she bought another suitcase, fixed the broken one,
     and kept both.

6. $37.07

7. Gnaws the cuticle on her left thumb.

8. Will not let a problem take care of itself.

9. Watches her reflection instead of meeting my eyes when I talk to her.

10. Believes tree frogs sing and fireflies blink solely for the purpose of reproduction.

11. Brought a library book on this trip and still hasn’t read it.

12. Leaves hotel room lights on when we leave, because she doesn’t want to open the door and
      walk into the dark.



Kathleen McGookey’s work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Rhino, Seneca Review, and West Branch. Her most recent book is Stay (Press 53, 2015). Her book Heart in a Jar is forthcoming from White Pine Press in Spring 2017. She has also published two chapbooks and a book of translations of French poet Georges Godeau’s prose poems.