Kelli Russell Agodon

Under the Blossoms of Skullflower

What I dream doesn’t happen
in the daylight, except in poems
          where the dead return
and a man puts his fingers on my lips
when he sees I’m crying.
          I am a word and he is several
letters and we are lying in the snow
because we’re thin and tired
and someone is typing us out—
me: a hillside, a broken clock,
him: the fog against my side.
          What I dream doesn’t happen
in snow—we thought the crying
was a blizzard, but we were lost
against a blank wall where people
hang their secrets like windows
we wanted to look through.
          You took me to the pages
of the garden where the dead
prune the weak limbs of memories
and here you said you never left
us and plucked a white flower
from the vine to place behind my ear.



Opening the Cupboard and Finding Mice
          Have Eaten My Sorrows

I’m trying to fall in love—
to be soaked and flung,
spellbound and alphabetized,
to knock over a bookcase
and roll around in the pages
for a while, for a long while,
while I turn the burner to high
and watch the water evaporate
in the kettle, yes, I’m trying
to be vamped and bedeviled,
like an egg, paprikaed and spicy,
red shoes and glitter, enchanted
and enamored, glistening, spilling
the milk in the kitchen does not mean
catastrophe, but it does mean the cats
will come and astrophe around for a bit,
it doesn’t matter because I’m mesmerized,
intoxicated with the dust on top
of things (refrigerator, television, moon),
I’m unlocking the door to the safe
while realizing we don’t own a safe,
as we have nothing that valuable, except
language and I’m correcting the grammar
of family members as they talk
in their sleep, enraptured like Blondie
or Jesus, moonstruck, awestruck,
trying to be captivated—with my life.


Kelli Russell Agodon’s most recent book, Hourglass Museum, was a Finalist for the Washington State Book Awards and shortlisted for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize, and second book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was chosen for the Foreword Book of the Year Prize for poetry. Her work has been featured on NPR, ABC News, and appeared in magazines and journals such the Atlantic, the Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. She lives in a sleepy seaside town a ferry ride away from Seattle and is currently working on her fourth collection of poems. /