Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature and her books include the chapbook Beside Herself and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air, and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger, which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is a lecturer at the University of Colorado in literature and creative writing. Her novel, As Joan Approaches Infinity, is coming out with Gesture Press in 2023. In addition, she works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.
After the Storm
The water is always turbid after a storm, I tell him,
and he is ironing a blue tie with yellow butterflies.
Outside the sun slants and cuts across the river’s surface.
Three daughters are setting three birds on the globe.
We will go where they land, the youngest says.
Somewhere are insurrections, the Midwest cornfields
flattened by tornadoes, somewhere is a bitter taste
like coffee grounds and ash on our tongues,
and I think of the day the river was transparent. He and I
caught trout with a fly and fried them with rosemary and lemon.
We always fed the children first because the future left our bodies
long ago, when the butterflies found milkweed faster
than we could run, when the daughters learned how to feed
the birds, to not give them too much millet, to mix
their water with apple cider vinegar. They learned to take care.
And now the storm is rolling by another home. A roof shivers.
A barn pushes back. The horses stand with their rumps to the wind.
Some Pavlovian moment makes me want to go into the basement
and wait out the storm, but I stay above ground, and what we unbury
can fly, what topples can burst into color, and the birds are perched
on the jigsaw countries I’ve never seen. I look out the window
at the murky river. A shaft of sun slices like a wing across its current.
The water snags against stone and sings its plaintive song,
and I think of my love, how like this it is—slicing, snagging, singing.
I’ve Been Waiting Underground
What’s a funeral barrow to one person may be a mausoleum to another,
I tell him when we light a candle called “Sea Breeze” and watch its fire
cackle and spit. He doesn’t like the small pops and cracks of it,
hits his nerves the way the icicles drop on the dirty snow outside.
I say, It doesn’t smell like the sea, more like mint and peony or some odor
that has no color of scent on our earth, this candle smelling as blue as his eyes.
I’ve been waiting underground for a swallet to come to me
and take me to the sea, and I’ve been to mausoleums where saints
are encrypted, their bones tucked into marble caskets.
The Pinson Mounds in Tennessee were platforms for ceremonies
above their dead, and they dug with the scapula bones of deer to build
the mounds of earth. My ancestors are from Tennessee. I know
its cotton and how the white bolls glow under blue skies like a sea
of white clouds. He doesn’t know cotton and wants over his barrow
a candle as silent as a shy child crossing a street, following the rules
of the lights, the mother holding his hand. I want drums
resounding like the crash of waves. But I do not want sacrifice.
If I dig my grave or a mound on which to sing my song,
it will be with the bones of roadkill that don’t come from my car.
And now we eat our salmon and kale under yellow light and he says,
Sometimes the world seems like it’s all exile and no solace,
and we read how in our city a man stabs another at Barnes and Noble.
My man shelved his bow and arrow in the garage. I’m burying
my mind in the candle’s flame. I’m an underground away from
everyone. I’ve always traveled to the south of my body and I tread
lightly on this earth—its soil so generous, so noble.