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Kara Knickerbocker

Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, HOBART, Levee Magazine, Portland Review, and the anthologies Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Poets, Crack the Spine, and more. She currently lives in Pennsylvania where she writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curated the MadFridays Reading Series. Find her online at


after Seamus Heaney

Don’t be afraid of the blackbird, I’ve learned
through all the delicate ways she sings you home.

Not all death is glossed at the throat, that dark pecking hunger.
Look, fire-eyed, how life is held in high notes, cradled in evergreen wonder.

There is stillness humming through to the body of the earth,
even how it spins with you planted on thick, precious ground.

And what are lungs but scaffolding for air to make a voice soar?
What’s beneath all grass but winged memory, anyway?

When I arrive—
a beautiful tongue without words.

When I leave—
no soft music but breath.

Revisiting Iceland

before I came back here,
I wrote down all the words
I knew for winter & white
but especially healing
so I could cross the cold
landscape of my body
& this time, not shiver
but remember instead
how beautiful glacial light
dangles from the roof
of the house I sleep in,
the one I almost burned
down & now, I keep warm
by the hot ink of a pen
ignited with the embers
of a thousand more words
like power but also peace,
translating names I’ve loved
from the language of my lungs
crisp into February air, haloed
by letters falling on the fresh
frost of a once-blank page,
because blanketed & godlike;
this is how I refine my voice,
& this is where I begin again—

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