Dogwood white knuckle it through January, February, March:
what do your pockets want with those hard stars?
Commissioned in the nineteenth century for thirsty horses,
municipal fountains in Kansas City, where visitors and locals alike are now invited to kill time, outnumber those of Rome.
We mark time in our own ways.
My dementing dad photographs sunrise and the moon in its phases:
calls each of them sunset.
I live in fear I’ll age like him: I think
the word persimmon at sunrise, and for half and quarter moons, paper crane.
An addict and dad at sixteen, my best friend’s son knew his mother was dying.
Her hands stroking the cat were perfect.
His hands, folding cranes out of rolling papers, matched hers perfectly.
We call all paper things ephemera,
but one thumb-sized bird has hung on my bulletin board for so long
its pin’s rusted out.
He is motherless now, incarcerated.
I am motherless now, aging.
I waste my time in the nature store. The shells of the aggressively predatory
snails are so beautiful,
my impulse is to put them in my mouth,
their perfection owed to repeating patterns,
what mathematicians call self-similarity.
The cat blinks at sunrise from my belly, as the cat before her did and the cat before:
ribbons of cloud and blue.
When I shower, water sprays from my fingers like change for the poor box
or the unclenching fists of dogwood, unfolded origami,
cat iris, the star in the persimmon where the seeds once slept—
I said like, as in: like we kill time.
I mean metaphor, as when time kills us back.
Kathy Fagan’s fifth book is Sycamore(Milkweed, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Kingsley Tufts and William Carlos Williams Poetry Prizes. Her first book was a National Poetry Series winner and her second collection won the Vassar Miller Prize. Recent work appears in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Nation, The Bennington Review andTin House. She has received fellowships from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and Ohio Arts Council. Ohio’s 2017 Poet of the Year, Fagan directs the MFA Program at Ohio State, where she also serves as Series Editor for the OSU Press/The JournalWheeler Poetry Prize. Her website is www.kathyfagan.net.