Kathleen McGookey

Postcard From the Petrified Forest


Dear Mother, So far I have learned twenty-seven names for
cactus:  organ pipe, hedgehog, fishhook, blue myrtle.  Chunks
of petrified wood look like slabs of meat, rosy and glistening,
and quite out of place in the scrub and dust.  We are not
allowed to touch or even nudge them because Edith got a
splinter and her foot still hurts.  Her troublesome shadow
always leads the way, though Edith says this is a matter of
perspective.  The desert reminds me of the wide-open life I
meant to have, swept clean:  an adobe house, a dirt yard, a
rake, and reliable weather.  I meant to build a fence of bones.
Each day, the sun would bleach it closer to pearl.

Postcard from The Round Tower


Dear Mother,

What fun climbing twelve stories on a wide brick ramp
spiraling past window after window, gilt-edged and perched in
the thick walls!  Our guide said a prince rode his horse to the
top, daily.  Or was it a king, drawn in his carriage?  Even Edith
liked the idea of that precise and rhythmic clatter.  Part way up
we found the white bench, built-in and labeled for kissing.  We
were freezing but the sky blazed blue and cloudless when the
sun came out, and red flags rippled their white crosses against
all that light.  We rented bicycles and Edith got good at ringing
her bell, a waterfall trill as she approached.  She dropped the
camera so I couldn’t take her picture with the palace guard,
stone-faced in his fur hat and gold buttons.  They act like they
can’t see anybody.  The note Edith tried to slip him just fell to
the ground while I pretended to look away.

Kathleen McGookey’s most recent book is Stay
(Press 53).  Her book At the Zoo is forthcoming
from White Pine Press in spring 2017.  Her work
is included in the anthology Nothing to Declare: A
Guide to the Flash Sequence (White Pine Press).
She has received grants from the French Ministry
of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts