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‘Tracing Rivers’ and other poems by Ilyana Kuhling

Ambiguous Loss

She is a mortician.

You see
she doesn’t move.
No eyes open, only
ragged breath. Flushed cheeks.
Silence.

She has prepared the body
nearly a century.
Not yet embalmed
but ready.

The lipstick is a light rose,
it makes white face
seem ghostly

And glasses perch on a nose
like mine
if lids were to open
they still wouldn’t see

She is her own mortician.

I have come to the funeral
every saturday
I have said goodbye

And kissed her
lightly

I have watched
the process
of becoming a corpse

almost

Fixed Vortex

Feeble fingers have collapsed into themselves
her fist, like an infant’s
lies limp in her lap

As if made of marble
the grip won’t relax
unyielding

“What is it that you
are holding on to?”

I take her thumb
try to unfurl the claw, the nails
digging into her palm
Stigmata

she must
be searching for some sensation
some sting of pain
something

“Hello”

I am watching two blue planets
to see if they
notice the sound

if gravity can pull them,
alter the orbit,
and turn them toward me

“Do you know who I am?”

they are empty planets
they don’t move

she is here
and not here

stuck
in the fixed vortex
of this
in between

Ingrained

We took you to mass today
I can’t remember
the last time you spoke

it could have been a year ago

and yet,
the words of the rosary are on your lips
a softest kiss

you can’t forget

Multitudes

I am looking at you now,
piece by piece
to reconstruct the you
you were

I strip away
the hair, white wisps
the skin, paper-thin, translucent
the muscle, the fat,
the soft

Right down to the bone
your bones
containing multitudes
of a lifetime
and my father’s
and mine

I piece you back together
carve the muscles that would
hold me tight in your arms,
the fat that made your
embrace so warm
the skin, toughened with time
the hair as thick as mine.

I am looking at you now
and you are looking at me too.
Somewhere
in those eyes of deepest blue
I think you recognize me,
And I, you

Tracing Rivers

Your frailness
the veins, thin filaments
visible
just under the surface

I trace with light touch
three rivers
as if faintest pressure
might stop the flow

Did you know
some cacti
survive years
without water?

Have adapted
to rainlessness
still bloom

But you?

It has been years.

Would anything
be better
easier
than this?

Even drought.

Athrú / Change

Tá an seanteach seo
ag titim.

Siúlaim istigh, ar chosa éadroma
lámha sínte
chun clocha a ghabháil

Níl ach deannach fágtha
anseo.

 

This old house
is falling down.

Palms outstretched
to catch the stones.

Only dust
is left.


Ilyana Kuhling is an Irish-Canadian poet based in Limerick, and a lover of all things spoken word. This year, she won the British Psychological Society’s 2017 poetry competition and her poem Multitudes was published in the August 2017 issue of The Psychologist. Ilyana’s poetry has also been published in Silver Apples, Artis Natura and Dodging the Rain, and she was featured in the Poetry Day Ireland 2017 Mix-Tape, curated by Lagan Online and Poetry NI. Her favourite poets include Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop, and she firmly believes that a good cup of tea can solve almost anything.

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