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Thursday, November 10, 2005


by Katherine West

Sometimes in dreams
The war comes back to me and
I remember dying
I remember being killed –
No breath
Blackness and no breath—
Stolen breath

That was the worst part
The theft
Not dying but
Being killed
And killed
And never finishing

If you kill someone completely
They are free
This is what I didn’t know
If you kill someone a little bit
Each night
They are slaves
To the moments of non-killing
And to the hope
For an end

Did my enemies know
They were pros?
Did they know
I sent them my breath
For years
After the war was over
I prayed to them for freedom
I prayed to them for death

They were hungry
Like a gecko
I fed them
The tip
Of my tail
Which grew back
During the day
And fear
I fed them
Goblets of thick red fear
To make them dizzy

This is how I escaped
Into dreams of captivity
A garden of blood roses
Blooming and breathing and
Stealing my breath—
Then the war was over
I planted my own garden
With roses white as babies
Milk roses
Who required constant feeding

I had children and taught them
How to nurse the roses
We called it art—
People came from miles around
To view our blooms—
We loved
The applause

My children dreamed of war
Although they had never
Known it
They fed their tails
To each other for a treat
Washed down with fear
By the gallon
They wrapped their breath
In packages
Tied with string and sent off
To mythical enemies they had never met

Then I died—
I finished dying
I dreamed I died and it did not matter how—
I did not forget
It simply became
The way one toe
Always walks with the others
There we were
Ready for our new adventure
My toes and I
My dreams and I
My deaths
My enemies
My children
All of us
Setting out

Katherine West is a poet presently living in northern Colorado and teaching Creative Writing at the local community college, museum, and Naropa University, which is in nearby Boulder, Colorado. Her first full-length collection of poetry, The New Land, is due out this December from Howling Dog Press.