Kathryn Jordan Contact Blog Photos Poems


Riding Waves, a book of poetry, was published by Finishing Line Press in February of 2018.
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Shell Ridge Open Space
as published by Catamaran Literary Reader

I'm walking in the spring-green hills.
A lark sparrow sings from a dead branch
in the swale between patches of blue oak.

Vetch smooths the rolling land with purple
and pink and I want to lie down in it, stay.
Here's a shell-studded rock, strange cipher

to remind me of the grand array. To be alive
even like this, a miracle. The trail is narrow
and I hold out my arms, feel the oat grass

whisper through my hands, its light touch.
The grosbeak calls from branch to branch,
moving always just beyond, like a sire.

Its song sounds of longing to be free
of old ways. I am with the people I love.
Free of the ways they need me to be.

The pond turtle poised in the muddle
of the little steam disappears for months
on end; no one knows where she goes.

I could be like that. So might we all.
I dreamed last night of a naked woman
with one breast gone, her chest a lava

field of red scar ravage. Her story
came to me, as things do in dreams:
she'd sacrified her breast for love.

Needless, I thought, that she'd given
up her precious breast to save others.
As I walk, I try to dwell in wonder

at the blue in blue oak leaves and
the yellow of galls on the live oaks.
To accept the bad luck I've known.

You've got to take it for your share and go on,
said the good father in
The Yearling to his grieving son.

Once upon a time, we told ourselves
we had to become our own mothers.
Is it too late to become my own father?

My Late Breast
as published by The Sun Magazine

My late breast was a model citizen:
humble, honest, kind. She gave
to her community, always erring
on the generous side. I never knew
her to shy away from a challenge.
If there was a need, you could count
on my late breast to show up.

She leaves behind her two children
and her husband, who each adored her
in their own ways, and a lifetime
of loyal friends. She is survived
by her devoted twin, for whom
life hasn't been the same.

My late breast loved the beach.
She loved the mountains, desert,
forest. Being close to nature gave
her joy. She's been gone now
fourteen years but not a day passes
that she isn't sorely missed.

Old Words, Old Wood
as published by Catamaran

There's a quiet cave where music begins,
the resonant, perfect Dantian,
where words in winter glimmer, spark,
and flow below frozen streams.
Playing on old wood, formed
by the luthier to a feminine curve,
I call to the spruce of evergreen forest,
where the wren once perched and buzzed,
bending my ear to her hollow chamber to hear:
"You deemed your daughter so beautiful, you thought
no one must ever let her know she's just a speck
of cells in full view of two hundred billion galaxies."
While scholars count angels pirouetting
on the head of a pin, how shall I bear
dark premonitions of our self-made end?
Old words, old wood, before man's fire and brimstone
turn this spinning garden to dust, sing
to me once more, tell me of your spring.

Catastrophic Molt
as published by Comstock Review

When I held your heavy ashes
the only sound in my head
was dear Lord, the label
on this cardboard box says
"Kirk Irwin Kobler," which is
to say you're as good as dead
in my arms, while the Coroner
who gave you your final exam
has put down high falutin' words--
chronic, acute, toxicity--
we know better, Brother:
catastrophic molt, more like, as when
young penguins shed their baby feathers
all at once and then take to the waves
and if not you, then certainly me,
so let's go down to the sea to find
the star tulip, calochorus tolmiei,
which only blooms on fire-scorched earth,
and might be seen once in a life,
on the day you lose every feather.

Fire Season
as published by Comstock Review

A whole town has burned to the ground: cinders
of homes and the lives they hold burn our throats.
We fled October's hot fires and smoke halos
but even here, the sun's red skull peeks round
the headland, stifled, like a cough interrupted.

Whimbrels and curlews patrol the beach, sanderlings
glide to and fro, skittering for crabs; for them,
it's just another day. A few people wearing masks
walk their dogs on the empty shore.
"We don't get to feel sorry for ourselves,"
said the Stinson Books lady. She doesn't know
about my girl, how her bearings rattle out of kilter.
She's an injured sandpiper, single leg hopping,
sharp as a sewing machine needle.

Is grief allowed only for whole flocks of pain?
My girl is fighting for her life. I can't help but blame
my vigilance for bringing the very thing I feared.
Friends tell me, "It's not you," but they didn't see
me hovering, peak flow meter in hand.

What else could I, could we, have done?
Let asthma win? Let fire run?
Our minds aren't bent that way.
It was always fire season.

The Helms Man
as published in New Ohio Review

The Helms Man, we called him. I mean the man in white
baker's trousers who drove the Helms Bakery van
around our bright California cul-de-sacs and streets --
coastal hills carved to asphalt, tract, and pink ice
plant that we broke open to write on sidewalks.

He drove slowly down our block, stopping to open
wide temptation's door, inviting adolescent girls in
to view his wares: jelly and glazed doughnuts,
cinnamon twists, sparkling crystal sugar. We ponied
up quarters for paper bags of treats, to be consumed
out of sight of perfect mothers, lying out in lawn chairs,
all Coppertone and Tab gleam, who gave us Teen Magazine,
left us to banana and milk diets, vertical stripes, and scales.

Left us to ripe womanhood and the gaze of men,
to shape and flavor we could never taste ourselves.
To motherhood and stretching of skin, joint loosening,
the joy of being food. Then cronehood with arroyo
of wrinkle, slump of breast, lump of belly.

Each one alone now sees herself in hollow mirror,
flattened chest, belly bulge assessed, while outside
the window, teenage girls parade in short cutoffs,
long legs supple and smooth. And our long-gone
mothers watch us watch them. We, who still hear
the van coming and run, hurry, to be ready, radiant
and thin for the helmsman, just turning the corner.

Tomales Bay
as published in Atlanta Review

Nymph, in thy orisons, be
all my sins remembered.

--William Shakespeare

Last night the moon drizzled mercury
on black water. Orion leaned over
Tomales Bay. I dreamt an animal,
stranded on the shore, slipping nearly
under, eyes reaching human-like
into my core. Huddled in blanket
on the torn-up pier, I try to pray.

Dimmest dawn breathes frail light.
Water, wooded ridge, three moored sloops,
invisibly suspended in grey-soft mist.
The loon glides by, scoring her silent music;
dips her bill twice, then dives, leaving no trace.

What I Forgot
as published by the San Diego Poetry Annual

You forgot the glowing balls of chi, said the woman
with red eyes, hurrying to catch up as we left class.
We've forgotten to smile, said another.
I make a note to smile, watch for inflated expectations.
Only a year ago, I thought death bearable:
to release the layers one by one--world, identity, others, self
--filled me with peace, even ecstasy upon occasion.
Tonight I dream of a monster on the far edge
of the forest, red eyes glowing in the dark.
I dream my old church renovated, rearranged,
people unable to sing, discussing what's wrong,
while I'm blinded by something in my eye,
a splinter..or even a plank.
The Poet says Goddess Kali consumed the blood
of her demons, embodying, not exiling them.
What it would cost to bring fear and pride in?
First, quit trying to nail everything down.
Give up thinking I know how it should feel
to make love again or to feel close to God.
Admitting demons sounds good
but I'd have to stop wondering why I can't.
I'd have to surrender the need for the right words.
My exacting father said, The word I don't like is awesome;
if it really was awesome, you wouldn't be able to say anything.