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Kristin Marie Kostick

Break-up Poem, or

Horse Body Encased in Polyurethane Block



Past the gaskin and stifle, the fibrous

muscle, further inside                        the horse’s veins


lies a miniature house. Two lovers

live there. Beyond the drawn

curtains, a storm


stirs what they imagine            to be leaves on a river. No planets


orbit above to tug them            closer or apart.             The storm


rattles the walls. Her body                        is a smaller squall, an eye

stilling his thoughts, passing                        over him, electric


glitches flickering the lights. Deep in the heart


of the horse, a conspiracy

brews. They feel it,


a fault line widening                        slowly beneath the house. Hiding


under the covers, they make love, later

resting                        their heads: two hives


humming over the pillows. They do not know

the river is angry, rising


the horse’s dreams into their own.


Night after night, they lose                        their teeth, whole

chunks of jaw                        breaking off into their hands.


They dream: gallop of hooves

growing closer, hooves


soaking in their stew, a snout

raging enormous at their door.


Not with his glazed open eyeball


but with another wisdom, he watches

their tiny communion,             understands better than they


this living on after ruin.





Radiant Flux





It has been dawn for days: lightning

sky, arsonist sky.


Under the awning we watch the electric

artifacts of storm: a decision

tree of split-second


divergences, neurons branching

across the sky and within us,


sub-cortical, ionizing

within the fire-swept mind.





Past the lightning it is impossible to see

the spinning ship, eight astronauts sleeping, bodies


breaking down quietly. In their weightless veins: cells, smaller

enemy ships spinning, they too, weightless.


During energy-saving mode, the astronauts

cannot find each others’ faces in the dark.


They devise mnemonics for remembering

affective tones in each others’ voices:


For longing: see lightning.

For lost: see lightning.

For lucid: see lightning, using these


to move toward one another,

or away.





In the glow of the storm, we discover

we have put our arms on backwards, our mouths

attached wrongly to our jaws. We can’t understand


how we’ve endured this so long,

whether to ride it out, see if anything

bad happens.





Upon re-entry:

the astronauts know they are nearing home

by the ship’s friction against the atmosphere,

pieces of the heat-shield

blazing off by design.


To prepare, the astronauts learn to recognize fire

in all its shapes: heat a form

of explosion, that explosions look different

coming versus going.


The astronauts are not scared.





Every other night, within the dark

drapes of my muscles, this dense skeleton.


But tonight, we cup fireflies

until they die in our palms. We talk of


electrocuting everything, setting our lives on fire.





Up there, the astronauts have trouble

recognizing themselves in mirrors.






The fireflies kamikaze all around, trailing

j-shapes in the night. Your eye,

another kind of firefly,

writhes with wings of a bigger beast,


prehistoric, primordial, seeing into the future,

the flap and glow

sucking us in, we are giving in, the fireflies

pulse confused, explode midair,

reflect as firecrackers in your irises,


We are light-encircled, light-

weight, disco-lit under the sky’s voltage. 





Despite their training, the astronauts feel much more fully

the weight of their bodies when they step back to earth.


Bones fracture, demineralized.


Upon re-entry:

bodily fluids are restabilized, brought back

down into the lower extremities with G-suits,

medication, technologies to make

everything less painful.





By morning, the storm hooks upon your heels

and we are heavy again as before, moored


in old missions, the intumescent

marrow of our own bones, this familiar mass.




For the only honorary astronaut I know.




Checkmate Ends the Game



Different people feel differently

about resignation. They say: think,


the meat is already inside the animal.

They say the more you know


the more fun it becomes:

you would trade a finger


for a pawn if you knew

just how it could take the Queen.


Waiting it out will do no good, you must do it now,

get on your hands and knees and crawl


through your neighbors’ petunias at dawn

to find what you dreamed you cast


out of your bedroom window, sleepwalking

is not there. Nobody but you will witness


this inner battle. Stop with the large

hand gestures, the yelling, resistance, take comfort


in specifics, how the opposing player

can only take you en passant directly


after your first move and never thereafter, how the dew

on the tips of the grass will feel on your cheek when you wake,


these things will delight and interest

the dinner guests. All this time, the ticker


has been making a sound

inaudible to most mammals.


You are busy picturing sailboats,

strategizing how to scalp the enemy’s king.


The transition can sometimes lead to tremors.

Several feral children are emerging, I see,


from the bushes of your eyes, twigs

and bugs in their hair. Look at me,


clean and smelling of evergreen, how

wonderfully things work out. Remember


the man who thought of murdering his foe

later donated heavily to the church and was forgiven.


Don’t overthink this. One day you will

show your thanks by making love


to someone who bore a history with you,

who bores you now and this will be ok. You will feign


moments of amnesia, Alzheimer’s. You will leave

your longing like a neatly folded faun


blanketed on a stranger’s front stoop.

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