Issue 1
Broken Homage

Broken Homage

– For J’laine

These mornings, I enter each day
with a teaspoon of flickering
birds—black spasms in the green,
milky trees. The train whines
at the borders of this city,
nudging and insisting, and I step,
once again, into the unsteady
open palm of my yellow kitchen.
But I didn’t expect this: the news
of a friend falling and hitting her head,
almost carelessly, in her garage
or basement (the torn shards
of the story already conflicting
and scattering, helpless, among us
who are living). I think of that head—
its delicate skull fat with a glossy
moss of black hair, and how I once
loved to watch her smoke a cigarette.
She slowed time down, unlatched
a foggy window in the air, with each
distracted exhale.

I try to think of that head again
as a bowl full of wet blue orchids,
or over-ripe pears, and the damp
gardens of an Eastern European city
she once lived in—the old ladies
muttering on their benches. You see,
I begin my homage and then it falters
and stumbles under my efforts.
All I have is the gray stone birdbath
in my apartment’s backyard—its dry mouth
opened to the sky, and my sad,
asking hands wanting to hold so much
and getting instead the weightless
bouquet of my ongoing breath.

Alexandra van de Kamp is a Program Director for Gemini Ink in San Antonio, TX, and a member of The Writing Program faculty at the University of Texas/San Antonio. Her full-length collection is The Park of Upside-Down Chairs (CW Books, 2010); her chapbooks are Dear Jean Seberg (2011, winner of the Burnside Review Contest) and A Liquid Bird Inside the Night (Red Glass Books, 2015). A second full-length collection, Kiss/Hierarchy, is forthcoming from Rain Mountain Press in 2016.