Featured Poet: Kate Gleason, Keene
Kate Gleason's work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, Sonora Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Worcester Review, Boomer Girls, Claiming the Spirit Within, and many other publications. A recipient of writing fellowships from the NEA in conjunction with the Ragdale Foundation, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center, she is the author of two chapbooks of poetry. Formerly a poet in the schools and the editor of Peregrine, she teaches writing workshops in Keene and Peterborough, NH and Northampton, MA.
Of her featured poem, Kate writes:
This poem began when I was sitting in my mother’s hospital room as she lay dying. I was reading an article in Time magazine about NASA’s Voyager space probe, which was then passing through an outlying region called "the termination shock" on its way out of our solar system. Nearly thirty years earlier I had watched Voyager’s launch. I had been fascinated by the fact that the probe carried a golden gramophone record (a sort of prototype of the compact disk) containing samples of sounds and images meant to represent who we were as Earthlings to any space travelers who came in contact with the probe. Three decades later, there was something resonant about this little compressed time capsule of humanity leaving our system while my mother was passing through the darkness at the end of her life. Many drafts later, I arrived at the poem below.
From my mother’s hospital window at dusk
The horizon is all pines, ragged as the deckled edge of paper
as if the sky were being torn from the earth. Inside,
a line has been started, the IV drip a water clock of salt
ticking its slow solution into her, not into her arm
but into a port they’ve implanted in her chest
to spare her the needle-sticks’ cumulative pain, so much
will be taken from her, so much given. Three rounds
of chemo have leveled her leukocytes, her white cells
unresponsive, her count down. She needs her rest,
her eyes closed but not yet following the swift
volley of dreams. I open a worn issue of Time
where the space probe Voyager is on the last leg of its journey
out of our planetary system into empty space.
It’s beginning to cross the place called the termination shock
where the incoming wind formed by the death-bangs of stars
makes the solar wind stop expanding by pressing from without.
It’s the type of thing I would read to her, but she has dropped off
to sleep, her chest rising and falling, the gentlest of seas,
as if the blast-cells in her blood weren’t starving her of oxygen.
Outside, the blue blackens, the dark drifts down, the window
becoming a mirror the night holds to my breath,
my face weary, its lines deeper. Above me, the balloons
from yesterday’s visit already begin to wither,
tapping at the dotted tiles of the lowered ceiling.
Formerly published in Green Mountains Review
Contact Kate at [email protected]