Featured Poet: Kathi Hennessy, Goffstown
Kathi Hennessy lives in Goffstown with her husband Irving and their cat Biscuit. She teaches writing and literature classes at Granite State College. Her poetry has been published in Compass Rose, The Granite Review, Light Quarterly, blue mouse, The Anthology of New England Writers, and the anthology We Used To Be Wives. She has been lucky enough to work on her poetry with the help of both the Skimmilk Farm Writers in the seacoast area and the Yogurt Poets in Concord . She is currently developing a web site archiving the history and work of the Skimmilk Farm workshop participants, still meeting after 27 years.
This poem arose out of personal tragedy. In 1993, my childhood best friend passed away at the age of 32. We were in the same grade at the same school, had the same name, the same chicken pox scars. Though we had fallen out of touch, I was devastated by her passing. She and her brothers and sisters had been my childhood playmates for many of my earliest years, and the fond memories I have of that time in my life are owed largely to the Szostak family. The poem began as my way of coping with her loss. I could not control fate, or even my own emotional response, but I could impose order on the words I used to write about her. I didn’t want the poem to be about me, my grief, or even specifically about the loss of her, but about those childhood days full of magic and color, and sometimes fear and shame (given that we attended Catholic school in the mid-1960s).
--for Kathy Szostak
To say how it was there should be music, a song of joy
ripe with color, like Paul Simon's Kodachrome:
the bold abundance of forsythia growing over the fence
into tunnels wide and brightened by our thronged
imagination, the cerulean of skies wideopen enough
for any dream to dare, the air that smelled of green
and brown, the weeds and dirt, the stuff of whatever stuff
we were transmogrifying those days of dirt, playing
where no grass would grow, her seven siblings
plus always me, too much to compete with;
and reds, lots of wide-mouthed braying laughter,
skinned knees and carnival balloons, the hollow
orange sproing of a basketball bouncing infinity,
even gray, the rumble as garage door windows rattled
to its tune, the dust of boredom, hazy lurking skies
making summer overlong; yes even the lurid plaid
of our Saint Rita's jumpers, Peter Pan-collared necks
wrung by blue bow ties, the ties that bind—but not
the sepia haze of too much time gone by, of things too worn,
too old or dulled for memory to light, nor the black indelible ink
of our mortal sin, a danger, nuns informed, forever preying
on our souls, the bloodblack sin we carried with our books,
that funereal tone I could not bear, not for her; nor white,
the bleached-boned pale of antiseptic standard, the colorless
blank stare we were taught to cherish, born already smudged.
Picture her, transistor to one ear, Kodachrome's kaleidoscopic riot
diffracting all the world into sunny days as yet unnumbered.
This poem first appeared in Victory Park