Issue 26 – 2015 – Karla Kelsey

Karla Kelsey



If a gesture, small, beautiful, repeats itself inside
the dying moth what might it contain? The brass
clappers of a thousand little bells? A glass vial of
pollen preserved? Left with only a video of a man
walking through his house all I could offer in
response was to re-film the film from his point
of view: small camera strapped to my forehead,
electronic coronet, I stately walk each room
pausing where he paused looking wistfully in
the direction he had looked. Later we’ll decide
whether or not to edit out the sound of sails
a beautiful gesture becoming all that cannot ever 
be touched by your hand again, grain of a worn
corduroy jumper, your mother’s warm neck. After
sitting so long with a center of quartz my mind
became quartz and so what pauses to consider
my body as more than just a body but rather
a body in the form of cross-legged-on-a-chair-
Pitch pine, tamarack, ash, relation depends on 
whether or not we depict ourselves as part of 
the imprint, intricate lines of a moth preserved 
in cement a form of looking out even with eyes 
closed, the red-slashed-black of external forces 
vibrating the constancy of electronic noise, lawn 
mower, jet. This is just one description of the view,
bouquets of roses grown chalk-white out of land 
then during blooming cut, stems split, submerged 
in votive glasses of gem-toned dyes drawn up such 
that rainbow roses could be flung from a ship.


That is to say: belief in the static of the moment
as also a machine for experiencing the world 
even if the house is torn from the body, which
split me from my usual view. Here the parallel 
between bodies and buildings broke down, ivy
torn from the walls of your childhood home
the building flung become a temple in the sky
as the body maintained the form of quartz
on its prayer mat, warming with the warmth
of earth, cooling with its cool with the potential
to be ground into sand. This was all, though I
heard you cry out in surprise when ripping down
the ivy you revealed a window. My house will be
a dogwood continuously translating itself in
and out of soil. There is an arrogance perhaps
in saying this, but I say this nevertheless and so
contrast, rather sharply, your idea of dwelling:
the Santa Casa house of the Holy Family humble
stone structure by angels flown from Nazareth
to Dalmatia, from Dalmatia to Loreto and in
each place all the trees and animals bowed down.
Now marble-clad and enclosed in a Gothic basilica 
it waits and waits. Regardless of whether one visits
what is believed to be the original in Loreto or
the 17th-century copy in Prague, this Mary-form-of-
dwelling does not synthesize or shift but remains
immutable whereas even when I pretend to reside
inside a delicate golden cage, sitting cross-legged on 
a folding chair looking out at the trees that screen
the river I become the shimmer of trout, the rot
of river grass. If what flows through is beauty it’s a
form of beauty requiring the slash of a knife releasing 
a cascade of pearlescent beads from the fish’s gut.


What if we consider sacred space to be not
stability fixed by axis mundi, yew tree, marble
column but rather a trajectory through what
rambles, what waves, what falls off into valley
and exists without light. And a little hammer 
splitting open the thin cedar box releasing blue
morphos and moths. Even though this beauty
is predictable beauty, it was so very breathtaking
to stand with you under iridescent wings in the
snow thinking what I imagined you were also
thinking: warmth is so very far away. If to
choose to live was always to begin each day
confronted by a void requiring an emptying-out
as the only way the hollow of one vessel might
communicate with the hollow of another, I do
not think many would choose to so live. And so
perhaps the need of a tendril vision, the migration
promising spring soon-begun, the need for a series
of rooms we might both walk through becoming
the coolness of concrete, an unexpected coastal
view. But if today instead forms in homage to
a darkness before us, a darkness in back to the 
dog-headed furies this abandoned lot I must 
dedicate, breath simultaneous with the mind 
bathing the heart’s small quartz because it might
take a nearly-extinct form of courage to climb
through the skylight out onto the roof, switch 
the camera off, press shoulder-blades together
and thus play at having wings. To be a proposition 
that the body-fully-body might arc through layers
of smog and cloud, speeding through dust as dust.



Karla Kelsey is author of three books of poetry, most recently A Conjoined Book (Omnidawn, 2014). She edits and contributes to the Constant Critic and is co-publisher of SplitLevel Texts.