Our CBR review of her 2002 chapbook Pencil Test referred to Karla Huston as “one of Wisconsin’s most arresting contemporary poets.” Since then she has won the Main Street Rag chapbook contest for Flight Patterns and published Virgins on the Rocks with the University of Wisconsin’s Parallel Press. Just out for 2009 from Centennial Press is her latest collection, An Inventory of Lost Things. Visit Karla’s website for ordering info. She graciously agreed to read two poems for us:
Pencil Test / Karla Huston
In 1969, I tucked a pencil
under a breast and when it failed
to cling, I went braless. Brassieres
uncoupled, and everywhere women
waved them like flags, filled
incinerators with nylon and lace.
Later I wore a nursing bra, flap
agape, nipple pulsing while my baby
sucked, and I wrote notes on what not
to forget. One night the neighbor boys
watched through tilted blinds, rubbed
their crotches and spilled their own
milk under a tree in the yard.
Years later when the Wonderbra arrived,
I tried it, felt cables and wire
cantilevered against my skin
to lift and point even the most
desperate tissue. Today they tell me
they need additional views of a routine
mammogram. As the doctor pulls out
the slides, some taken years earlier,
I learn the history of my breasts.
I stare at the brilliant panels, and there it is,
a transparent web and outlined
in red pencil, the sinister cell, thick
and alarming. As I press fingers
to the circled spot, my worst
fears alight there and flicker.
“Pencil Test” was published in Pearl (2003), in the chapbook Pencil Test (Cassandra Press, 2002), Silt Reader (2004) and in the chapbook, Flight Patterns, winner of the Main Street Rag chapbook contest, Main Street Rag Press, 2003.
Flight Pattern / Karla Huston
Four mourning doves huddle atop Hemingway,
a five by five litho hung high in the commons.
Someone let them in, a senior prank, a tradition,
the kids said. The birds wait captive and afraid,
sitting on Papa’s head to roost and bobble.
Sometimes one flies down the hall, helter skelter,
too close to the talking heads below.
Another searches for light through windows,
finds only the trick of glass. Kids below
hurl shoes, empty soda bottles, anything
to scare up some action. The birds oblige,
flying down and into the hall, screaming
mercy mercy have mercy.
Hemingway stares, his cap cocked, while he considers
every word. He knows about farewells
to arms, hills filled with white elephants, how the sky
can become a cacophony of bells.
This place is filled with killers, he seems to say
and later, the birds will be shot while blood
and feathers fall like the last day on earth.
“Flight Pattern” was published in the Wisconsin Academy Review in 2002 and in the chapbook, Flight Patterns.